Thursday, 5 December 2019

The Rebelles release debut album

Many of you might have come across The Rebelles in the past, a vocal harmony group fronted by Tracie HunterElizabeth Westwood who put a different spin on punk standards. They even supported The International Swingers at the bands only UK gig to date back in 2013 albeit with a slightly different line up.

For years there has been promise of a guest laden debut album and after much patience it is finally available to order!

Amongst the many familiar names that feature on the album those that will be of particular interest to Alarm fans are James Stevenson, Clem Burke, Glen Matlock & Slim Jim Phantom who appear alongside Mick Jones, Ian Hunter, Earl Slick, Kenney Jones, Chris Spedding, James Hallawell, Chris Musto, Neil Gabbitas and Paul Stacey.



Order the CD directly from Tracie Hunter for just £12 inc postage in the UK, £13 for Europe and $20 for those in the USA. Paypal traciehunter@icloud.com remembering to give your address!

As you can tell by the track list the original punk idea has broadened to take in a wider range of genres and the album features the following songs:

All The Young Dudes
Cracked Actor
Hanging On The Telephone
Motor Bikin'
Stay With Me
Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Stray Cat Strut
The Last Time
Sorrow
Walk On The Wild Side


Monday, 4 November 2019

Hurricane Of Change Tour

I don't often review a live performance, after all I normally go, have a good time and sing my heart out and apart from discussing set list choices or what not it's all subjective and my opinion is of no more importance than the next persons. I have read various people commenting about the Hurricane of Change "Tour" both positively and negatively and some people being frustrated that it wasn't like a gig and that's why I thought I would share my thoughts.....it is fine to disagree with them by all means!


The first thing I would like to say is that this wasn't a gig and I think to view it as one does it a disservice and perhaps wasn't made clear enough in the announcement and subsequent advertising of the tour. This was very much a personal theatre experience with Mike re-visiting "Eye Of The Hurricane", "Change" and "Electric Folklore" re-working and re-imagining the songs to form a narrative of his life and journey through that period. Gone are the chats and stories between tracks instead we have the "stream" narrative that moves the story along, linking and progressing without pause which often leads to some unsure applause moments as the narrative moves quickly....in that way it's like seeing a prog gig!

The new arrangements will divide opinion as much as "Declaration" and "Strength" did, after all some people don't like change (so to speak!) and that's ok, you don't have to like every thing! My concert companions who had both had the benefit of seeing a few more dates beforehand watched me intently for my reaction as I sat transfixed and blown away by some of the new interpretations especially "Rescue Me" and a beautifully slow "Rain In The Summertime" . The other real highlight for me was "The Ballad Of Randolph Turpin" complete with period news sound clips.

After a short break Act Two : Upstream or "Change" if you prefer commences in a similar vein and continues the narrative to it's optimistic conclusion before the "Electric Folklore" encore restores the normal gig parameters, Mike let's rip and encourages people out of their seats through "Strength", "Spirit Of '76" and "Blaze Of Glory" and then shouted out each night unique requests bringing a wildcard conclusion to an amazing evening!

If you are lucky enough to be going to one of the remaining dates I hope you loved it as much as I did!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Own a James Stevenson guitar!


It's not every day that you get the opportunity to own a guitar that belonged to someone that has played with such an incredible and diverse mix of bands and artists across the years but now you have the chance as guitar legend James Stevenson is selling a small part of his collection!

The four guitars that are being sold are : 61 SG Junior (£3250), Gibson SG 2001 J200 w LR Baggs Gibson J-200 Guitar Fans & Players (£2500), 66 Fender Electric XII Olympic White (£5500), Fender Electric XII 78 Guild D55 (£2000) all have their original cases.

Hopefully the musicians & collectors out there will be excited and might actually know what they are!

Contact James directly @JamesOnGuitars on Facebook or via his website www.jamesstevenson.info if you have a serious offer and want to know more!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

RT-Zed Announce Xmas Gig!

RT-Zed featuring Steve Grantley and "Jonesy" are giving fans a rare chance to catch them live when they play the Hairy Dog in Derby this December. Tickets priced at an insanely low £11 including booking are on sale NOW! 


The gig is on Friday 20th December so a great excuse to stop your Xmas prep and go have some fun! Expect songs from both "FUNKPUNK" and "Zed Hed" and maybe a surprise or two. 

As of yet there is no confirmation on who will be joining the two Steves in the RT-Zed live line up so watch this space!

Get your tickets HERE!

Sunday, 28 July 2019

RT-Zed "FUNKPUNK" Goes Digital!


A little over a year ago Steve Grantley bought us the genre blending RT-Zed album "FUNKPUNK" which was one of my favourite releases of the year.  It is only now being released digitally and onto streaming services so it seemed a great time to have a catch up with SG and talk all things FUNKPUNK as well as finding out more about his involvement in the return of The Pack and his upcoming Dub project.



“FUNKPUNK” has been out in the world for a year or so, depending if you were a Pledge adopter or not, why did you decide to wait till now to release a digital version?
SG- Yeah, It's been just over a year since the release of FUNKPUNK, I've waited until now to release a digital version because I wasn't happy with the company I had been working with. I have found a great new digital aggregator and that makes it worthwhile releasing the music in the digital domain.

Is this a straight release of the original album or have you altered anything after living with the album for a year?
SG- There's a bonus track but other than that it's exactly the same.

Will you also be making the album available on the various streaming services?
SG- Yes, absolutely! I've resisted the streaming up until now but it's time for me to embrace Spotify and the like.

You’ve added a bonus track “Where’s The Money Go?” was this from the “FUNKPUNK” sessions or is it newly written?
SG-It was indeed part of the FUNKPUNK sessions, I'd had it knocking about for years but I could never seem to get it right; never happy with it. I went through different grooves and none worked. It was only when I asked myself "What would Sly Dunbar do?" that it all fell into place.

Lyrically it seems to tackle both tax exempt religions / religious leaders as well as charities who use donations to live the high life. What can you tell us about it?
 SG- It's about charities, although it of course applies to religions as well, I've actually seen charity money being wasted, not being spent on what the people who donate think it's being spent on. It's a crime and not something I'd ever be part of. Also the piousness of some charities, giving people what they think they need, I'd rather give direct to people on the street. I know there's "fake" beggars out there but I'm prepared ti take the chance and give in good faith.

At the beginning of the year you appeared to be considering some RT-Zed live dates, are these still potentially happening or is that too difficult considering how active SLF are currently?
 SG- We always want to play but with Jonesy's and my schedules it's difficult. But there will be shows - at some point.

How have you found reactions to “FUNKPUNK”?
SG- Positive. It got great reviews, sold well and continues to do so. I know some people don't "get it". How can you mix punk rock with funk music> But think about "This Is Radio Clash" that's funky, so is "Rock The Casbah". I think grooves matter but it's not disco, it's funk and that's a powerful medium. It makes sense to me; songs with a message that make you want to move! When I was 17 I was listening to "Nevermind The Bollocks" and James Brown - it all meshed together and FUNKPUNK is the result.

You obviously would have had a lot of reactions from the Punk & Rock communities but have you had any from the Funk community?
SG- Yes, Bootsy loves it!

What can you tell us about the “FUNKPUNK” Dub album….do you consider it to be a companion release or an album in its own right?
 SG- I've recently made a dub album with Ali (bass player in Stiff Little Fingers) it sounds wicked and I plan on doing more Dub productions. There won't be a complete FUNKPUNK Dub album but definitely a few tracks like "Guilty", "Clone" and "The Disconnect" which lend themselves to Dub treatment. 

With Pledge no longer an option what are your plans for its release?
SG- I will self finance.

What is your take on the collapse of Pledge and were you burnt in any way?
SG- I believe they were victims of their own success. I think there will be a new version of Pledge at sometime in the future. I got out just before the shit hit the fan; I was lucky.

How did you come to be involved in the amazing live return of The Pack at the beginning of the year?
 SG- Spear Of Destiny have toured to support SLF in the past as have Theatre Of Hate. Also RT-Zed have supported Spear at 2 Westworld Festivals. Also I've known Kirk and his manager Liam, who managed The Alarm for a time, for years. Kirk asked me to do it and I was honoured, I enjoyed working with Kirk, he's a completely honest artist. There is no side to Kirk, no bullshit, no pose, no image. I like him but the music was a bastard to learn. So fucking complicated - it was a great feeling once I'd got the tracks down but boy it was tough.

Was the recording of the “Salford Sessions” originally planned or was it too good a chance not to document the return?
They are in fact rehearsals recorded before we really knew how the songs went. I didn't really expect them to be released.

The second run of The Pack live shows clashed with SLF dates so you were unavailable for them. Are any future dates likely at this point?
I think Kirk wants to do more Pack shows and if Kirk wants me to do them and I'm available; I'm there!

Steve Grantley, thank you very much - FUNKPUNK is available now through RT-Zed.com and via streaming services very soon!





Thursday, 23 May 2019

Birdpen need your help!

Birdpen (consisting of Mike Bird and Smiley's Archive band mate Dave Pen) are one of many bands caught up in the collapse of crowd funding website Pledgemusic out of pocket to the tune of about £12,500.

Now we all know that is a very bitter pill for a small independent band to swallow so they've made the decision to appeal to their fans for any help that they can get....whether that's a blind donation or buying something from their store to help them in their hour of need every penny will make a difference!

As you'd expect Smiley has appeared on multiple releases and if you aren't familiar with them then you can listen via the bands Bandcamp page by clicking HERE! If you take in all your music through a streaming subscription service then why not tip a couple of quid into the hat as a thank you?

Now, we all have different financial circumstances so there is no pressure or guilt trips....many bands got burnt but Birdpen have a connection to The Alarm family so I've chosen to highlight there plight, I've also got 3 of their albums which are fantastic so yes I need to get up to date and follow my own advice too! 

Their statement reads.....

"It pains us to have a write a statement like this but we feel we have to so we can let you, our fans, know what has happened regarding our latest album There’s Something Wrong With Everything.
As you all know we crowd-funded this album through you, our amazing fans, and it was to date our most successful album. The response was fantastic and the tour, which even saw us go and play two shows in China, was quite mind blowing for us!
With the money we raised through Pledge Music we were able to manufacture the album ourselves. Luckily, you the fans managed to get the album, and thanks again for anyone that did so. This obviously cost money. Almost half of the money we raised went into the physical side of the album, and the other half was used for promotion, as it’s always been our goal to try and make BirdPen bigger and to reach as many people as possible. This only happens through promotion of some sort so we partnered up with various promotion companies to try and build the band. The promotion companies did a fantastic job for us and we are very thankful for everyone’s hard work promoting the album in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK & Ireland.
So this brings us to our situation with Pledge Music. To sum it up, somehow Pledge Music have gone bust! It’s made the international news, both financial and music related, and it’s left artist’s and fans unpaid and without products they have paid for. It’s a complete disaster.
At the beginning of our Pledge campaign we managed to get some of our funds from them so you, our fans, got the physical album, and we expected to receive all the remaining money once the campaign was finished.
Pledge had promised all of the rest of the money so many times we’ve lost count, and we desperately tried and tried to get what we were owed and what you pledged towards the campaign. We’ve had the Musician’s Union and their lawyers involved trying to get us our owed money, and even they’ve been fobbed off, avoided and plain lied to along with many other artists in the same situation as us. It’s criminal what has happened and we hope somebody or somebody’s are held accountable for this disastrous neglect to what should be a safe and great way to fund good music and musical artists.
Being a self-funded band, all our expenses were paid for on our personal credit cards, expecting that the funds would soon be coming in, and with all sales shipped, we simply have no comeback. Mike and Dave now both owe money to our PR companies, we have no publishers, no label and no management so we solely carry this financial burden. This situation has left us with no money to pay the PR debts and fund our next album, which was what the remaining owed funds would have done.
Non of the funds have gone to paying ourselves anything, we don’t make much money from music in this day and age and we live hand to mouth and have the same issues with money as most of us do, mortgages, bills to pay and mouths to feed.
Pledge currently owe us over £12,500. Your money, which you paid in good faith and trust, never reached us. It truly sucks for us to be in this position but we have to carry on so we’ve decided to set up a campaign to try and get some of the funds back.
If anyone is able to support us through this crisis then please do get in touch.
You can send us a donation via PayPal here www.paypal.me/birdpen
You can buy our records and merchandise from www.birdpen.com/shop and birdpen.bandcamp.com
Our album title is so fitting to what is really going on in today’s world.
Here is the latest news on the Pledge situation https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/…/03/pledgemusic-fire-sale/
We’ll keep the faith and continue to bring the noise.
Love and Fuzz.
Dave & Mike, aka BirdPen."

Friday, 10 May 2019

The Record Charity Book

Tim Darvell will be known to many UK Alarm fans (and many American ones after attending the Gathering there this year and last!) as well as being a fan himself he is also an author and fundraiser raising both money and awareness for the treatment of Bowel Cancer. His first book had heavy Alarm connections and now with the publication of his new volume "The Record Charity Book" that is something that continues! So here is what you need to know....over to Tim!


"I had been thinking about doing a follow up book to Lives & Times during the last couple of months of Mum’s life, and when she died my mind was made up, and I began approaching people to be in The Record in September 2016.

The Record has been done in memory of mum who died of bowel cancer on August 29th, 2016 one week after her 80th birthday. The cancer had spread to her brain, and she was moved into a nursing home for palliative end of life care once there were no ore treatment options available.

Lives & Times concentrated on Mike, Eddie, Dave & Twist, so for The Record I turned my attention to the current line up. 

I met Smiley at his studio in Fleet in spring 2016 just after his 4th album, Smiley’s Friends Eclectic, was released. I spent a fascinating hour talking to him about his career, and this was just before the launch of the Blood Red album. 

I met James in Oxford at the O2 Academy before the band’s gig there in October 2017, and he gave me a fascinating insight into his musical roots.

 Then just when I thought I wouldn’t get Jules we had a great chat a couple of months ago, and her chapter is the longest chapter in the book and covered just about everything in her life.

The connections in the book continue with Gaz Top who I met before the concert at The Forum in London last May. Welsh rugby legend Rupert Moon also came on board. He is a great friend of Mike & Jules, and he gave me an amazing tour of The Principality Stadium.

 Ryan Hamilton needed to store his stuff in my hotel room at the recent New York Gathering, so I grabbed the opportunity to get him in the book. Finally there is the wonderful and inspirational fan of The Alarm, Gillian Wood, who is a bowel cancer survivor.

The book has 65 chapters, and everyone taking part gave up their own time to do it.
Since I published Lives & Times in 2015 I have met and become great friends with so many fellow fans of The Alarm. The support for that book took me rather by surprise, and as someone who used to keep very much to myself at concerts it made me come out of my shell, and it has been one of the best and rewarding things that has ever happened to me. I remain truly grateful for the wonderful and generous support from the fans.

The Record is available to pre order now in paperback and hardback from my website rivers2cross.com, and it will also be available to buy from all the usual online outlets soon including a kindle edition. All proceeds raised from sales of the book will be donated to Bowel Cancer UK. Since mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012, almost £10,000 has been raised.

Bowel cancer is the second highest cancer killer in the UK. 16,000 people die every year. 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, which is one person every 15 minutes… Bowel cancer is one of the most treatable and if detected early at stage 1 over 90% of patients can be successfully treated. At the last stage 4 just 7% of patients live for 5 years or more. This makes raising awareness about the disease vital to help improve early diagnosis rates. This is the reason why I continue to do what I do, as it raises money for Bowel Cancer UK, but just as important it helps to raise awareness about this awful disease."



Sunday, 24 March 2019

James Stevenson Guests on Alvin Gibbs release.

James Stevenson guests on two tracks on "Your Disobedient Servant"  the recently released solo album by U.K. Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs.

Released under the name of Alvin Gibbs And The Disobedient Servants the album features a host of special guests including Brian James, Leigh Heggarty, Mick Rossi and Steve Grittall. James lends his talents to "Camden Town Gigolo" and "Dumb".

You can purchase the album either on CD or digitally via bandcamp which you will find HERE!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

"Smiley's Friends In The Sixth Dimension"

By now I'm guessing you all know the score but for those not familiar here's the set up..... Every year Smiley writes a load of top quality tunes, taps up his mates to play on the album and then releases it with very little fanfare! Oh, did I mention that they are usually blinding too?


So here we are at album number six hence the albums title and it's a monster! The energy jumps out from the get go and the quirky nature of Smiley's humour is immediately in evidence with the very first line of album opener "Be Careful What You Wish For" being "You got me walking in the wrong direction, you saw me shopping in the freezer section, I even voted in the wrong election now!" One thing that is apparent from the get go is the guitar is very much king on this album, amazing riffs and stunning solos permeate throughout the 12 tracks that make up "....Friends In The Sixth Sense".

As always different styles weave in and out or bounce along in the case of some of the more indie flavoured tracks. "Wheels" could even be a contender for a lost John Lennon song, and as for those sublime harmonies in "Lantern Light" what more needs to be said!

Whether this is the first Smiley album you've heard or the sixth you will not be disappointed, this is an album that deserves to be heard not to mention toured (we can but hope). With every release going from strength to strength this might just be the best "Friends" album to date!

Pick up your copy on CD or download direct from Smiley - just click HERE!

Friday, 27 April 2018

Beki Hemingway - "Whins and Weather" Review

Not all of you may be familiar with Beki Hemingway or her husband and musical cohort Randy Kerkman, some of you may even be questioning why I'm reviewing their new album "Whins and Weather" on what is essentially an Alarm fan page but I assure you this definitely belongs here! Firstly lets get the Alarm connection dealt with and out of the way....Steve "Smiley" Barnard plays drums on half of the albums ten tracks.....secondly Beki & Randy are both big Alarm fans and supporters and are known to many fellow fans and Gathering attendees through performing at various taverns in Llandudno during the Gathering Weekend.  Thirdly, for those that need more convincing, Beki & Randy are lovely people and if this review can help introduce their music to new people then why the devil not!


 Album opener "Two More Hills" is a wonderful alt-Country number dripping with a lovely pedal steel guitar , in fact there are hints of country, folk , rock and even gospel on the album. Some tracks would fit very well on an Aimee Mann album especially the upbeat "Thank You For The Rain" while "Anyone But You" could easily work as a Sheryl Crow track but Beki has her own style and identity which she proves on the ballads. "Not Excused" is a simple arrangement of voice. piano and dobro which lets you focus on Beki's voice as does "Because" which just features an acoustic guitar accompaniment. One major coup is the inclusion of Duke Special as a special guest lending his easily identifiable harmonies to You Sing This Song" as well as piano and harmonies to the album closer.  

I'd like to take some time to single out that track for special praise. I must admit when scanning the cover I was surprised and honestly very wary about a track called "Tourist"as it had the legend Auschwitz/Birkenau 2016 below the title. I was slightly shocked that anyone could write a song about the location where the worst crimes against humanity in history happened but as the track started it's emotion and feelings made sure that my fears of any disrespect were quickly dispelled. The song is simply beautiful, heartfelt, moving and needs to be heard. It literally moved me to tears and is an amazing piece of songwriting, closing the album in a mournful and haunting way with a subtle violin line weaving amongst the harmonies of Beki & Duke.

"Whins and Weather" can be found on both Amazon & iTunes for ease but if you want to support new music you'd do well by buying from CDBaby by clicking HERE!