When Little Thief appeared at the Ramsgate Music Hall on a four band bill towards the end of 2019, they played to fewer than ten people. Regardless of the sparse crowd, they gave the kind of performance deserving of a packed house. With only a couple of digital singles behind them at that time, the set was a great showcase for things to come. For the few people smart enough to be there that night, memories were made watching Rhii Williams approaching the drums in a really rhythmic yet heavy fashion, while frontman Charlie Fitzgerald cranked out fuzzy riffs as if his life depended on it. There was no doubt that Little Thief were destined for future greatness.
After Carter USM called it a day in the late nineties, James “Jim Bob” Morrison and Les “Fruitbat” Carter went their separate ways. Jim formed the short-lived Jim’s Super Stereoworld before embarking on a dual career as a solo artist and writer of novels, and Fruity formed Abdoujaparov, an indie rock band with punky undertones. Having parted on amicable terms, the USM men actually shared stages together just a couple of years later with their respective new outfits, on a double header tour that pulled in the fans. Looking back, it was an interesting time for both performers looking to forge new paths. At the 2001 gigs, Jim seemed uninspired, often delivering music that sounded like a shadow of his former punning self. For Les, the opposite seemed true and opportunity to explore new musical ideas with different people seemed to invigorate him. With energetic live performances and a very matey stage presence, Abdoujaparov were definitely going to be a band that the old Carter fans would take to their hearts.
Over the couple of years before the global pandemic forced everything into lockdown, UK blues rock band Big River found their profile steadily rising. The release of their debut album ‘Redemption’ showcased a band who were much better than their early singles – all huge riffs and overtly macho lyrics suggested – when mixing their grittier elements with a few more AOR-centric rockers and a couple of soulful rock ballads.
Enuff Z’Nuff have never been shy of digging up old recordings in the name of a new release. The band began their “patchwork” approach to making albums as far back as 1996 when their sixth release ‘Peach Fuzz’ was constructed from material that wasn’t considered suitable for their 1994 album ‘Tweaked’ and then fleshed out with a couple of b-sides from 1991. In the case of that album, the old-for-new approach could be easily forgiven, since all of the material was first rate. ‘Peach Fuzz’, against the odds, rivals 1991’s ‘Strength’ as EZ’N’s finest hour.
Formed from the ashes of Dada, a huge jazz/blues rock band featuring guitarist Pete Gage, vocalist Elkie Brooks and (latterly) Robert Palmer, Vinegar Joe rode on the coattails of the British blues movement, releasing three albums in the early 70s. Over the years, their recordings haven’t been the easiest to track down, despite Lemon Records reissuing ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Gypsies’ (1972) and ‘Six Star General’ (1973) on CD in 2003, before giving the 1972 debut the same loving treatment somewhat belatedly in 2008. Bringing the Vinegar Joe legacy back to the masses once again, ‘Finer Things: The Island Recordings (1972-1973)’ rounds up absolutely everything the short-lived band ever recorded in the studio and issues it in one place for the first time. Although they never recorded what you’d call “a perfect album” they came pretty close on two occasions, and this set shows off a great band, even though the studio recordings supposedly never captured the fire of their live shows. There are enough great tracks scattered throughout the three discs to potentially attract a new generation of fans.