A 21-track virtual album, b-side Birmingham is a project by Visit Birmingham spotlighting the music of the West Midlands. The list of tracks was drawn up from nominations, celebrity ‘selfies’ and Twitter suggestions and then whittled down to the final ‘album’ by a panel of regionally-connected industry music experts, among them Laura Mvula, Horace Panter, BBC 6Music presenter Matt Everitt, former Fuzzbox Vix Vox, Phil Etheridge from The Twang and Glee Club promoter Markus Sargeant. While it’s debatable whether acts from Stourbridge and Coventry should be included on an album title b-side Birmingham, the final selection is both interesting and controversial, particularly in light of those from the long list that didn’t pass the panel’s critical criteria.
Notably absent is anything by Duran Duran, Led Zep and The Move, while the original list also included tracks by the Moody Blues (oddly cited twice on the Visit Birmingham website for Nights In White Satin and, ahem, Knights In White Satin), Nick Drake, Ruby Turner, Toyah, Slade and, surprisingly but pleasing, The Quads. In the end, the final selection, chosen, according to Everitt, “to capture some of the inventiveness, diversity, humour, passion and flair that the area has produced…a playlist of amazing music regardless of age or genre. A collection of songs that you’d love to listen to regardless of its geographical birthplace.”
It’s certainly diverse, embracing as it does contributions from such chart-friendly well known names (if not always best known songs) as Joan Armatrading (Love & Affection), Black Sabbath (War Pigs), UB40 (One In Ten), The Wonder Stuff (Caught In My Shadow), Ocean Colour Scene (The Day We Caught The Train), Fine Young Cannibals (I’m Not The Man I Used To Be), ELO (Mr Blue Sky), Dexys (This Is What She’s Like), The Specials (Gangsters) and The Streets (Turn The Page) alongside newcomer Laura Mvula (She), one hit wonders Musical Youth (Pass The Dutchie), unknown Solihull rapper Lady Leshurr (Blazin’) and cult acts Steel Pulse (Handsworth Revolution), Apache Indian (Arranged Marriage), Broadcast (The Book Lovers) and Felt (Primitive Painters). There’s also what might be termed fringe artists such as jazzman Soweto Kinch (a live recording of Jazz Planet) and composer Jocelyn Pook (Red Song). Interestingly, the only inclusion from the 60s is the Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin’) while there’s an unexpected, but welcome appearance by The Devils (Barbarellas), a collaboration between former and current Duranites Stephen Duffy and Nick Rhodes. There’s also a hidden (if you can have a hidden track on a virtual album) ‘bonus’ of You Suffer, a 3 second number from Napalm Death. Mmm.
The tracks can be found as a Spotify playlist at https://play.spotify.com/user/jonnyperks69 and on YouTube (search B-Side) with details at www. visitbirmingham.com/bside
It’s been a quiet summer, but you might want to start storing way the small change now for what promises to be a wallet-damaging autumn with the already announced new Robert Plant album to be joined in early October by Home (Part 1), the eagerly awaited new collection from Wolverhampton genius SCOTT MATTHEWS, originally due in June but held back following a distribution deal with Thirty Tigers. Recorded without an engineer or producer, with Matthews handling everything himself, it promises to be a highly personal, intimate and dark affair and, if the spare and heartfelt early sample, Virginia, is any indication, it may well prove his finest hour yet. The following month finally sees the much anticipated and as yet still untitled album debut from local folk-rock luminaries GOODNIGHT LENIN. Advance word (and their Record Store Day covers of Almost Cut My hair and Helpless) suggests it’s rockier than such past releases as the shimmeringly beautiful A Winter’s Night EP, but whatever they turn their hands too can surely only be kissed by angels.