A little while back a friend asked if going to see Vinyl & Wine would be of interest, they were playing Astral Weeks in its entirety. I refused point blank on two counts. One ‘Vinyl & Wine’ is a terrible name for a band, and two, what business have they got tampering with such a great record.
In the intervening time I’ve become a far more enlightened gentleman.
Far from an ambitious covers band, Vinyl & Wine is an album listening party held by Mark Whelan and co. and each month the lads choose a record they think people would like to hear played on vinyl in an intimate setting, currently The Liquor Rooms, through their mind-blowing Cloney sound system.
It’s a throwback to how we used to listen to music – just sit, listen, have a glass of wine and take it all in. An environment in which to truly appreciate the album format. So often these days, even for genuine fans, music is something that has been pushed into being a secondary activity. In the car, at the gym, while you’re cooking. It may always be there but we ourselves have slipped into being less present while listening.
I couldn’t have picked a better night for my first taste of Vinyl & Wine as they had pulled off a couple of major coups. Firstly, they had secured the rights for the first public airing of David Bowie’s mythical lost album The Gouster, secondly they had snared Ireland’s musical Gandalf Tom Dunne for their expert panel. Bowie aficionados Stephen White and John Brereton were also on hand to give some excellent insight into how The Gouster was first abandoned and eventually rescued with the help of legendary Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti.
As the needle hits the groove and the full fat Philadelphia soul of ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ comes raging out of the Cloney system filling the room it’s so funkily infectious the democratically pre-arranged agreement to stay seated seems unwise. This album is Bowie’s first real attempt at becoming a soul singer, he challenges himself to do so on each track. After the full-on, busy funk of the opener, the arrangements on side A become a lot sparser leaving Bowie’s voice to fill in the spaces. Here he first shows that ability to shift around in tone and delivery he maintained throughout his career.
The Gouster is a good record period, but for those who ‘worship at the throne of David’ as Morrissey once said, it’s a great record. Vinyl & Wine itself on the other hand is a great experience – one that is all too unique these days. If you’re a hard-line album advocate who believes a great record deserves undivided attention from start to finish, Vinyl & Wine is right up your street. If not, expect a potent karate chop shall our paths ever cross.