billy jenkins with the blues



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1. Badlands
2. Cliff Richard Spoke To Me
3. Resting On My Bed Of Blues
5. I'm Happy
6. The Duke and Me
7. I Love Your Smell
8. Like John Lee Said

This is an unusual studio recording from Billy Jenkins. Normally he constructs one off bands for each project. Here, he's brought his touring band into the studio which means you can enjoy the wonderful talents of Dylan Bates on his electric, electric violin; Richard 'Homer' Bolton on electric, electric rhythm guitar (although he did manage to get a couple of excellent solos in when Billy's back was turned) and the rhythm section from the last Blues Collective CD 'S.A.D.' - the mutually wonderful Thad Kelly on electric, electric bass guitar and Mike Pickering on drumkit.
Special sweet smearing on some of the tracks is supplied by harmonica recluse Whispering Gerry Tighe and organ grinder Dave Ramm. And once more Choir Mistress Suzi M. organised a fine collection of voices for the almost obligatory 'all singin' all dancin' finale.

The eight new songs were all written by BJ over the past couple of years. Some you may have heard live, some were presented to the band actually in the studio. is the follow on album from S.A.D on Babel BDV9615, which was released in 1996.

cd reviews

JAZZ JOURNAL January 2001
JAZZ REVIEW December 2000
THE WIRE November 2000
SUNDAY TIMES Culture October 2000
EVENING STANDARD Hot Tickets CD Choice September 2000
GUARDIAN Friday Review September 2000

cd review archive




January 2001

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective (VOTP VOCD002) £12

Yes, it's bad boy Bill Jenkins again. I enjoyed his last blues set for all the wrong reasons and this one is the same standard. Jenkins has a good feel for the blues and writes some zany lyrics to accompany his sometimes irrational blues plodding. 
Despite his madcap manner he still manages to come up with a good blues feel to his music. As for the lyrics, you'll chuckle at Cliff Richard Spoke To Me. Hardly a suitable subject for the blues but Billy makes it both laudable and laughable. There are some nice lines in The Duke And Me. It's all about an intimate evening with Duke Ellington and Harry Carney providing the music. Sounds like a perfect evening. Billy Jenkins may not be most readers' idea of jazz and blues but he loves the music enough to channel his wild humour into something palatable

David Lands

(c)2000 Jazz Journal/ David Lands


December 2000

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective (VOTP VOCD002) £12

Yet another bracing dose of musical satire from the Bard of Bromley. Jenkins' splintered guitar style and sardonic lyrics suggest a six-string cross between Thelonious Monk, Mose Allison and Dr. John, but sometimes his slicing blues playing is so good (nothing wrong with his singing either), that it's hard to believe he isn't serious. There isn't much jazz here (is there ever? Let's face it, Billy's an unreconstructed pub rocker), but there's plenty of spirited blues and R&B. Sir Cliff comes in for a subtle bit of mockery (he said "Hi", by the way) and also inspires some tasty rhythm guitar work from Rick Bolton which lies in a thick haze of vibrato and distortion.
All the writing is apparently Billy's, and juicy bits of Allisonian wit pop out at various intervals. We hear the Badlands grafted to south London "just down the road from you" and during Bate's violin solo on "The Duke And Me" an exhortation to "give me some Vanessa Mae". There's not a whole lot of mileage for the jazz critic in these simple blues forms (despite dedications to Ellington, Carney and Stuff Smith), but the combination of tough guitar playing, clean, punchy production and canny lyrics is a potent package. British popular culture might be a constant irritant to BJ, but it does us all a service in provoking pearls such as this.

Mark Gilbert

© 2000 Jazz Review/Mark Gilbert


November 2000

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective (VOTP VOCD002) £12

Talking James Carter up a storm - contrasting the saxophonist's approach to the stale procedures of jazz neo-classicism - Cecil Taylor hit the nail on the head: "When Carter walked on stage he stunned me with what he do!

He made one harmonic sound - eeerrrrgh! - and then he walked off the f***ing stage! And he comes back and makes another sound. When he had to deal with that rhythm and blues shit [i.e. bass 'n' drum supreme team Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston], it wasn't about notes. And when James did this obbligato, man, it wasn't just technical, it was passionate!"

Taylor could have been describing guitarist Billy Jenkins. Listen to him explode on "Resting On My Bed Of Blues": his phrases smash through the iron bars laid down by Thad Kelly (bass) and Mike Pickering (drums) - eeerrrrgh! - with a gestural panache that has NEVER heretofore been achieved by British electric guitarists. Jeff Beck nearly got there, but only in fusion contexts that were too spacy to allow his licks to burst the seams; maybe Steve Marriott had it - for half a minute - back in 1966. Jenkins packs the 'icepick in the forehead', 'right note in the wrong place' R&B attitude that Zappa admired in Gatemouth Brown, Guitar Slim and Johnny 'Guitar' Watson. It's like a barbed wire fence swearing at you. The notes jump out like they're possessed. It's astonishing.

But - born too late for the platinum escape hatch that popped open for Jimi Hendrix and Cream - what can Jenkins do with his outrageous talent? His answer is to wrap his guitarism in lyrics that trash Mississippi clichés, a suburban surrealism derived from pantomime, The Beano, Sid James, punk, street furniture and shopping centres - any aspect of contemporary life allergenic to blues romance. Comedic bathos repels superficial listening, tests your ability to discern exceptional music. In Richard Bolton (rhythm guitar), Jenkins has a sophisticated harmonist; in Dylan Bates (violin), a player who knows that without grit the notes won't work (one day Jenkins will surely compose him a concerto of Sugarcane Harris proportions). The opening of "Badlands" - a superb integration of dub and guitar twang - could be an On-U Sound production: despite the jokes, the music is that inspiring, that heavy.

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective: a reproach to contemporary blandishments that'll be 'discovered' by arsehole advertisers 20 years too late. Just like the blues.....


© 2000 Ben Watson/The Wire


On Record 22.10.00

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective (VOTP VOCD002) £12

IF CLAPTON is God then Jenkins is the giant turtle upon whose back the entire universe stands. Ditching his more esoteric jazz combo for a utilitarian blues band, Jenkins pebble-dashes idiosyncratic guitar breaks over eight slices of south London delta sound.

Though Jenkins's Goonish sense of humour betrays a black-comic world view, if he took himself more seriously, maybe everyone else would. [Jenkins] hyperactive energy brings the blues alive. is available from the website of the same name (or 01653 668494).

Stewart Lee




CD Choice 29.9.00

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective (VOTP VOCD002) £12

Black humour can be a dangerous commodity, something regarded with distaste by mainstream producers and promoters. It's particularly unwelcome in British jazz, which generally takes itself very seriously, and this might explain the marginalisation of the Bard of Bromley, Billy Jenkins (photo).

His satirical songs are a bit too disturbing to be good, clean fun, but he shouldn't give up yet. This new album could be his big breakthrough - his composing, arranging and guitar-playing skills have reached a level of professionalism that now matches the subversive clout of his lyrics. He's also made the giant leap from spiky free-improv to a more accessible blues format, projecting his bleak visions through a cosy country-blues filter that leaves the sharp outlines intact.

Jenkins's relaxed vocal style cleverly underplays messages that bristle with attitude. 'Badlands', for example, is about graffiti, windblown garbage, homeless drinkers and permanently shuttered shops, the sort of landscape millions of Londoners try to ignore each day. 'The Duke And Me' extols jazz-listening pleasures and the panaceas of 'fags, mags and Sainsbury - recommended wine' that help to ease this urban angst, while 'Cliff Richard Spoke To Me' and 'Like John Lee Said' recall the anti-showbiz larks of early Jenkins oeuvres such as Entertainment USA. His group, meanwhile, plays with admirable crispness and restraint, particularly violinist Dylan Bates, whose lazy, chorus-box-enhanced solos convey the sour warmth of a triple bourbon on the rocks.

Recorded in the muddy heart of Greenwich and marketed direct from Lewisham (£12.99 inc postage and VOTP, PO Box 3162, London SE13 7BE, or via credit card hotline: 01653 668 494), isn't feelgood music, but as you can confirm at the Vortex, it's perceptive, grimly amusing and as original as anything being played on either side of the Thames this week.




GUARDIAN Friday Review

15 September 2000

Billy Jenkins with the Blues Collective <>  £12

Championed by everyone from the Gogmagogs to the Bath Poetry Festival, a Billy Jenkins knighthood can only be a formality once Blair's second term kicks in. Sir Bill's sizzling performing group dashes through a set of original blues compositions that makes a great souvenir of their recent sell-out season at the Blues Elephant Theatre in south London. Gerry Tighe and Dave Ramm add a little welcome seasoning. Radio play favourite: The Duke and Me. Potential advertisement track: I Love Your Smell.

John L Walters. 





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