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Copyright Nick Morgan, Kate Kavannagh and Serge Valentin

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like everything by the Malt Maniacs.
2006 Whiskyfun Music Award Winners
by Nick and Kate
Years may come and go, moons may wax and wane, tides may rise and fall, but more certain than any of that natural stuff are the annual Whiskyfun Music Awards, always guaranteed to whet the appetites of music and whisky lovers throughout that virtual world that we increasingly call home. So here goes ….
Fractious Family Feuding Lifetime Achievement Award 
Stand aside Brian Wilson and Mike Love – this year you two fractious feuders have been put in the shade by Matthew Fisher, Gary Brooker, Johann Sebastian Bach, and “The strange case of who wrote the organ piece on Procul Harum’s hit of hits, ‘A whiter shade of pale’?” Fisher complained that he’d been gulled of a writing credit and royalties, Brooker said Fisher hadn’t written it, and strangely Johann, whom everyone acknowledged as the inspiration for the work, didn’t get a look in anywhere. Nor did he get the cash.
So as things stand Fisher will get the credit and the dosh – but hang on – the verdict is still subject to appeal, the normally sanguine Mr Brooker is apparently very unhappy (it must be like waking up to find out that someone’s pinched half your pension fund) and I have the feeling that this one might just run and run. Ace!
The Photographer’s “Perfect Posers” Award
Any concentration of “Rs” around Shepherd’s Bush is normally less than a pleasure, certainly for crowd-controlling police horses and dogs (bite ‘em off, boy!). But the dear old Empire excelled and produced a squad of the best “Rs” in the portfolio. Ray (Davies) and Roddy (Frame) showed how to pose perfectly in top-class performance mode: all-round naturals. Encore!!
Re-released Album of the Year 
Like last year, and the year before, yet another triumph from Mike Vernon and his pioneering blues label Blue Horizon: this year it’s the double CD, the 1968 Memphis County Blues Festival and Bukka White’s Complete Blue Horizon Sessions, recorded at the Ardent Studios the day after the Festival. As Robert Gordon describes in It came from Memphis these festivals (1968’s was the third, held only a few months after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, an event that was to fundamentally change the ‘colour blind’ musical milieu of Memphis) were the public face of the blues revival – bringing forgotten artistes such as White and Furry Lewis to the attention of a broader public, through performance and recordings like these.
To hear Bukka White say “Ladies and gentlemen, it shouldn’t be, but I bet you don’t know, I live here, and I was listening [to the radio] one evening when I was on the air, and the guy said ‘I didn’t know we had anybody here sound like that’, and I’ve been round here since 1939…” gives an insight into just how forgotten these recording artistes of the 1930s and 1940s had become by the 1960s, and the performances themselves stand as a stark tribute to the tenacity of the blues ….

The Photographer’s “Eat My Words” Award
Up front in the team of “Rs” at the Bush was Rouse (Josh). Any concern about his ability to project was dispelled instantly. Not a single bland moment all night and the crowd were ready for as much extra time as possible. Lesson: forget reliance upon CDs. Get music LIVE and only then come home, dram with some of Scotland’s finest Midnight Wine, a bag of Bombay Mix, and play the disc again. Worked particularly well with Jarvis, too!

Worst Venue of the Year
Nowhere could have been as bad as 2005’s award winner, the awful Alexandra Palace, whose revival as a rock venue seems to have been thankfully short-lived, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for a winner this year. And it might have been an ‘historic’ (in the American sense of the word) former cotton field in marvellous Mississippi, where we nearly died in temperatures of over 100 degrees – where was that ‘historic’ air-conditioning? But stand up the Pigalle, that so-called supper club in the heart of London’s Soho where we saw the wonderful Mr Brian Auger and his Oblivion Express.
The Pigalle wins not just for the appalling décor, a grotesque parody of reality, but also for the truly gauche layout of stage and tables. Believe me, even if you see that your favourite band is playing there, you should think seriously about buying tickets.
Da Bling Special Award for the Most Bejewelled Performer
Despite the best efforts of Ms Lily Allen, the be-ringed Dr John, Mississippi Slim, the boys in the Rebirth Brass Band and the very wonderful Mr “Legs” Larry Smith, it’s been a bad year for bling, so no award I’m afraid. But we do have …
The Photographer’s “Natty Dresser” Award
To complete the line-up, The Empire fielded Ron! (Sexsmith, that is). An astonishing gig, which sadly, the Reviewer could not attend. Ron, wear the “sexy” Hugh Hefner jacket if you must and sod “The Times” – they’re just jealous. We know you can knock anyone’s socks off, we love you, so pleeeese keep crossing the Pond!
Album of the Year
Regular readers will recall that this is the only award in the sole gift of Whiskyfun’s Chief Reviewer. The criteria? Well at the end of the day it’s down to fun and enjoyment – no complex rating systems here. Nominees were Roddy Frame (Western Skies), James Hunter (People Gonna’ Talk) Jarvis Cocker (The Jarvis Cocker Album), Watermelon Slim and the Workers (eponymous), the Who (Endless Wire), and a very late entry, the Gotan Project’s Lunatico.
But the prize goes to Rogues Gallery, that unlikely collection of sea shanties, featuring artistes as diverse as David Thomas, Richard Thompson (his ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ is just perfect), Martin Carthy, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (with a truly syphilitic version of ‘Fire down below’), Bill Frisell – in fact a lifeboat’s worth of Whiskyfun favourites – and even the hugely out of place, pompous and overbearing track by Sir Bono will make you laugh because he’s clearly so far up his own beknighted ****
The Photographer’s “Shots in the Dark” Award
Isn’t it great when you buy a CD on spec and it blows you away? Try these offerings: Our New Orleans 2005 (benefit album) – Various Artists; The River in Reverse – Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint; Lunatico – Gotan Project; One Man Went To Mojo – Tim Hain; Live in Dublin 2006 – Christy Moore; Playing DirtyJoe Louis Walker; The Alligator Records Christmas Collection – for Charlie Musselwhite’s rendering of “Silent Night”. Don’t wait until next Christmas to hear it!!
Eurostar Joint Anglo-French Trophy for Best Train Journey of the Year
An unusual category, won at a stroke by comeback band of the year The Who, with their massive and highly praised concert tour (including a re-run of the now legendary Live at Leeds gig) and the very nice (sorry Dave) Endless Wire, their first album in more than twenty years (!). They played a blinding gig in a hot and dusty Hyde Park in July, and during ‘Who are you’ took all of us on a memorable break-neck train ride from London Victoria to Brighton. Simply first-class. Welcome back boys!
Bang for your Bucks Special Category Award
Had I have been there then this award would certainly have gone to Ron Sexsmith for his 27 songs at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November. An outstanding candidate was Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band at the Hammersmith Odeon, who probably gave us about thirty minutes more of his fabulous folk revival, err… revival stuff than we really needed (not that any of the Bruce fans were complaining), and whose CD has provoked more raucous late-night havoc than I’ve experienced for years.
The over-polished John Fogerty didn’t fail to deliver a value-packed set at the same venue, and Pere Ubu’s David Thomas was determined to give his Mean Fiddler audience every penny of their ticket price. But despite these valiant attempts this year’s award must go to Ray Davies for a wonderful night of new songs and nostalgia at the Bush way back in February, and I should also thank those very nice folks who were kind enough to give the then ailing Photographer a seat.
Performer You Would Most Like Your Daughter to Bring Home
She’s already told me that she’s had a scrap in a club with Lily Allen, so that’s the cheeky girl of Camden Town off the list, in which case I’ll nominate the charming and hugely talented Teddy Thompson - not only can he write, play and sing but he also comes with a father of whose profession I could only approve. You’re welcome any time Teddy.
Performer You Would Never Want Your Daughter to be Seen Out With
From this year’s rich tapestry of rock and roll reprobates there is really only one contender for this coveted award – the lacivious Lemster, aka Lemmy, Motorhead’s leather clad master of metal mayhem, and number eight in Maxim magazine’s list of Living Sex Legends. Dads, need I say more?
The Whiskyfun World Music Heritage Site Award for 2006
I have never quite understood why people want to spend so much of their leisure time visiting distilleries in Scotland, especially when you can do it for a living. But dead blues singers graves in Mississippi? Well that’s a different matter altogether. And this year we visited a perfect spot, hidden away and difficult to find in the sandy hills above the tiny community of Avalon.
It’s a small burial ground, not marked from the road, enclosed by thick growing bushes and trees, and an appropriately pretty resting place for that most delicate and melodic of bluesmen, the great Mississippi John Hurt, whose grave lies right at the back, surrounded by his family. A moving musical moment for some very sober reflection, as the Quakers used to say.
The Rolling Stones/Barclaycard Ironic Sponsor of the Year Medallion
Irony becomes history. Who remembers The Who Sell Out? Who remembers Odorono? Who took the huge advertising on-stage advertising spot at the Who’s Hard Rock Café Hyde Park Calling gig? Who? Dove. I rest my case.
Drummer of the Year
It’s unusual for Whiskyfun to give an award to an individual band member for outstanding playing – well that’s not actually true because Norman Watt-Roy picked one up last year for his bass-playing with Wilko and the Blockheads. But this year we honour one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen with the sticks for a long time – and believe me we’ve seen some good ones. But none quite compares with young Patrick Carney of the two-man blues power-house the Black Keys.
He took on a packed Forum single-handed, like a prize fighter from hell, and he won hands down with an almost demonically possessed performance. If you don’t believe me find out for yourself, they’re touring Europe in late February and March. You simply have to see them.
The Photographer’s “Camera Shy” Award
The once very pretty Kevin Ayers made an uncharacteristic use of lighting technique to avoid the auditorium’s gaze: almost total blackout. He should not have worried because we were there for the sounds (honest!), not the wrinkles. So keep it live, Kevin, we promise we won’t look. (Hey, switch that light off! Ed.).
Craziest People we Met at Gigs this Year Trophy
We’ve met some nice people, and, to be frank, some arseholes. And if there was an ‘Arsehole of the year award’ (Serge says no, because he’s a bit of an old hippy and just likes to be nice to everyone), but let me repeat, if there was an ‘Arsehole of the year award’ it would be to the collective of loutish drunks who ruined so many people’s enjoyment of the Waterboys up in the first floor of the Bush earlier in the year.
But nice people (the guys showering us with cold beers in the Mississippi heat of the Greenville Blues Festival deserve honourable mention) don’t make crazy people. So this award must go to the man with the weak bladder and pre-senile dementia (and I told you before Serge – I didn’t make this up) at the Bonzo’s Astoria gig – who kept on getting lost on his way back from his frequent trip to the Gents – he was wandering around the theatre lost in his personal Bonzo heaven – which I didn’t think was a bad place to be.
Gigs that we Didn’t Quite Manage to Review on Whiskyfun
The year didn’t get off to the best of starts so we missed Deacon Blue at the Scala (but saw them later at the Scala), and only got to see the Mystery Jets after several failed attempts. Pete Doherty was in the slammer so the Babyshambles gig at the Bush was cancelled, and Lyle Lovett yet again called off a much anticipated visit to the UK – come on Lyle, you’re getting worse than Elvis! I couldn’t make Cat Power at the Roundhouse – the Photographer said it was fantastic – and likewise business kept me away from Ron Sexsmith’s song-packed gig at the Bush.
Sadly, due to a hectic gig schedule in November, we also missed the launch gig for Whiskyfun favourites, the Barcodes’ splendid new album, With Friends Like These, featuring among others the legendary Zoot Money, but I’m sure we’ll hitch up soon. But there were a few gigs that we simply couldn’t get to – and the band I most regret not seeing were Gomez, who released a top album, How we operate, and visited the metropolis on several occasions when we were otherwise engaged. So let’s hope they come back in 2007.
The Julie Burchill and Nick Parsons Memorial Trophy for the Worst Piece of Rock Journalism of the Year
To be honest I’ve occasionally doubted my credentials to give this award, as I read little music journalism because it’s so self-important, sycophantic, badly researched, and well man …, basically illiterate. However when I read this article in October the award was won at a stroke – it’s Danny Eccleston’s piece in the normally reliable Mojo magazine about ‘Barrett’s Home’.
Yes, a tour of the Pink Floyd’s late troubled troubadour’s semi-detached refuge from rock and roll in Cambridge (before he was even cold in his grave) – a teaser for the auction of his worldly goods that took place “in a frenzy of bidding”, according to the Independent’s “Chief Reporter” Terry Kirkby (shame on you Terry!) on 30th November – I was so angry I’ve still got the cutting on my desk. Tasteless is hardly the word for it. The cult of dead rockstars – oh how I hate it. Their commoditisation – even more grotesque. Mind you – I’ve got a pair of Nick Drake’s underpants for sale on e-bay if you’re interested ….
Gig of the Year
Let me be honest – the judging panel have been hugely divided on this. The Photographer said – “Every gig which I didn’t think I’d get to – which was all of them”. Not really very helpful if you think about it. Serge used all of his votes for Mr Brian Auger, which I didn’t think was really fair. Smart money was on Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band, and his fabulous folk revival, err… revival stuff, or the Who in Hyde Park, or perhaps more obviously the Bonzos at the Astoria or the Bush.
Side betting would have included Roddy Frame, Josh Rouse, Christy Moore and Teddy Thompson whilst the musos would have gone for the soulful Andy Sheppard, the simply wonderful Martin Taylor, the frankly bewildering Marc Ribot and his Ceramic Dog or the gobsmackingly good (sorry Serge, I’m running out of superlatives) Wayne Shorter. But no – by an eventual unanimous decision this most prized award goes to the Sheffield Sage, Jarvis Cocker, for a quite memorable night at the Roundhouse with his new band, playing only their fourth or fifth gig, and wonderful songs from Mr Cocker’s new eponymous album. Jarvis – we are proud to induct you into the Whiskyfun Hall of Rock and Roll Fame.
The Dennis Cowan and Vivian Stanshall Special Trophy for Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band Revival Concerts
  Only one winner here. I, we, never thought it would happen. Pinch me. But it did. Pinch me again. Twice. A tearfully funny cold winter’s night at the Astoria in January, and then an accomplished bash at the Bush in November. Gentlemen, you and your comedic assistants deserve the highest praise for pulling this off. I’m sure you’re planning next year’s dates as I write, and don’t worry, we’ll all be there – but just remember – quit while the going’s good!
The Non-plus Ultra Award 
Sometimes the best awards are the shortest. To Roddy Frame, for his album Western Skies and a simply perfect evening solo at the Bush. It’s an album that everyone should have, and no-one should turn down an opportunity to see him. Non-plus Ultra plus, err… plus.
Serge’s Only 2006 Music Award
Yes, only one Award from me. A lot of travelling and business to do these days, so let’s be quick and focused (to say the least). As Nick already pointed out, I put all my votes on Brian Auger - and his now familial Oblivion Express – for his long, wonderful and ever going musical career. While former band mate Rod Stewart is recycling old Bonnie Tyler songs (a heartache indeed), while Julie Driscoll-Tippets vocalizes in the most ethereal altitudes of free jazz and while Long John Baldry IS in heaven, Brian Auger keeps distilling the most honest, most entertaining and most inspired jazz-blues with lots of talent, energy and good humour. True values indeed, hats off to Brian!

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