Category: Music

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 7

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ED HARCOURT

Well here I am again folks, its been four months since my last post due to my head not wanting to think creative thoughts, but I’m fired up and ready to go again, writing words I don’t suppose anyone wants to read.

I’m really off on one today and I make no apologies for the fact that I get very giddy thinking about and listening to the music of the talented Mr.Harcourt.

Now I know there aren’t many of you that have read my posts, but those who have will know that I can go a bit silly and I have a tendency to get over excited…..well that’s how music makes me feel and I just can’t help it. Music is in my blood, my head and my heart and it’s always been my anchor as I sail the good ship me through the choppy seas of life….(told you I was on one today!)

I simply couldn’t live without music, it’s such an integral part of me and I’m in absolute awe of certain people who don’t just make music, they invent new ways of playing, go against the current genre grain to be different, cleverly creating the most fantastic tapestries with words and sounds through their intelligence, passion and talent.

Ed is one of my musical heroes (Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke, King Creosote, James Yorkston are also in the mix). Ed isn’t just a musician, he’s a craftsman, wordsmith and alchemist, conjuring up the most the most amazing musical offerings. He’s a chameleon, he doesn’t sit still, he seems to be constantly changing, experimenting and producing something amazing. Problem with people like Ed in my view, is that you either get him or you don’t. With some artists it’s not enough just to listen, which of course you can do, but if you step back and scratch the surface, you’re left in no doubt that there’s something special underneath. I know that I go over the top and gush/flow/explode with excitement and ‘think’ too  much about records,bands, music and not everyone wants to do that. Which is why someone like Ed is a crowd pleaser, you can enjoy some bloody good music or you can analyse, interpret and get lost in the whole musicallyness of it all…..hey I just invented a word!

May I suggest dear reader that you prepare yourself as I explain to the unwise and preach to the converted about the majestically, magical, musical things this Harcourt fella can do, especially on his latest album, Furnaces. But let’s start at the beginning shall we.

 

HERE BE MONSTERS

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Back in 2001, Ed  launched his debut album, Here Be Monsters. It was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and was produced by Tim Holmes, one-half of the British dance music Death in Vegas. The first thing I knew about it was hearing the single ‘Something in My Eye.’ It’s a long time ago and I’m getting on a bit but I can still remember the shivers I got from the opening of the track, as Ed’s vocal kicked in and it wasn’t like anything else that was around at the time. I loved the first lines of the lyrics

Spider has eight legs you know
Spins its web the patterns flow

Two sentences creating one great image, capturing me in the song like a fly in a web (see what I did  there?).

My favourite track of the album has to be ‘Those Crimson Tears’. This is Ed, playing the piano and once again singing some the best lyrics. He rhymes ‘dancing bear’ with ‘marble stairs’ for god’s sake!…..listen, if you haven’t heard it, it’s here courtesy of YouTube so treat yourself and have a little listen.

My absolute favourite is ‘She Fell into My Arms’. Again it’s the lyrics and the way the song is put together and the inclusion of the brass section.

 

This song contains a couple of lines that sum up how I’ve always felt and that I’d have as a motto on my own personal crest of arms!

 I don’t mind if I lose
‘Cause if I win I’ll be so confused

Every track on the album is worth a mention and listen to and is a showcase for Ed’s talent, wit and musical ability. For me it was the start of a journey with him but I didn’t catch the next Ed bus until much later.

BACK INTO THE WOODS

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I don’t know why I missed out on the albums in between, these. There were other more important and more serious things going on in my life and I somehow missed out but I picked up the Ed trail in a very special place.

The launch of Back into The Woods gave us Ed playing at St.Philip’s Church in Salford on 3rd June 2013. It was my first gig in a church and it seemed very strange to be sat in the pews drinking wine. My childhood experience of church didn’t prepare me for the sight of tables of alcohol for sale and the man himself dispensing his own brand of ale the willing….erm…congregation. For that’s what it turned out to be, a spiritual experience.

I sat in the third pew from the front near the Piano and we were all waiting for the main man to appear when suddenly,  the last of the evening sun was streaming in through the corner stained glass window. The church organ struck up and everyone turned to see Ed in the organ loft singing ‘Brothers and Sisters.‘ the first track of the night. The acoustics, the tone of his voice, the mood of the songs all blended together to make what was quite an emotional night for me. The whole set was genius, Ed moving from piano, to electric and acoustic guitar for the immensely moving ‘Last Will and Testament.’. He took his signature microphone, wandered up and down the aisle and….he put his hand on my shoulder, a very sweaty hand, but hey! It was a brilliant night and I bought the album soon after.

It’s Ed’s piano playing that captivates me on this album but to be fair, he can play just about any instrument. On the first album Here Be Monsters he was credited with vocals, piano, pump organ, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, Wurlitzer, vibes, saxophone, harmonica, bass, beatbox, backing vocals, sampling, synthesizer, drums, percussion, string arrangement

Seven albums later, I’m sure there are even more arrows in his quiver.

The pretty girls

A brilliant song with a piano refrain that fills my heart with gladness and lyrics that make me smile:

You’re the circus tamer to my beast
I’m a puzzle with a missing piece
When I’ve been hanging off your soul by the skin of my teeth
Can’t believe I’ve never been in jail
How you stuck with beyond the pale
Sometimes I feel like I’m the monster in this fairytale

And what you love most I could well destroy
Because pretty girls always fall for the baddest boys

All the songs on the album have a melancholy air about them, but that doesn’t make them sad songs, not really. How you find them depends on the mood you are in but I have to confess that I barely listen to ‘Last Will and Testament’. It makes me think of my own mortality and that’s never a good thing. Still its delightful, haunting and a thing of beauty.

And now it’s time to come up to date with a sneaky peak at Ed’s latest album for you.

FURNACES

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On 29th June 2016, I went to the Deaf Institute in Manchester to see Ed launch his new album Furnaces. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it was going to be something special. I’d heard from Facebook that the new songs were fiery, with a heavier vibe and it sounded great.  The Deaf Institute is a splendid venue in Manchester, like an old music hall with a small balcony (where I was sat) and seating at the back. The stage is tiny and I had a great view of all the musicians but I didn’t take the photo’s I wanted out of respect and not wanting to look like a stalker, so I’ve not got any of my own photos to add, unlike the ones in my Slaves blog.

It was an uplifting, face slapping, mind-blowing set. If I needed proof that this man has is stupidly gifted in both voice and musicianship then this was it. It was soft/subtle, blew you away with its rock and metallic shapes/sounds and was just like being on a boat on a rough sea. You never knew which way the wind was going to blow so you held on for dear life. There were some funny moments, Ed obliging a request to play the Ghostbuster’s theme and a very strange marriage proposal, which I’m not convinced was actually accepted even though she said yes…..eventually.

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Ed at the Deaf Institute – Manchester

I bought the album this week, it’s been blowing through my ears and into my brain since. I’ve not had it off my Ipod and I keep singing snatches of tracks to myself…every one is an earworm in the making but in a good way.  My favourites?

The World is on Fire, Loup Garou, Furnaces, Occupational Hazard…hang on, I’m starting to list all of them all here!  Seriously, there isn’t a duff track to be found. I love them all. But if I really had to choose then these are the ones I absolutely love, in no particular order.

Loup Garou – clever lyrics, Ed’s vocals playing around, soft and endearing one second then turning threatening ‘don’t you know I’m a beast of a man and I’m coming to get what I came for.’ An absolute gem with sneaky piano, pounding drums and a bass line that drives through you.

Last of Your Kind – how can something with lyrics like ‘nothing more to do you’re the last of your kind/no one else like you you’re the last of your kind’ sound so upbeat. It’s a sort of anthem and if you didn’t listen to the lyrics you’d find it to be jolly and nice, but it’s really not.

Dionysus – starts off like a lullaby and ends up like a war cry. Stunning!

Furnaces

It’s not for me to give my interpretation of any of the tracks, but the mighty furnaces seems to be an apocalyptic warning of times to come.

 

If I were clever, I could blind you with my insight of the lyrics, compare Ed’s music to other bands and songwriters, but I’m not. If I could, I’d be a music journalist, but instead I just play at blogging, hoping I can spread my enthusiasm like poppy seeds and hope they grow in some barren patch of soil somewhere.

All I can do is to share my enthusiasm, my enjoyment and my appreciation of someone who’s music means a lot to me and who I admire for the work they do. Oh and on top of everything else, he’s a down to earth, genuinely warm, entertaining bloke……….bastard!!

One last thing………If you like this, please let me know. It get’s kind of lonely talking to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 6

Prince

 

Prince

I didn’t want to write a blog when David Bowie died; it didn’t feel right and I sure as hell didn’t think anything I could say would be any different to the other voices singing his praises.

With Prince, I feel different, I liked a lot of Bowie’s music and he was a massive influence to many people, but for me Prince was a little bit different. The little purple fella was intriguing and beguiling and he wrote some of the sexiest, filthiest lyrics for which I give him thanks and praise.

I’d be lying if I pretended that my Ipod and CD/Record collection were stuffed to the brim with Prince tracks, they aren’t, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anything for his  music or feel sad when he passed away.

I love music of all types except the sort of jazz that sounds like seven people playing different music on different instruments at different pitches/tones.  Oh, and there’s always someone who sounds like they are strangling an elephant….that’s the sax player!

An electronic beat (like Hot Chip), strong guitar ( hello Nile Rodgers) and some cracking drums make up my favourite dance tracks. I do love a good dance, I’m crap at it mind you but I do love to have a go. Prince has provided some of the most danceable records with a feel good beat and I love him for that.

From the start Prince Rodgers Nelson was differen; taking charge of his very first album as he insisted that he played all the instruments, did all the vocals and the mixing himself. A brave task for a 17 yr old but one that gave him his first record release in 1978 with the ‘For You’ album. Warner Bros gave him the artistic freedom he wanted for his first three albums but the also took charge of ownership of the publishing rights.

Prince wasn’t an attractive man (to me), he was short and skinny, but his voice was something else. The lyrics, the innuendo combined with the slight, sly smile on his face and the gleam in those eyes let you know he was up for it if you were. He danced like the devil and you knew he had the energy of a steam train.

It would be easy to write a list of the dirtiest of his songs and lyrics but that wouldn’t be doing justice to the man. Instead, I’d rather focus on the fact he was a brilliant musician and songwriter. He played guitar and the credits for his records show he played a multitude of other instruments too. He wasn’t bad at writing lyrics either!

Here are a few of my favourites, I’d love you to share yours.

SIGN O’ THE TIMES

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The rumbling bass and his opening vocal set the scene for this explosive track from the 1987 album of the same name. Prince plays everything with just a backing singer, Susannah Melvoin, his then girlfriend joining in the fun.

With scorching lyrics showing Prince was political without being in your face, this was probably the first non-commercial record of his I really liked. It’s the keyboards, Fairlight synthesizer and sampled electronic bass that set the mood of the record before the meat of the sandwich, the lyrics kick in with a reference to AIDs:

In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name
By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same

This cheery little ditty continues later on with lyrics that are still relevant today and probably always will be:

A sister killed her baby ’cause she couldn’t afford to feed it
And yet we’re sending people to the moon

Yes indeed my purple clad friend, life makes no sense sometimes and we’re still doing the same shit to each other.

GETT OFF

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Ok, so I lied, I said I wasn’t going to do the filthy stuff but I can’t resist this record from the 1991 album Diamonds & Pearls. I love dancing to this record, usually on my own when nobody is watching! I love the beats, the voice and the totally over the top lyrics:

How can I put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve
There’s a rumor goin’ all round that u ain’t been gettin’ served
They say that u ain’t u know what
In baby who knows how long
It’s hard 4 me 2 say what’s right
When all I wanna do is wrong

He’s a conceited little fecker on this one. I’ve got an image of a sharp-dressed guy, sliding up to someone at the bar, determined not to take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s Mr. Smooth, all the women want him and he sees it as his job to ‘service’ the poor dowdy girl who doesn’t get much action.

With a promise of ’23 positions in a one-night stand’ this ‘talented boy’ could talk the talk but could he deliver the goods? My favourite cheese filled chat-up line of the song has to be:

Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby
Tonight your a star
And I’m the big dipper

It’s nonsense and harmless fun, it’s a shame that Robin Thicke couldn’t write a sexy song without insulting the whole of womankind! Or was Prince just as bad with his lyrics but I’ve somehow let him get away with it?  Answers on a postcard please or maybe we could start a debate on the most misogynistic lyrics ever?

ALPHABET STREET

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This is the first single off the 1988 album Lovesexy. Essentially it’s an instrumental with some lyrics relating to some girl on girl fun! I’ve tried to put a clip of the track on here but Prince didn’t like sharing his music in the way that some artists do. It’s a shame because it’s another ridiculously danceable track and I’m rather fond of it.

Prince wrote masses of songs, some were hits, some weren’t and some were little treasures to find hidden on the albums he made. He was talented, underrated and berated by those who thought he was too fond of celebrating sex and the fact that women actually enjoy it.

A little brightness went out of the world on 21 April 2016. The doves cried and the purple rain fell for the last time. RIP Prince……you sexy motherf**er!

 

 

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Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 5

Kate Tempest

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Her debut album Everybody Down, was launched in 2014. In the same year she was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize; which was won by Young Fathers and their album  ‘Dead’.

As with most music I like these days, I first came across Kate through BBC 6 Music. The track was called ‘Circles’; I loved the energy, loved the lyrics and most of all I loved the vulnerability of her voice. There was the timbre of a young girl’s voice mixed with the wisdom of an older, world weary woman trying to make sense of stuff that never will.

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I’ve had a few girl crushes in my time and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have an inexplicable love for Maxine Peake (bow down when you say her name!). She’s short, sassy, has more talent than any woman  has a right to have and still she goes on marches with UNISON to fight for what she believes to be right. Maxine is also a collaborator with the brilliant Eccentronic Research Council – songs about the Pendle Witches and other coven related tales.

Then there’s Kristin Scott Thomas; though she is an English actress she’s made films completely in the French language for Christ’s sake! She’s beautiful and she can pick and choose what she wants to do (Only God Forgives was a bit of a mare but let’s gloss over that!), so I should hate her but I just can’t. Then we come to Kate Tempest, which is another story entirely.

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I’d been listening to Everybody Down on my Ipod since the I first discovered it. I’ve made my own mix of Kate, Ghostpoet and George Clinton, which weirdly works really well. It’s my going out soundtrack and I love it.

Glastonbury 2015 however, was the turning point for me in terms of understanding exactly what a talent she is. I was flicking between the choices of who to watch; I’d seen an unbelievable set from Slaves and then the Fat White Family (bit scary but amazing!) then I turned over to find Kate half way through her set.

Holy shit! nothing had prepared me for this. There she was, looking like an innocent child, belting out rhymes, raps and rhythms, owning the stage, owning the audience. All the poetic lines I’d heard countless times making even more sense through the animation of her body, her eyes and her voice. As an artist, she’s stunningly talented, as a performer she’s explosive and powerful; living each line and delivering it like she’s just thought it and want’s to get it out of her head.

For me, it was the closing part of her act that just blew me away. She shared a poem called ‘Hold Your Own’,* 4minutes and 55 mesmerising seconds where the crowd were silent and it felt like even the birds in the trees would have stopped to watch her. This is what she does, she’s a poet, a wordsmith, a sorceress with magic powers that I would kill to possess.

It’s not right that one person should be so talented; so what does she do?  She’s  gone and written a book based on the characters from the album. The book comes out on 7th April. Can’t wait to find a space, lay back and read until my eyes hurt and I’ve found yet another reason to love this awsome woman.

 

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* click to watch the Youtube clip.

Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 4

Thom Yorke

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They say the best things come to those who wait; I feel this is absolutely true of my relationship with Radiohead and the voice of Thom Yorke in particular.

Radiohead are one of those bands that slipped my attention for many years. I’d heard the obvious tracks like Creep, High and Dry, and once I started paying attention, it was the insanely unique voice of Mr. Yorke I became slightly obsessed with. Once his vocal skills had wormed their weird little ways into my brain, they nestled there, incubating, waiting until I was able to appreciate them in every sense.

Anyone who’s read parts 1 to 3 of my blog will know music and vocals in particular are such a massive part of my life, so it’s fair to say I had my mind blown when I first heard my favourite Radiohead album ever. Which one? For me, it has to be In Rainbows. 

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The album came out in 2007,which seems like a million years ago but to me it’s the one constant on my ancient Ipod. As far as I’m concerned, all the tracks are fantastic but I’m going to focus on my three favourites. I like these three for the lyrics, Thom’s voice, the musicianship from Colin, Jonny, Ed and Philip and the stupid way they make me dance.

15 Step 

How come I end up where I started?
How come I end up where I went wrong?

These are the opening lyrics to one of the best tracks on the album for me.

The skittish start always sets me off on one of my stupid, all over the place dances, I just can’t help it. I love the lines; these are the questions I quite often ask myself and Thom’s voice just adds extra poignancy to them.

You used to be alright
What happened?

Another great lyric, sung with the same weary tone. Was he asking the question of a friend or just looking in the mirror? The words work either way and the voice just adds more melancholy to the meaning.

Did the cat get your tongue?
Did your string come undone?

I love this line, it’s as if he’s talking to someone like they are a puppet who can’t speak or think for themselves because they don’t have the power to any more. It makes me think of someone who’s been so ground down they can no longer function as a person.

I love this song and the tone of the voice, the sense of exasperation, boredom and resignation overlaying the music is just genius.

*(click  the title to  see the live Radiohead From The Basement recording)

 

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Bodysnatchers

I have absolutely no idea what these opening lines are about and the rest of the song doesn’t really give you a clue either.

I do not
Understand
What it is
I’ve done wrong

Sometimes it’s best not to try and analyse things too much. I’ve read that the song is about aliens, a near death experience after an accident or a suicide attempt. I don’t care really, the meaning is Thom’s secret, let him keep it!

The middle verses of the song are sung in the same tone and have the same nonsensical lyrics which I love. As the song goes on, Thom’s vocals get more and more manic and desperate and this is when I love his voice and the way he sings the most. When he gets going he’s almost out of control and this is what I love, it’s as if nothing else matters but the song and he just lets go. I wish I had that ability and the outlet to just go for it and not give a shit.

Has the light gone out for you?
Cause the light’s gone out for me
It is the 21st century
It is the 21st century
You can fight it like a dog
It brought me to my knees
They got scared and they put me in
They got scared and they put me in
All their eyes wrapped around my face
All their eyes wrapped around my face
Although everybody else can see
Although everybody else can see

I’m alive
I’ve seen it coming

This is the point where he’s completely lost it and he starts to do amazing things with his voice, almost a low howl one minute then a full blown rant. With anyone else they wouldn’t get away with it but this is just superb for me.

 

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Nude

This is one of my all time favourite Radiohead tracks, again it’s the sinister, haunting quality of the vocal that gets me first, combined with the lyrics that tell me something isn’t quite right here.

Don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You paint yourself white
And fill up with noise
But there’ll be something missing

Now that you’ve found it, it’s gone
Now that you feel it, you don’t
You’ve gone off the rails

So don’t get any big ideas
They’re not gonna happen

You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking

All the way through the song I keep thinking is this about someone being stalked? Is there an element of fear and menace? Again, I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics are actually about but I’d love to hear your views in the comments box for this post.

I like to listen to this in the dark, I find it incredibly disturbing and I love the power that some songs have to do that to me. Another track that does this to me is I WANT YOU *by Elvis Costello – makes me want to lock the door and keep a knife with me!

*click to hear the track.

Well this is the end of my post about the vocal shenannigans of the amazingly talented and slightly scary Thom Yorke. I hope you have enjoyed it, found it interesting or at the very least it’s stopped you thinking about that annoying little itch you’ve got for a couple of minutes.

I’d love to hear what you think, good, bad or indifferent. I’m new to blogging so I’m always after advice……even if it’s ‘Your shit, why are you bothering?’

Cheers

Mxx

 

 

 

Listen To The Voice of Reason – Part 3

 

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James Yorkston

Sometimes you hear a voice that makes the hair on the back of your neck and arms stand up, but that only lasts for a second. For me this has been happening for years, it happens every time I hear the distinctive, amazing tone of the voice of James Yorkston.

I first came across Mr. Yorkston when I went to a little festival called the Green Man Festival. We’d tried Glastonbury, V and such like but quite frankly it was just mainstream stuff you could enjoy any time. In search of something different, we decided to try the Green Man, a little known festival in a lovely setting near Hay-on-Wye. I think the first one we went to was at Baskervill Hall but it was a long time ago.

We didn’t know anything about anyone on the line up, we looked at names like Adam, 4tet, Tunng, Joanna Newsome, King Creosote and James Yorkston and the Athletes with a shake of the head – nope, not a clue.

Our tent was pitched, our cans of beer and cider (I’m such a classy bird!) were stowed in our rucksacks and we went off to further our musical education. After a few dodgy starts and quick exits from stages, we found a tent where we watched a man wearing a furry dog head mask playing a synthesizer – they were called Fonda 500 and we loved them.

After a while we wandered off, still not knowing who to see or who they were, but for some reason we both decided we liked the name James Yorkston and the Athletes. We found they were playing in the same tent we’d been in and made our way back. The tent was really full and we had to push our way inside. The music had already started and I have to admit to not really listening as we tried to find somewhere to stand.

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The first track I remember was St. Patrick (from the album Moving Up Country), the slow rumble of the instrumental opening leading to James and the opening line:

I didn’t sleep at all last night
I thought my heart had mastered the run of these seas

Well that was it, talk about hooked and landed! I was the fat fish on the end of his vocal line. His voice wasn’t perfect, which made it exactly perfect, if you get my meaning. The band played with him, the music getting louder and louder, creating the image of a rolling sea and sending shivers through me.

I awoke with a smart and a look at the phone.
I swear that I would have called you if I’d been sure you were alone.
And doesn’t that drive things home?

Simply beautiful lyrics; no fancy tricks, just a couple of very classy lines that’s all I need to make me fall in love with a song, a voice, an idea and an imagined set of circumstances. It’s not that I’m easily pleased, I just know when I’ve heard something special.

I knew then that I’d be fan for a very long time and now, all these years later I still anticipate anything James does with the interest of an inquisitive puppy.

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Born in Fife, James Yorkston was involved at an early stage with the Fence Collective who’s artists include the like of King Creosote, KT Tunstall and The Beta Band. James writes and sings and plays a wide variety of instruments. I loved the Facebook posts from him when he was having a new guitar made. It was an education as I’ve never seen an instrument being loving constructed before! 

James Yorkston and the Athletes are just one of many of James’ musical guises. He’s a man of many musical personalities, he’s played with John Martyn and Bert Janch and has had the blessing of John Peel. There’s been the Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society, a collaboration with Alexis Taylor, KT Tunstall, Pictish Trail, Emma Smith & Jon Thorne. He’s had numerous albums released, all with their own delicious twist and unexpected turns.

I think however, apart from the Athletes, my favourite reincarnation for JY has been his recent work with Jon Thorne (Lamb) and Suhail Yusuf Khan. With James singing and playing guitar, Jon playing the base and Suhail charged with making the most magical music on a sarangi (a strange little Indian instrument you play with a bow), you’ll never hear anything as lovely. I saw the trio at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester last year. I was spellbound as always, though this time the mix of cultures, sounds and styles of songs and music were just breathtaking.

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James has written a book about his life as a travelling troubadour ‘It’s Lovely To Be Here’. It’s a great insight into the often not very glamorous life on the road and gives us a peek into what really happens. It’s not all groupies and fantastic tour buses that’s for sure.

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This blog is meant to be about voices and I feel I’ve digressed. I’m not ashamed though! I just feel the need to tell more people about the music I love and to persuade you to listen for yourself so you’ll understand why I’m so passionate about it.

James hasn’t got a ‘simple’ voice, it’s full of emotion, traits, strains and strengths that I’ve not heard from many people. He’s quietly spoken, funny, caustic, sarcastic and tender, especially on certain songs that mean more to him than I could every understand or explain.

He’s not a folk singer,  he’s not a man to be labelled as anything. He’s unique, supremely talented and it’s a better place for having him and his storytelling through songs in it.

I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve been to see him. He’s seen us through bad times when John had cancer (he had trouble in the scanning machine as he was listening to James and it all got a bit much, too many good memories!), he’s been with us when we’ve been pissed (Green Man festivals and practically every gig!) and he’s always made us happy.

I’ve got to say that I’m in awe of Mr. Yorkston. If I had half of his talent in anything I’d be so happy. When we go to see him I always want to say this to him but I’m too shy, too worried he’d think I was a gushing, sentimental weirdo.  One day I might say ‘hello’, but I’m just kidding myself, I’m too cowardly for that! I’ll just be content to go along, stand and listen and just enjoy.

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Slaves

Sometimes a band comes along and you just have to listen. Slaves slapped me around the face demanding my attention when I watching the coverage of their eye watering, blistering paced set at Glastonbury 2015. I was transfixed as I watched two blokes giving it all on stage, one beating a set of drums to death and the other thrashing the hell out of a guitar. They were raucous, energetic and the best thing I’d heard all evening.

How could two men make such skin crawlingly good music and make such a racket. I wondered if they had the gift of electronic wizardry to help boost the sound, but this wasn’t the case. What you hear is a raw, live, musically talented pair without any trickery, just their talent.

I don’t like to try and push music into a genre as I usually get it wrong, most bands don’t like to be tagged as this or that and what does it matter anyway? To me, they have the energy of early punk bands with bang on lyrics, and an early mod style with a slightly skinhead danger feel when they play live…….see I told you I was rubbish at this!

Slaves are  a duo which formed in 2012. The two members are Laurie Vincent (guitar, bass, vocals) from Maidstone, Kent, and Isaac Holman (drums and vocals) from Royal Tunbridge Wells.  Sugar Coated Bitter Truth was their first release in 2012, which was an EP.

Their first single “Where’s Your Car Debbie?”, was released by Fonthill Records in early 2014. After this they signed to Virgin EMI and released a single, “Hey”, followed closely by “The Hunter”.  Also in 2014, they appeard on Later….with Jools Holland and in 2015 they were nominated for BBC’s Sound of 2015. Their debut album Are you Satisified? was released in June 2015 and it’s absolutely amazing, but then again I’m a fan so I’m bound to say that!

SLAVES – MANCHESTER RITZ – 16 JANUARY 2015

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I’d been excited about this gig for ages, after I’d bought the CD I knew I wanted to see them live, well that’s a lie, I wanted to see them after the Glasto performance.

I had to wait longer than anticipated as they postponed the gig which should have been in November, due to Issac having an unfortunate shoulder injury. So this is why I found myself on a cold Friday night in January at the Ritz, Manchester, waiting for the fun to begin.

By the time Isaac and Laurie took to the stage to the sounds of We Like to Party by the Vengaboys, the walls and pillars of this knackered old venue were dripping with condensation….teenage sweat from the moshers in the crowd down below.  I’d chosen to perch along the balcony to get the best view and try and take some photographs.

Kicking off, (quite literally in the over excited crowd) with Ninety Nine, followed by Like An Animal, it was clear that boys were going to give us something special and the people below me were going crazy. It’s a long time since I’ve seen crowd surfing in such quantities and I don’t think I’ve ever seen practically the whole place joining in a skinhead type barging session…..perhaps someone could enlighten me with the correct term, I’m too old to know these things.

Watching down over everyone was a wonderful experience, a mixture of young, old and somewhere in between were just lost in music and the sweat poured down the walls in greater quantities.

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Things go more frenzied when Sockets started up and that seemed to be the catalyst for more mayhem in the crowd. Where’s your car Debbie? led to the stonkingly good crowd rousing,  Do Something and Cheer Up London, everyone in the place singing ‘You’re dead already, dead, dead already.’ By this time I was fearing for Isaac who looked absolutely knackered. He might be a lean, mean drumming machine but Christ that must take it out of you, playing like Satan himself every night.

I’ve said it earlier on but the musicianship and craftsmanship of both these men shouldn’t be underestimated. Laurie worked his way through a variety of guitars, his playing magnificent for each and every track the sound coming out of them working wonders with the hardcore drumming of his sweaty, bare-chested partner in crime.

We had The Hunter, White Knuckle Ride and In Dog Years Your Dead and Are You Satisfied, all received with the same rapture as the opening tracks, until at the end Isaac lay on the floor, a knackered, possibly kilo’s lighter than when he started. The pair embraced at the end, Manchester applauded and left, much better for the release of tension and entertainment bestowed upon us.

Did they do an encore? Did they balls, they could barely stand!

Thank you Slaves, my only regret?…… I didn’t get to buy a T-Shirt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Mr. DJ

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I can’t remember exactly when or why I started listening to BBC 6 music. What I do know is that I can honestly say its the been the biggest influence on my life music wise for many a long year.

Honestly, every day I listen to it something catches my attention and I’m constantly looking at the ‘now playing’ facility on my digital radio to find out who I’m listening to. I’ve got into so many bands thanks to this station and my life is richer for listening to it.

I couldn’t go back to mainstream radio, I couldn’t listen to Radio 1 now when I used to be addicted to it when I was a kid. There really wasn’t much choice and I used to be there on a Sunday, fanatically taping the chart rundown on my little cassette recorder (google cassette recorder if I’m speaking another language). It was a fine art trying like mad to stop the tape at the end of the track before Alan Freeman started talking again!

Mainstream radio is well, too mainstream for me. There is a time and place for the stuff they play but for me, I get my kicks on BBC Radio 6.

The breadth of genres is astounding; Cerys Matthews on her Sunday show playing everything from bluegrass to Guatemalan banjo bands, Stuart Maconie and his freakier zone play all sorts of weird shit to the very wonderful Iggy Pop shoving anything on that he fancies, but lately it seems he’s in love with the Sleaford Mods…and why wouldn’t you be?

You’ve got Steve Lamacq kicking off the evening from 4pm, leading into the usually eardrum-splittingly loud (what do you mean I can turn the radio down?) Marc Riley from 7pm showcasing old and new music, with his favourite established and up and coming bands playing live.

On Saturday morning, I can wake up to the dreamy voice of the very lovely Mary Ann Hobbs. Her gentle enthusiasm is infectious and her way of getting the best out of her guests on the show (listen and learn Lauren Laverne) are a joy to listen to. I used to tweet her every Saturday and she always replied but I’ve stopped now – don’t want a restraining order do I?

Next up is the man with that voice  – Huey Morgan. His voice is amazing, I could listen to him reading the warning on a packet of paracetamol and still be smiling. If Jack Daniels had sound it would sound like Huey! He plays some seriously amazing music. When Huey isn’t around its usually down to Katie Puckrik to spin the discs…well push the buttons! I love Katie, she’s American, she’s rude and has a wicked sense of humour and she replies when you tweet her, which always make you feel special.

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A little while ago there was talk about the powers that be closing down BBC 6 music, there was outrage, there were petitions and tweets and a general outpouring of emotion that eventually led to the station being saved. Thank god for that say I and long may it stay with us.

It’s not only a radio show, there lots of spin offs such as the very popular 6 music festival; the show goes to various city’s putting on live music and showcasing bands both familiar and not so well known.

There’s also TV shows – Guy Garvey’s Music Box and  Marc Riley’s show All Shook Up and the brilliant documentary Music for Misfits recently hosted by Mark Radcliffe.

The station has developed a cult following with many ‘celebrities’ and musicians forming an orderly queue to host a show. It has also had it’s critics with the Mercury Music prize being a bone of contention for some people who think it’s elitist and not really for the ‘people.’

I say bollocks to that, I love it, and I urge you to give it a go if you haven’t tried it yet. If you’re a Radio 1 or Heart FM fan it might be a bit like Marmite for you…….but I LOVE Marmite!

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Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 2

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JULIE LONDON

Julie London was an American nightclub, jazz and pop singer, film and television actress and a former pinup model, born on 26 September 1926.

I had heard a couple of her other records, including an amazing version of Blue Moon, but it was this record which made me stop in my tracks.

Her delivery of the song makes you feel she’s singing at you, making you feel for her predicament even more.

Never possessing a powerful voice in comparison to her contemporaries, she used what she had to great advantage. In an interview in 1957 when she was on the cover of LIFE magazine she said, “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.”

For me its that almost frail quality of her voice that really draws me into the song and makes me believe that she’s a woman on the edge.

The End of a Love Affair

The song was written by Edward C. Redding and was also sung by Billie Holiday. I’ve listened to both and I prefer Julie’s version.

With her husky, dusky, sexy voice Julie sang of the end of a love affair. The song tells of her trying to pretend she’s not bothered that her love affair is over by over acting and generally being a bad ass.  Only her voice betray’s that inside she’s a broken women.

The song starts with sweeping strings before the vocal comes in. The smooth, sultry scene is set for the song to begin.

“So I walk a little too fast and I drive a little too fast
And I’m reckless it’s true, but what else can you do at the
End of a love affair?”

The opening line and the nonchalant way she sings it is the hook. ‘What else do you expect me to do?’ she’s asking, as if suggesting people think she should be a broken women lying weeping in a corner.

“So I talk a little too much, and I laugh a little too much
And my voice is too loud, when I’m out in a crowd
So that people are apt to stare.”

Ah yes! overcompensating when you are out of your depth, trying too hard to be funny and entertaining, determined to be the life and soul of the party. Sound familiar?

“Do they know, do they care, that it’s only that I’m lonely
And low as can be? And the smile on my face isn’t really a smile at all.”

Here, it’s as if she’s saying, ‘You haven’t got a clue how I’m feeling but would you give a toss if you did?’ So she’s pretending to have a good time to hide the hurt. How many times have you done this. Smiling on the outside but dying on the inside; Tony Soprano described it perfectly as being a ‘sad clown’.

“So I smoke a little too much, and I drink a little too much
And the tunes I request are not always the best
But the ones where the trumpets blare!”

For some reason this makes me think of her sitting in a bar, on  her fifth double gin and tonic, cigarette in  hand as she chooses really loud music from a jukebox much to the annoyance of those around her.

“So I go at a maddening pace, and I pretend that it’s taking
Your place, but what else can you do, at the end of a love affair?”

What else indeed? Throw yourself under a bus or throw yourself into life and hope that some of the pretence becomes reality?

It’s the richness of her voice, the perfect diction and the general sexy tone that draws me in. I’d love to spend an afternoon talking to her, drinking Vodka Martini and letting her tell me all her troubles. I doubt I’d leave sober, but I’d be very happy.

Julie London was a stunning looking woman with a voice that could melt your  heart. If it really was the end of a love affair for her I doubt she’d be on her own for long!

 

 

 

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 1

Listen to the Voice of Reason – Part 1

Through a series of blogs I will share with you the voices and lyrics that have had an impact on me and have shaped my musical history. I’ll be talking about sounds and resonance of singers plying their trade. I’ll introduce you to the men and women who have captivated me, moved me to tears, scared the life out of me and made me smile. Over the years, my taste in music has definitely changed, but it’s usually the voice that’s the hook that caught this fish. Don’t just take my word for it though. Click on the song title to find out for yourself.

ELVIS COSTELLO

Elvis Costello’s voice was the first voice that attracted me musically. There was something about the depth, tone and sarcastic pronunciation of the lyrics that made me pay attention. Whether he was singing about Watching the Detectives, Angels wanting to wear his red shoes or not wanting to go to Chelsea, I was hooked.

Elvis Costello – Watching the Detectives

This was one of the first records I bought more years ago than I care to remember. The opening base line a perfect scene setter before ‘that’ voice sang ‘those’ lyrics.

 “Nice Girls not one with a defect, cellophane, shrink-wrapped, so correct.”

What an opening line – the mood of the song captured in an instant. I heard the song before I’d seen the man performing it and I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a skinny dude in a black suit with huge glasses!  It was 1977 and I was thirteen years old, I didn’t fit in anywhere and I wanted to be Elvis, he was geeky, unattractive and a bit angry, just like me…….except I couldn’t sing.

“You think your alone until you realise you are in it now, fear is here to stay love is here for a visit.”

Sung with a threat and a promise, it conjures up an image of desperation and loneliness. Would you ever get away from this situation? Who would come to save you? Elvis’ voice gave you no hint of hope of a happy ending, just a sense of impending doom.  It sounded perfect to me then and it still sounds as good today.