Another school night, another gig at the fabulous Crescent in York. Tonight was another excellent show from Northern Radar this time headlined by Isaac Gracie. But before I give you my opinion of Mr Gracie how about a big hand for the most amazing support act Matt Maltese. He has an album coming out in June and after seeing him play live that is a very, very exciting prospect. He is like a lounge version of Rufus Wainwright who wears his politics on his sleeve in 72 point bold font. “As The World Caves In” is an incredible song and a very worthy single, a copy of which I bought on the night. Matt’s between song bonhomie and sardonic wit is wonderfully original. I think perhaps that “Guilty” was my favourite highlight, but there were many, so that might change if you ask me again. I would unreservedly pay to see Mr Maltese again.
It would be somewhat of a cliché to say that I have seen the future of rock ‘n’ roll, let’s face it Jon Landau said that about Bruce Springsteen in 1974. However I have seen a very bright future for British music in the shape of Isaac Gracie. Twenty One year old Gracie is a former chorister with the Ealing Abbey Choir. He first came to the attention of the music industry after “Last Words” a song recorded on GarageBand in his bedroom was unleashed into the world in 2015. His songs are far more mature than his years and on top of that he comes across as wonderfully affable and self-deprecating on stage. For me he has all the finest qualities of a young Jeff Buckley. I had the privilege of seeing Buckley at the Reading Festival many, many years ago and Gracie has the same qualities in his songs, performance, raw talent, passion and demeanour. Check out his cover of Radiohead’s “No Surprises” and the Arctic Monkeys “Fluorescent Adolescent” on YouTube and see the ghost of Buckley made real. My wonderful wife Catherine a.k.a. Catwoman doesn’t come to many gigs with me, but she was blown away by this one.
His first album is a truly accomplished début “Terrified”, “Last Words”, “Reverie”, “Running On Empty” and “Silhouettes Of You” all feel like classic songs that have been with you your whole life and Isaac played all of them tonight. There was not a single dud song in his set, my particular highlights were “All In My Mind” and the haunting song of sadness that is “Darkness Of The Day”. “Was our love a work of art, before the painting fell apart”, is that not one of the best lyrical couplets ever written? It is almost 46 years since I attended my first gig and there have been hundreds since then, but this is without doubt one of the finest shows that I have ever seen. If Isaac Gracie does not become a world straddling star then there is something horribly wrong with this planet.
This is it Christmas Eve, day 12 of my 12 days to Christmas series of posts. The final one that brings you famous people from history featured in a song, obviously they have all been real and today is no exception. I bring you the bearded weirdy, the fat bloke in the red coat, yes old saint Nick or as I prefer to call him, Father Christmas. He is real ok, don’t let anyone hear you say otherwise! Father Christmas first appeared in the 17th century and until the Victorian age he was seen as a symbol of adult merry-making and feasting. It was around then that he became the bearer of yuletide gifts, especially to children. Santa Claus is an American traditional name for the Christmas figure. Father Christmas’ coat was depicted as green, brown and even blue. It was a big advertising campaign by Coca Cola in 1931 that switched to the now far more common red robes. As it’s Christmas I won’t be focusing on any particular artist today, but I have selected a diverse set of Father Christmas and Santa Claus songs. Finally I would like to wish all of my readers a very happy Christmas, or happy holiday, or a happy life, whatever floats your boat. Just be happy! If you would like to track Father Christmas’ progress in your area click here.
Having really loved Hurray For The Riff Raff‘s album ‘The Navigator’ on first hearing it earlier this year I was hoping to get the chance to see them live. Well that chance came around at a fabulous little venue, the Crescent, in my adopted home city of York. Were Hurray For The Riff Raff good? Well you will just have to read on to find out, but first let me tell you about the rather splendid support act, Alex Golisti. He played a great acoustic set including some of his own songs, one of which was an old banjo tune that he played on the guitar and had written his own lyrics for. He has a voice that at times shows similarities with both Tom Waits and George Ezra. He plays a style that evokes bluegrass and roots music with a modern twist. On top of all that he has a great self-deprecating sense of humour.
I was accompanied by my beautiful wife Catherine a.k.a. Catwoman this evening as she enjoyed ‘The navigator’ too. We were both very excited to be here and from the opening salvo of “Life To Save” and “Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl” we were not disappointed. The energy shown by Alynda Lee Segarra and indeed the whole band never let up for the whole night. There were plenty of highlights notably for me the haunting rendition of “Fourteen Floors” with Alynda on keyboard. Then just when you think it couldn’t get better the band hit us with one of Segarra’s excellent protest songs, “Pa’ lante”. It has vision, power, heart, soul, deep emotion and an uplifting message. I understand that it is Spanish slang and that it means to “go ahead” or “go for it”. Alynda is very proud of her Puerto Rican roots and that shows on the current album and in her stage performance. The encore included a rousing cover of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” which had absolutely everyone on their feet. This is a band on top form and one who were really enjoying themselves. I will definitely be seeing them again! This was another great show from Please Please You, thank you Joe Coates.
Apparently the harmonica is the world’s best-selling music instrument. Who would have thought that such a small humble tool would be that successful? How many of you own a harmonica? Of those who do own one then how many of you can actually play it? While you’re thinking about that take a listen to ten of my favourite harmonica featuring tunes.
The other day I decided to take a quick count of all the artists in my album collection where I have at least 10 albums by a single artist. I included CDs, LPs and cassettes (although the only non compilation cassettes that I have are David Bowie bootlegs). Oh and while I’m on bootleg recordings obviously I have included them whether they are live, studio outtakes or simply unreleased stuff. I have not included digital recordings. I was surprised to find that there are 4o artists where I have at least ten releases by them. The list is below, (artist followed by the number of albums) there are no real surprises for me, are you surprised at any on this list? Have you ever done anything similar? I have also added a song from each of the top ten artists 🙂
David Bowie 141
Bob Dylan 30 Johnny Nash 26 Bruce Springsteen 26
Neil Young 25
Elton John 19
Bob Marley 19
Rod Stewart 18
Pink Floyd 17
REM 17 Elvis Costello 15
The Eels 15
Paul Weller 15
Ryan Adams 14 Led Zeppelin 14
The Clash 13 Elvis Presley 13
Kate Bush 12
Lou Reed 12
Stevie Wonder 12
Tom Waits 11
ZZ Top 11
Jeff Buckley 10
Julian Cope 10
Johnny Cash 10 Michael Jackson 10
John Lennon 10 Manic Street Preachers 10
Kylie Minogue 10 Iggy Pop 10
Rolling Stones 10
Frank Turner 10
The Who 10
In my teenage years I would never listen to country music of any kind. Largely because my Mum And Dad loved it so in my youthful mind it became uncool. However as I have got older I have grown to love much country music; Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash among many others. But my favourite country artist right now, although it’s fair to say that her songs transcend the genre, is Roseanne Cash. Actually forget the genre comment she is simply one of my favourite singers. I fell in love with her music after hearing the ‘Black Cadillac’ album in 2006. She is an incredibly talented songwriter and she also has an amazing voice.
The show at the Brudenell on Tuesday night was a purely acoustic set which she performed with her supremely talented husband John Leventhal. They both had a great rapport with the audience many of whom have seen Roseanne Cash play live countless times. She mainly sang songs from her wonderfully story filled current album ‘The River And The Thread’. That LP won three Grammys earlier this year. She also had a great story to tell about the origins of the songs from that album too. Notably how the beautiful and melancholy “When The Master Calls The Roll” came to be written. Her son had done a school project on the American Civil War. On the Civil War database they found photographs of two of the Cash family. There are not many pictures on that database and the Cash family had ancestors on both sides of the conflict.
She sang a really moving version of “The Sunken Lands” which is my favourite song from that album. Along with “A Feather’s Not A Bird” and “The Long Way Home”. She played a few older songs, including a couple from ‘Black Cadillac’. There were also a selection of tunes from her album of covers of songs that her father Johnny kept on a list of 100 songs that where in his opinion pretty much all the songs you’d ever need to know. In my opinion that album, ‘The List’, is perhaps one of the finest covers albums ever recorded. She played “Girl From The North Country“, “Heartaches By The Number” and “Sea Of Heartbreak”. John Leventhal took over the vocal support role provided by Bruce Springsteen on the album.
Roseanne and John are clearly very happy together and their understanding of each other is clear. They both come across as very real, very humble and very human. They were also clearly having fun on stage. I will definitely go and see another Roseanne Cash show in the future. Catwoman and I enjoyed this show immensely. I should also mention the marvellous support act Ags Connolly. He comes from near Oxford and his album was recorded in Scotland but it really does have a brilliantly authentic country sound.
Here comes the usual public service announcement. None of the pictures or clips in this post were taken or filmed by me.
Last night was the first time I had been to a gig at the Brudenell in Leeds and I have to say it really is a fantastic venue. The eclectic and diverse mix of acts appearing there means that I will certainly come back. Anyway on to the main event; the Selecter. I had seen them once before but that would have been around 1979/ 1980 when I was younger than excellent support band the Tuts are now!
I arrived at the venue just before the doors opened and met some really nice people in the queue. Roger you’re a top bloke! Soon after I came in Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson were manning the Selecter’s merch stand. Obviously I was always going to buy something, so I bought a Selecter polo shirt and a CD of the band’s new album; ‘Subculture’ which the pair of them signed for me. Pauline also signed my copy of her autobiography ‘Black By Design’ which I had finished reading a couple of weeks ago. It is an excellent book and every bit as good as recent autobiographies by John Lydon and Viv Albertine. In the book Pauline comes across as very open and honest and having met her, albeit briefly, she really is a wonderful woman. She and Gaps were very attentive with all the fans in the queue for Selecter product.
As for the gig it was the amazing Tuts who opened the show. They are the support band on the Selecter’s UK tour and Pauline Black has championed them every step of the way. I think that this is the fourth time I have had the pleasure of seeing this incredible young band and it is clear to me that they just keep on getting better and better each time I see them. The stage costumes for tonight were made from a material patterned with the leaf of a popular and some would say refreshing herb. They looked very effective too! Their set was energetic and powerful and they certainly know how to work a crowd. On”Tut, Tut, Tut” especially for International Women’s Day they invited Sarah Statham from local band Esper Scout to drum the intro while all three Tuts ran through the crowd making sure that we all sang along. New song “Do I Have To Look For Love” will become a classic and old favourites like “Worry Warrior” and “Dump Your Boyfriend” already are. The girls cover of the Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail” was sublime. Nadia berated the music industry about the apparent need to posses a penis to succeed in the music business. Now those of us with half a brain know that shouldn’t be true, but judging from the line-up for Reading and Leeds this year it certainly and sadly has some credence. So come on all you labels and management companies stop all the macho willy waving and sign this band! Metaphorically they have more balls than many of the men in the music industry! The queue and interest in the band at their merch table was incredible which shows that the fans are there! So come on record labels how about a deal. As for more gigs what about another support slot? Garbage must need a decent support band and the could not go wrong with the Tuts, are you listening Shirley Manson?
As for the headliners what can I say? The Selecter were awesome. They played most of their biggest songs; “On My Radio”, “Missing Words”, “Celebrate The Bullet” and my particular favourites; “Too Much Pressure” and “Three Minute Hero”. I thought “Danger” and “London’s Burning” went down a storm too and really got the crowd rocking! One of my newer favourites and it’s yet another crowd pleaser is “My England”. They played a few songs from the new album, which I have now played a couple of times now and it is bloody good. It gets an official release next month, but for now is available at the band’s merch stand on the rest of the tour. Some of the new material fits into the set so well that you’d think it had been around a while. “Box Fresh” could easily become a classic pop song. “It Never Worked Out” and “See Them A Come” are the Selecter at their best and on top form. Another song from the new album, “Breakdown” tackles the large number of black people who have died in custody in this country and is as you would expect very hard-hitting. This is clearly a band that stands up proudly for human rights and are openly anti racist and anti sexist, as frankly we all should be! The pre encore show ended with a magnificent version of “Last Train To Skaville” which had all the aging skinheads from the ska revival of the late 70s stomping and skanking hard enough to cave the floor in! Like me many of those folks now have a natural skinhead look given the lack of hair that age brings to some of us. The encore kicked off with a mighty version of “James Bond” and the Tuts joined the Selecter on stage at the end for a final goodbye to the Brudenell crowd. Nadia even managed to stage dive and briefly crowd surf. As for the energy of the band, Gaps must have sweated gallons! (Is there an exercise DVD that could be made from that performance?) Finally I should also mention two other covers that the Selecter performed; Doris Day’s “Secret Love” which worked really well when ska-ified and Springsteen’s “Because The Night” from the new album and for me worked even better when played live. Overall this was a cracking night and I would definitely not leave it as long before seeing the Selecter again and I am already looking forward to seeing the Tuts again.
You can still catch them both on the remaining dates of the UK tour and if you haven’t already done so then sort yourself a ticket out. You will not regret it!
OK and now for the usual public service note, this time the pictures were taken on my little phone but the videos were all obtained on You Tube.
During my formative years I was a big fan of the USA. This view was largely developed from reading Marvel comics, the Apollo missions and watching westerns and war films on the TV. As I got older and became interested in politics my views on America flexed somewhat. Whilst there is much to love about the place there is an awful lot to dislike. I love New England, San Francisco, Marvel Comics and Stephen King to name but a few. I dislike, again to name just a few, the Republican party, the Christian right, Dubya, Gun laws and the way Hollywood changes so much in movies (The ending of I Am Legend, Disney‘s version of Winnie the Pooh and the fact that no Americans were involved in the real Great Escape)
But I do have a number of friends and readers that are Americans so I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Independence Day from a Brit across the pond. To help you celebrate here are some of my favourite USA themed songs
Last year I published a post about Bruce Springsteen having written the song “Hungry Heart” for the Ramones. Click here to read that post. I read recently of some other songs that were supposedly written with other artists in mind.
First there are two from the Eurythmics. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox wrote “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)” for Stevie Wonder. Stevie never recorded it although he did supply the harmonica break on the song. The band originally had Tina Turner in mind to join them on “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” but she allegedly felt it was too feminist and the gig became Aretha Franklin’s. Seriously? Tina thought it was too feminist?
Finally, and this one surprises me assuming it’s true; Prince wrote “Purple Rain” hoping to get Stevie Nicks to record it. Maybe it’s not too late. If you’re reading this Stevie Nicks (highly unlikely I know) then let’s hear it! I would love to hear of any ‘written for others’ stories that you might have.