Monthly Archives: April 2019

Live review: Mott The Hoople ’74 at Shepherds Bush Empire 27/4/19

Back in the early 80s, I was on a voyage of discovery voraciously buying up the back catalogues of some of the great bands of the late 60s and 70s. Many of the big beasts – the likes of Deep Purple and Humble Pie and, yes, Mott The Hoople had called it a day by then. Even though such bands were at their commercial height less than a decade previously they seemed to inhabit a completely different world to the early 80s music world of my teenage years. I loved the records. I absolutely adored both the ‘Mott’ and ‘The Hoople’ albums, in particular, but I never really entertained the idea of seeing Mott The Hoople live on stage. A brilliant slice of rock n roll history? Indeed. But they were the past and I could, at least, enjoy Ian Hunter’s impressive solo career.

That all changed in 2009, of course, when the short run of reunion concerts by the original line-up were announced. Jubilant, emotional and electric the one small niggle about the reunion, and of a further run in 2013, is that while they rightly celebrated the band’s original line-up, they didn’t do justice to the input of the later members – namely Ariel Bender on guitar and Morgan Fisher on keyboards.

Again, I accepted this as a small niggle in an otherwise perfect reunion. I never really entertained the idea that I’d get the chance to see it put right. On the way to Shepherd’s Bush Empire I was feeling quite emotional about having the opportunity to see it become reality after all, and remembering back to the time when I first happened upon this veteran band in a second-hand shop in Preston as a teenager. This was always going to be more than just a gig. I want it to be special. They more than deliver on that.

Songs from ‘The Hoople’ – Mott The Hoople’s brilliant final studio album (and the only one to feature Fisher and Bender) feature prominently: the camp splendour of ‘The Golden Age of Rock n Roll’, the glammed-up deliciousness of ‘Roll Away The Stone’, the glorious insanity of ‘Marionette’ and many more.

At earlier dates on the tour there had been some online disquiet from fans about the quality of Bender’s playing. True, he was never going to be Jimmy Page (or Mick Ralphs for that matter) but his over the top antics and tongue-in-cheek craving for adulation were an essential component of late-period Mott’s 70s stage act – and so it proves tonight. Moreover, Bender’s blunt in-yer-face guitar work really suits the proto-punk of those early Mott songs like ‘Walking With a Mountain’ and ‘Rock n Roll Queen’ that Bender made his own when he became part of the band.

Fisher, always a magnificently talented pianist, when he’s not tottering around the stage with copious glasses of white wine, gives us many wonderful musical flourishes on the keys. With the untimely deaths of Dale Griffin and Overend Watts the ranks of Hooples are sadly depleted but Ian Hunter’s long-time side-kicks in the Rant Band, gifted musicians all, do a seamless job co-opted into the on-stage madness that is Mott The Hoople.

Hunter’s unmistakable voice, as ever, is in fine form. At 80 he shows no signs of slowing down, of losing his grip as a performer or his creativity as a songwriter. However, if this tour is to be the final chapter in the ballad of Mott the Hoople it serves as a fitting end to the career of a wonderful, unique and utterly, utterly irreplaceable band. Mott the Hoople – thanks for a great trip….

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Set-list:

American Pie / The Golden Age of Rock ‘N’ Roll
‪Lounge Lizard ‬
Alice
Honaloochie Boogie
Rest in Peace
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Pearl ‘n’ Roy (England)
Sucker
Sweet Jane
Rose
Walking With a Mountain
Roll Away the Stone
Marionette
Jerkin’ Crocus / One of the Boys
Medley: Rock ‘n Roll Queen / Crash Street Kidds / Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On / Mean Woman Blues / Johnny B. Goode / Violence / Cleveland Rocks / You Really Got Me
All the Way From Memphis
Saturday Gigs
All the Young Dudes

 

https://mottthehoople.com/classof74/

Related reviews:

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2016

Ian Hunter at Shepherds Bush Empire 2014

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mott The Hoople Fan Convention 2016

 

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Folk: album review – Band of Burns ‘Live From The Union Chapel’

This review was originally published by Bright Young Folk here

Originating out of the Burns Night gigs that ran at East London’s Wilton’s Music Hall for several years, Band of Burns came about when key members of the team (musicians Alastair Caplin and Dilar Vardar, and promoter Sophie Bostock) decided to put a more permanent touring outfit together. Featuring twelve musicians, this double live album was recorded at one of the band’s celebrated gigs at North London’s iconic Union Chapel and was released thanks to a successful crowdfunding appeal.

As the band’s origins and name suggests the influence of Scotland’s most celebrated poet casts a major presence over the entire project. It would be a mistake, however, to assume the album was focused solely on the work of Robert Burns.

Indeed, it would be a mistake to assume it was focused solely on the Scottish folk tradition either. Those involved in the Band of Burns come from a variety of different backgrounds and musical traditions, hailing from England, Wales and Ireland as well as Scotland and from as far afield as Turkey.

The result is a delightful collection of songs and tune sets from a fantastic array of musicians. From songs based on Burns’ own writing like My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose, Now Westlin Winds and Parcel o’ Rogues, through to other traditional numbers like Banks of Red Roses as well as songs like Richard Farina’s The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood, there will be much that many folk enthusiasts will be familiar with here. However, the range of voices, both male and female, together with the exceptional standards of musicianship has resulted in Band of Burns producing something very special here.

Moreover, it is definitely a collaboration that lends itself well to the live album format. Although overflowing with talent, it would be difficult to imagine the album having quite the same impact had the recording been studio-bound. The awed crowd reactions to the ballads and the rapturous responses to some of the tune sets wonderfully capture what must have been an incredible atmosphere in Union Chapel on the evening of 29th January 2017.

Although nicely packaged a little bit more information on the background to the song choices and the playing on each track would not have gone amiss. However, with information about both the sizeable number of musicians and the concert itself to cram in there is probably a limit to how much additional information can be squeezed in.

Two discs, twelve musicians and one magical night, Live From The Union Chapel is a wonderful celebration of the life and work of Robert Burns.

Released: Ord Ban Music  19th January 2018

https://www.bandofburns.com/

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Rock/singer songwriter: album review – Craig Finn ‘I Need A New War’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Brooklyn-based band The Hold Steady had already made quite a name for themselves with their lyrical storytelling and classic rock influences when their front-man, Craig Finn, began a parallel solo career back in 2012. The classic riffs and catchy melodies of The Hold Steady had given way to a more mellow musical approach in a Johnny-Cash-meets-indie-rock sort of way but, clearly, Finn had happened upon something that many were looking for. Finn’s last solo album We All Want The Same Things, released in 2017, received no shortage of plaudits and he will be hoping to make a similar impact with I Need A New War. Again, Finn’s rich narratives, world-weary characters and laid-back, seen-it-all-before delivery take centre-stage on this new album.

“I saw this record as the third part of a trilogy,” says Finn. “Thematically, this was the third group of songs that I had written about smaller moments – people trying to stay afloat in modern times, attempting to find connection, achieving tiny triumphs and frustrating let downs in their day to day lives. Also, this was the third record in a row that I’d made with these musicians, along with engineer D. James Goodwin, following Faith in the Future (2015) and We All Want The Same Things (2017).”

Finn has moved effortlessly from twenty-first century rocker to timeless singer-songwriter and the musicians he has brought together evidently have a natural feel for what the artist is working to achieve. Horns, piano and sensitive guitar work fill out the sound and give the release the vibe of an album you instinctively know is trying to tell you something. I Need A New War will certainly help cement Craig Finn’s reputation of a modern-day singer-songwriter of some note.

Released: 26/4/19 Partisan Records

https://craigfinn.net/

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News: Cleveland Rocks – iconic independent record label relaunches

Cleveland International Records, the US independent record label that brought us the likes of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Ronnie Spector’s collaboration with the E Street Band in the late 70’s and early 80’s, is back in business,  relaunched earlier this year by the son of its late founder, Steve Popovich Sr.

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“My dad’s story is pretty fascinating, here’s this guy who grew up in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania to becoming one of the most beloved and respected people in the history of the record business,” says Popovich Jr. He began working at the label out of high school during its second incarnation (1995-2003). “The idea to relaunch had been simmering for a while,” he adds, “when my father’s estate was finally settled after seven in a half years after his passing, it seemed like the perfect segue to me transitioning away from my company, Wrecking Ball Entertainment to relaunching Cleveland International.”

In the 90’s Popovich Sr. famously took on the might of Sony – and won. Popovich sued Sony for non-payment of royalties from Bat Out of Hell royalties. The case was settled out of court for nearly $7 million. As part of the settlement, Sony was required to place the Cleveland International logo on reissues of Bat Out of Hell. When Sony failed to comply, Popovich took to the courts once again and a jury awarded him an additional $5 million in damages in 2005. In 2012, Sony reached a final out-of-court settlement with Popovich’s estate over more unpaid royalties revealed in an audit performed prior to Popovich’s death in 2011.

The label is marking its relaunch with a CD and LP re-release of its mid-90’s all-star compilation called, Cleveland Rocks. In addition to Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” the 13 track collection includes classics by Ian Hunter (“Cleveland Rocks”), Ronnie Spector & the E Street Band (“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (“I Don’t Wanna Go Home”), Just Us Girls (“Time Warp”), Iron City Houserockers (“Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive”), Euclid Beach Band (“There’s No Surf in Cleveland”), The Boyzz (“Too Wild To Tame”), Essence (“Sweet Fools”), Mike Berry (“I Am A Rocker”), The Rovers (“Wasn’t That A Party”) and Bat out of Hell collaborators Jim Steinman (“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through”) and Ellen Foley (“We Belong To the Night”).

The album ends with Ian Hunter’s iconic paean to Cleveland. Although originally released by Chrysalis on the You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic album it became something of an anthem for both the city and the label. Hunter writes on his website The Horses Mouth, “The inspiration for Cleveland Rocks goes back to the old days when people used to make fun of Cleveland. Cleveland was ‘uncool’ and LA and NYC were ‘cool’. I didn’t see it that way. Lotta heart in Cleveland.”

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Cleveland Rocks released by Cleveland International Records April 5th 2019

https://www.clevelandinternational.com/

An afternoon spent with Dame Evelyn Glennie – Eastbourne College Theatre 14/4/19

Last Sunday I was privileged to host an afternoon of music and chat with Dame Evelyn Glennie in Eastbourne’s College Theatre. Beginning to lose her hearing at eight and deaf since the age of twelve this did not stand in the way of Glennie becoming one of the world’s most renowned percussionists. It was clear from our talking just how much her school environment played a pivotal part in this. This was not some generously-resourced specialist academy but a community school in Scotland. One where teachers happened to have a burning passion for nurturing creativity and one where something like a hearing impairment was not going to be a barrier to participating in the school orchestra. Glennie’s passion was nurtured and supported – indeed we had one of those people who played such a role in the audience for the event. Of course, being a full-time solo percussionist was not even a career that had previously existed but Glennie set about successfully inventing such a role for herself and remains an inspiration to many.

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She memorably played at the 2012 Games and during the course of our chat she talked us through some of the creative process that led up to that performance, not to mention the excessive degree of secrecy that was required from those chosen to take part in Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. She also revealed that there had previously been an approach to play at the Athens Olympics in 2004. However, a change in artistic direction led to the commission being dropped. She had just told the audience that no creative collaboration is a failure even if it doesn’t quite work out – it’s always a learning experience. What, I asked her, was the learning experience in this case? Was she able to re-apply some of her original ideas for the London Games a few years later? No, she told us. The learning was far more about dealing with bureaucracy and as a result of that, she asserted, she was better equipped for that when the London Games came along several years later.

Audience questions there were many. What did she think about percussion as a form of healing? Had she ever considered collaborating with a visual artist? Where does she keep her instruments? What advice did she have for young performers?

And, of course, we had some wonderful, rich and deeply fascinating demonstrations. An array of instruments filled the stage. We were given a wonderful performance on Glennie’s prized marimba, for example. However, one of the most unexpected demonstrations came courtesy of several children’s wind-up musical boxes gaffer taped together. Setting them off one by one the first couple sounded entirely as you would expect. Once four or five were all going off together the effect was something quite different – and spectacularly sinister. She also talked us through some of the commissions she’s been given for film and TV soundtracks and gave us a demonstration of the waterphone and the evocative sounds that can create. (Check out Evelyn Glennie’s blog here for more of an idea!)

We ended the afternoon with a real treat as Glennie performed a piece of music called ‘Halo’ on an instrument called the hang. This is a relatively new instrument – think two woks welded together to make a kind of flying saucer shape with a few dents in it.

The effect was quite mesmerising and gave us a spectacular finish to a fascinating and thought-provoking afternoon. Certainly, we all came away thinking more about how we listen and how our bodies react to sound.

 

https://www.evelyn.co.uk/

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Live review: Steeleye Span at St Mary the Virgin Church, Ashford 13/4/19

It’s 2019 and yet another band are celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. That post beat-boom period of the late 60s to early 1970s was a period of exceptional creativity in popular music, perhaps unparalleled. From hard rock, glam rock, prog rock and, indeed, folk rock so many bands and styles made their mark and we are lucky to have a good number of them still touring today.

Steeleye Span are not resting on their laurels, however. This tour is about far more than a career retrospective from the band’s weighty back catalogue. The band have a new album out and songs from that are given as much prominence in the set as some of the old favourites. The album is not officially released until June but it’s available for sale on the tour so you can get a sneak preview via both the stage and the merch desk. In contrast to the epic prog-folk of the band’s Wintersmith album of a few years ago Est’d 1969 is very much in the spirit of the band’s ‘classic era’ early 70s albums, both in terms of song choices and overall sound. A version of Dave Goulder’s ‘The January Man’, an adaptation of John Masefield’s poem ‘Roadways’ and various traditional ballads from the album are among the songs performed tonight. Of course, there is room, too, for a good number of Steeleye Span favourites like ‘One Misty Moisty Morning, Alison Gross and Black Jack Davey. A new song, the beautiful ‘Reclaimed’ written by Prior’s daughter and sung a capella forms part of the encore, along with the ever-present ‘All Around My Hat’.

With a line-up that’s always been evolving only Maddy Prior remains from the band’s earliest days. Unlike those other veterans of the folk rock scene, Fairport Convention (whose fluctuating line-up has stabilised in recent decades), Steeleye Span continues to evolve. Jessie May Smart, who replaced long-standing fiddle player Peter Knight a few years ago, is currently on maternity leave so her place on this tour is ably filled by classical violinist Violeta Barrena. Lining up alongside Maddy Prior, the rest of the band’s current members are Julian Littman, Andrew Sinclair, Roger Carey, Liam Genockey and Benji Kirkpatrick. Talented players all, they bring a fantastic assortment of instruments, sounds and techniques with them, not to mention a rich array of voices.

Although rightly celebrated as icons of folk rock this band have always continued to vary their style, their set-list and, very often, their line-up from tour to tour which means there’s always an element of the unexpected and nearly always something very special to look forward to. Long may that continue.

Set-list

Harvest
One Misty Moisty Morning
The Elf Knight
The January Man
Alison Gross
Old Matron
Thomas The Rhymer
Tam Lin
Roadways
Black Jack Davy
Little Sir Hugh
The Weaver And The Factory Maid
King Henry
Seventeen Come Sunday
Domestic
Reclaimed
All Around My Hat

http://steeleyespan.org.uk/

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Related reviews:

Steeleye Span live 2017

Interview with Julian Littman

Steeleye Span live 2015

Steeleye Span live 2014

 

 

Live review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 4/4/19

The house lights dim on a packed auditorium and a bell tolls. This isn’t the doom-laden intro to an epic number like Sabbath’s ‘Black Sabbath’ or AC/DC’s ‘Hells Bells’ though but rather the familiar clink-clank-clank of time being called at your local. For this is UFO and this is the Last Orders Fiftieth Anniversary Tour, marking both the band’s five decades together and their final set of gigs together. Fiftieth anniversary tours and farewell tours are both, of course, something we are seeing rather a lot of in the world of classic rock these days.

The band’s legendary guitarists, Michael Schenker and his replacement Paul Chapman, are long gone and bass player, Pete Way, bailed out a decade ago. However, the band still boasts vocalist Phil Mogg, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard player/rhythm guitarist Paul Raymond. Three out of five is definitely not bad for a rock band of this vintage these days.

Although never in the mega-league of stadium rock bands UFO have been a phenomenal presence in the UK rock scene and beyond. While they are rightly acknowledged for Schenker’s virtuoso guitar work back in the day, it must also be remembered, that UFO gave us a slew of absolutely classic songs. Indeed they’ve probably left us with significantly more truly memorable songs than some of the bands in the stadium-filling mega-league. It’s very much about celebrating those songs tonight and the classics come thick and fast: ‘Lights Out’, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’. ‘Love To Love’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ and many more. The impressive ‘Burn Your House Down’ from the band’s Seven Deadly album and ‘Run Boy Run’ from 2015’s A Conspiracy Of Stars get a look in representing the more recent material but it’s mainly a night for the familiar classics. The band are in fine form, guitarist Vinnie doing a great job replicating some of Schenker’s most famous solos.

Mogg’s trademark geezer-down-the-boozer stage patter belies the fact that this is a historic moment – as the band’s history as a live act draws to a close. There’s another gig in London tomorrow night but Mogg’s on-stage banter is firmly focused on such weighty matters as Albert Steptoe’s junkyard and some waitress in Glasgow not knowing who Jimmy Page is rather than any overblown pomposity or thank you speeches. The venue is absolutely rammed as we say our goodbyes, however. (Too rammed if truth be told – Shepherds Bush Empire frequently seem to be over-selling their gigs beyond human comfort levels these days,) Yelling along to ‘Doctor Doctor; and ‘Shoot Shoot’ as the guys come back on stage for an encore seems a fitting way to say farewell to a band whose music I’ve been enjoying for almost forty of their fifty years. Cheers UFO!

Set-list:
Mother Mary
We Belong to the Night
Run Boy Run
Venus
Lights Out
Baby Blue
Only You Can Rock Me
Burn Your House Down
Cherry
Love to Love
Makin’ Moves
Too Hot to Handle
Rock Bottom
Doctor Doctor
Shoot Shoot

http://www.ufo.band/latestNews.html

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Related review:

Michael Schenker Fest at Shepherds Bush Empire