Monthly Archives: August 2020

Folk/singer-songwriter: album review – Saskia ‘Are You Listening’

Crystal clear vocals and songs that veer between folk and country with just a sprinkling of smooth slightly jazz-influenced pop Are You Listening is the latest release from London-based singer-songwriter, Saskia Griffiths-Moore.

The first of two-album deal with Suzanne Marcus Collins Foundation, it includes re-workings from her back catalogue as well as two brand new songs and a Leonard Cohen cover.

Whether or not you are familiar with her back catalogue Saskia turns in some fine renditions of her older material here, backed by David Ian Roberts (guitar), Thomas Holder (double bass), Ali Petrie (piano) and Gabriella Swallow (cello) giving the whole album a gorgeously mellow acoustic feel. Of the brand new songs both the optimistic and upbeat ‘Best of You’ and the sad and wistful ‘Come Comfort Me’ compliment the older material nicely.

I do like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and here Saskia sings it well. However, I’m not sure it’s entirely essential on this album given there are so many Cohen songs that haven’t been covered quite so many times. Never mind, she does sing it superbly.

A beautifully-recorded album and a fine showcase for Saskia’s burgeoning talents as a singer-songwriter – yes: we’re listing. An impressive album.

Released: 31st July 2020

Saskia

https://www.saskiagm.com/

Uriah Heep’s 50th anniversary – interview with Mick Box

Uriah Heep celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. An anniversary tour, like pretty much everything else this year, has now been rescheduled for 2021 but Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Tony Charles recently caught up with Heep’s Mick Box to reflect on the band’s past half century.

In a fascinating hour-long programme that GMRR have shared with me for this blog, Mick and Tony takes us through the band’s entire history starting with the very early days and the band’s formation. The classic David Byron-fronted years of the early to mid 70s are discussed in some detail, of course, but Box’s reflections on the years that came after that are definitely worth hearing.

Talking about the late 70’s and the band’s temporary implosion following the release of the Conquest album in 1980, Box reflects: “I’ll tell you what it was. I think the writing got a bit too poppy. We started off as a rock band and then you got songs like ‘Free Me’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ and although they were good songs we didn’t really associate them with Uriah Heep if you like and I think a lot of fans fell by the wayside because we lost that rocking edge.”

Uriah Heep bounced back in 1982 with a new line-up and the Abominog album. Box looks back on that now as: “Very much an album of the 80s in its production, in its writing and everything and we had great success with it.”

In more recent years the band has returned to a more classic sound with the last album Living The Dream receiving heaps of praise. Box: “With Living The Dream we had a great producer Jay Rushton and what he did was he kept the heritage of the band and all the trademarks that the band is known for – with the five-part harmony and the wah-wah guitar, the solos, the Hammond organ – and he kept all of those elements but he had a wonderful way of blending them to make them sound very modern.”

Thanks to Tony Charles and Greater Manchester Rock Radio – you can listen to the full hour-long interview on soundcloud here:

Related posts:

Uriah Heep, London 2014

Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Uriah Heep, Bexhill 2019

Are you an aspiring Radio DJ? Introducing Greater Manchester Rock Radio

Are you an aspiring Radio DJ? Introducing Greater Manchester Rock Radio

I’m pleased to say Darren’s Music Blog is going to be linking up with Greater Manchester Rock Radio. They will be running some of my rock album reviews on their website and I’ll be running occasional band interviews from them here. You can listen in and find out more about the station here. With a wide range of specialist shows – from prog to punk, classic rock, metal and indie check their schedule and give them a listen.

Station Manager, Tony Charles, is also on the look-out for new presenters:

Are you an aspiring Radio DJ? Do you fancy broadcasting on a real web-based Rock Community Radio Station?

If so, then Greater Manchester Rock Radio (GMRR) would like to hear from you.

Founded in November 2018, GMRR is the only web-based community radio station based on rock music in the North West, and potentially in the whole of the UK.

They are on the hunt for volunteers who want to present their own weekly one to two-hour shows or help with interviews /research . For presenting all you need is a love of rock music, a great idea for a show, a PC mic and editing software.

Full training will be provided, and you can pre-record your show from home. Plus, there is the added perk of free entry to a few rock gigs and the chance to interview some amazing bands. (when they are back)

Station manager Tony Charles has been a DJ since the 1980s on local internet radio stations, as well as having experience on stations such as BBC Radio 1, 4 and 5 as a researcher.

He said: “We are getting more and more people tuning into GMRR and as a result we are looking for more presenters to help expand our offerings.

“Our youngest presenter is 20 and our oldest is 72. We’re happy to hear from anyone who’s interested.

“We are also looking for a community and/or a charity to take on a 1-hour slot each week to promote community issues.”

Applicants of any age or background are welcome.

For more information, or to apply, email GMRR station manager Tony at
studio@greatermanchesterrockradio.co.uk

Pier proves a welcome saviour for live music in Hastings

By Darren Johnson

This was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

For a town that rightly prides itself on the quality of its frenetic live music scene, the closure of pubs and entertainment venues across the country back in March hit Hastings especially hard. And while the summer has witnessed a tentative return to some sort of normality for many pubs, social distancing requirements mean it is likely to be some time yet before the sound of live bands can be heard wafting out of any of them. In recent weeks, however, live music has returned with a bang in the shape of the ‘Live and Unlocked’ sessions on Hastings Pier.

Starting in late July and continuing throughout August and September, the pier is hosting live music every Friday evening from 5pm, every Sunday lunchtime from 1pm through to 3.30pm, and occasional gigs on Saturday. John Bownas, one of the key figures behind ‘Live and Unlocked’, explains how the project started.

“As with so many things, luck played a big part in how I got involved with this project,” says John.

“I was lucky to have got the job a few years ago as manager of Love Hastings Ltd – effectively making me the town centre manager. I was then lucky to have been able to recruit Peter Rolfe as the business ambassador for the town.

“Peter has a long history of involvement with the local DJ scene, and when he found out that the Music First team were taking over the management of the pier he had the foresight to set me up with a meeting with James and Tuf – who are the brains behind the operation.

“These guys have a real passion for Hastings and their history of promoting events on the pier before the fire makes them the perfect team to breathe life into the space. It’s been amazing to watch it transform over the last few weeks from an empty stage into a thriving tourist attraction and community facility for the town.

“In chatting to them I mentioned how I had run various festival stages in the past (including the Left Field at Glastonbury) and how I currently ran the Hastings Flyer website as a local music listings resource. In turn they told me that getting a live music programme going was a big priority for them – and things just sort of developed from there.”

John explains that, initially, the team were just thinking about Friday nights but the project soon became more ambitious. “I have a habit of trying to squeeze as much out of any opportunity like this that I can,” he says. “So Friday nights quickly became late afternoons as well, as we agreed to kick off the live shows from 5pm to cater for the crowds who like to find somewhere straight after work.

“It wasn’t long before I realised that even with eight weeks worth of Friday nights there wasn’t enough time to put on all of the local acts who deserved a space – so we decided to add Sunday lunchtimes to the programme… and a few Saturdays got thrown into the mix as well.”

The live gigs have undoubtedly proved a huge success. “Everything kicked off with a Sam Calver show,” says John. “Straight away we knew we were onto a winner. Since then we’ve had two Friday nights and one Sunday gig, and the bands and crowds have absolutely loved it. I’m getting dozens of requests to perform every week and tables fill up in no time.”

In past decades, of course, Hastings Pier was a legendary venue hosting many legendary bands. Following its multi-million pound refurbishment after the 2010 fire destroyed most of the original buildings, its sleek new minimalist look was not without its detractors. However, in these current times, when social distancing is key to the viability of any live entertainment venture, the pier has proved the ideal venue.

“What has dawned on us is that the pier is a unique space right now,” explains John. “We haven’t yet found anywhere else that is able to stage regular live music to so many people. It’s quite possible we’re actually the largest live music venue in the country at the moment … or possibly in the whole of Europe. That’s a really humbling thought!

“And the important thing is that it is a safe space. Tables are well-spaced, and as long as people are sensible there are no more risks than those associated with a trip to the supermarket. What’s for certain is that this proves beyond a doubt that the pier’s future as a live music space is assured.”

For more information on forthcoming Live and Unlocked sessions on the pier visit https://hastingsflyer.com/pier/

Folk/singer-songwriter: EP review – Alison Benson ‘Paths & Stories’

Paths & Stories is the debut EP from Liverpool-based folk singer-songwriter Alison Benson. The five-track release comprises five of Benson’s own songs, each looking at the life of an individual, both real and imagined. From a tragic Victorian fortune-teller to a First World War conscientious objector to the heroine of a pioneering piece of 1950s lesbian fiction, Benson draws from a wide range of historical and artistic sources for her inspiration, be it paintings , novels or local landmarks. And she produces some quite unique and utterly captivating folk storytelling in the process.

“Folk music doesn’t exist without stories,” says Benson. “Whether real, mythical or fictional.”

“Focusing on one person’s experience, for me, is a way to get even deeper into a story – to empathise and think about motivations. Singing songs in the first person, as someone else , also gives the narrative a different quality.”

Showcasing her distinctive and appealing vocals, Paths & Stories is pretty much Benson, her songs and her ukulele. I’ll be honest and say that this is not normally my favourite instrument but Benson’s technique is such that any preconceptions about overly-upbeat enforced jollity and cloyingly twee melodies are instantly cast aside as soon as you hear her playing. Gently evocative, the ukulele in Benson’s hands makes for the perfect accompaniment to her thoughtful and poignant storytelling.

And what storytelling there is. Well-produced and highly listenable this is a lovely EP from a singer-songwriter who is clearly emerging as a serious and noteworthy talent.

Released 28th March 2020

https://alisonbensonmusic.weebly.com/