New book: ‘Suzi Quatro In The 1970s’ by Darren Johnson coming in July 2022

Following my biography on The Sweet last year, I’m absolutely thrilled to have been given the opportunity to write a second book for the Decades series published by Sonicbond.

Suzi Quatro In The 1970s will be published at the end of July and is available for pre-order on Amazon here. It will also be available from other retailers and via the publisher’s own online shop in due course.

The synopsis on Amazon hopefully gives you a flavour of what’s in store:

‘If you talk about the ‘70s, I was a hardworking artist. I did nothing but tour – recording, touring, TV, you know. I had constant jetlag. Constant black shadows under my eyes but, oh, what a ride! What a wonderful ride. And I’m still doing it now.’ Suzi Quatro

With a succession of hit singles, including eight UK top twenty hits and two number ones, sell-out tours and six studio albums, Suzi Quatro was an enduring presence throughout the 1970s, the decade that saw her move away from being part of an all-girl band in Detroit and relocate to England for a solo career that challenged old stereotypes and helped redefine the image of the female rock icon.

Taking each year in turn this book takes a detailed look at Suzi Quatro’s career throughout the decade where she enjoyed her greatest successes, including a comprehensive overview of each album and single released during that period, her touring schedule and her frequent media appearances, including that famous guest role in Happy Days. As well as making extensive use of press archives from the era, Suzi Quatro In The 1970s also includes personal reflections from an exclusive interview with Suzi herself.

Related post:

Book: The Sweet in the 1970s

21st Century Exposé: New EP from Tim Izzard celebrates fifty years of Glam Rock

A year on from the release of his well-received debut album last year, Sussex-based singer-songwriter/musician, Tim Izzard, has a brand-new EP out. 21st Century Exposé builds on the themes explored in Izzard’s debut album, Starlight Rendezvous, an album of original songs inspired by David Bowie in at the height of his Ziggy period. 21st Century Exposé is a full-on celebration of the glam era in all its glory and the sparkling, luminous trail it has left across music of many different genres over the past fifty years.

Tim Izzard: “Starlight Rendezvous had its origins very much rooted in Glam-era Bowie. The follow-up EP, 21st Century Exposé further celebrates the man and the old and current glam scene, mixing up old school new wave, power-pop, glam, neo-glam, futuristic ballads and a slice of cabaret to muse on twenty-first century living.”

The lead song on the new EP is the wonderful ‘Glam Rock Star’, a tribute to glam rock’s first half-century – a genre that is still influencing music today.

Izzard: “Whilst it is recognised that T. Rex’s 1971 No.1 Hot Love gave birth to UK glam rock it was in 1972 that it escaped into the playground with Bowie, Roxy, Alice Cooper, Mott, Slade and many others pushing the musical and make-up boundaries! I still remember vividly watching an alien Bowie perform Starman on TOTP and later on the futuristic , 50’s throw-back of Virginia Plain by Roxy Music. Fifty years on and there are still many bands and artists producing new glam and neo-glam music such as the UK’s The Voltz, Sweden’s SilverGlam and, in the US, Creem Circus and Gyasi. Like the influence of Bowie on my music you can hear Bolan’s vocal, Mick Ronson’s guitar or the wall of sound of Slade and much more in the ‘New’ Glam sound.”

Released 24th January 2022

21st Century Exposé can be found on Bandcamp at: https://timizzard.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimIzzardMusic/

Related post:

Tim Izzard and the new glammed-up Ziggy-esque album ‘Starlight Rendezvous’

Live review: the final ever Giants of Rock, Minehead 21-23 January 2022

This month saw a return to Minehead for what would turn out to be the last of the Giants of Rock weekends which have been running off-season at Butlins for the past eight years. I missed the first one, back in 2014, because I’d already committed to going to Skegness Butlins for the Rock and Blues weekend that year and, obviously, we all missed the one last year because it was cancelled due to Covid – but other than that it’s been an essential date in my gig calendar every year.

In truth, and no disrespect to any individual act playing, the festival line-up was starting to look a little threadbare. Past weekends had given us the likes of Uriah Heep, Michael Schenker and Ian Hunter but Butlins’ capacity for signing up genuine bona fide rock giants seemed to be on the wane somewhat. Admittedly, simple demographics have meant that performers from that classic era of classic rock (post-Beatles – pre-punk: 1969-1975) are becoming more and more of a rarity but Giants of Rock also seemed to be getting stuck in a bit of a rut with the same promoter relying on the same small roster of acts year in year out.

I was pondering whether this might be the last time I book but in the end the decision was made for me. From next year the slot previously filled by Giants of Rock will be given over to Bootleg Ball described in the publicity as “A tribute to the giants of rock – featuring the best tributes to the biggest rock bands on the planet past and present.” I’m not snobbish about tribute acts, I’ve seen some great tribute bands locally down here in Hastings but the idea that I’m going to make a 500-mile round trip to the West Country to see tribute acts is a non-starter, particularly when there are so many other festivals like Hard Rock Hell and Cornwall Rocks to choose from. I can see the attraction from Butlins’ perspective though. As well as aiming to hold on to some of the loyal Giants of Rock audience they’ll be able to substantially up attendance figures by appealing to the lucrative stag and hen market and those large groups that you get on so many other Butlins weekends on the look-out for some tongue-in-cheek fun.

Knowing it would be the last Giants of Rock did mean the weekend was tinged with a touch of sadness. One of the truly wonderful things about Giants of Rock is the strong sense of community that has built up amongst regular attendees. I therefore wanted this last hurrah to be a memorable one – thankfully it was.

Friday

I have some vague memories of seeing Ten Years After at Reading Festival as a 17yo in 1983. They were already well into ‘heritage act’ status even then but other than inheriting an Alvin Lee best-of CD from my dad, I mainly know them via Slade’s wonderful cover of ‘Hear Me Calling’ on the Slade Alive album. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect tonight. The late Alvin Lee had left the band a good ten years before his untimely death in 2013 and I recall reading of a further split in the ranks more recently. So I really had little idea what the Ten Years After of 2022 would have to offer and I’d done no research beforehand – but, my, they are absolutely mind-blowing. Still with original keyboard player, Chick Churchill, and original drummer, Ric Lee, vocalist/guitarist Marcus Bonfanti is a stunning blues rock performer who exudes energy and the interplay between him and keyboardist Chick Churchill is a thing of immense beauty and absolutely joyful to watch. This was definitely one of my “oh wow” highlights of the entire weekend and I will certainly be on the lookout to see them again – they were just incredible. Ironically, in the other room another band that I also remember from Reading in 1983 was on stage – Big Country. I never really got into them at the time and catching the end of their set while waiting for Praying Mantis, I can report that they still don’t really do much for me now either. They certainly had a packed-out room and an enthusiastic crowd though. Praying Mantis, on the other hand, lived up to all expectations and, once again, delivered a superb set of polished melodic metal.

Saturday

At festivals I tend to have a policy of trying not to cram in so many bands that I’m completely knackered before the end of the evening and end up missing acts I really want to see later on. As such, it was a leisurely start on the Saturday but I made it in time for Sad Café who were the last of the three acts on the main stage in the afternoon. Bizarrely, Sad Café were another band I remember seeing at Reading in 1983 so it seemed appropriate to give them a go for old time’s sake. I lasted about three songs but they weren’t doing anything at all for me I’m afraid so a catch-up with old friends outside the venue became the preferred alternative before heading off to the Introducing Stage. This year, the stage had moved from the cramped but intimate surroundings of Jaks bar to the big Skyline Pavilion. The acoustics are not good, it’s draughty as hell and while it’s still daylight it has all the atmosphere of a shopping centre on a rainy afternoon. Nevertheless, bluesy mother and daughter -fronted combo Lee Ainley’s Blues Storm impressed me enough for me to buy their recent CD – Evolution. Sussex-based (so fairly local to me) I look forward to seeing more of them. By 5pm it was now dark, there was a sizeable crowd and a more gig-like atmosphere for the next act: Matt Long and the Revenant Ones. Hard riffs, powerful songs and catchy choruses this classic power trio of Matt Long (guitars and vocals), Adam Pyke (bass) and Kev Hickman (drums) immediately had the crowd going and soon had me heading straight to the merch desk. I wanted to buy The Other Side their debut album – but they’d forgot to bring any! Never mind, I’ve just ordered one online as I write…

Saturday evening became a bit of a Giants of Rock nostalgia-fest with three acts that have very much become must-sees whenever they’ve been on. First, there is ex-Argent guitarist John Verity with his trademark blend of stunning blues rock solo compositions and classic hard rock covers.

John Verity

Next, we have the reformed Atomic Rooster which includes vocalist Pete French and guitarist Steve Boltz from the band’s early 70s era. Filling Vincent Crane’s shoes is a hard ask but Adrian Gautrey does an incredible job on Hammond organ bringing those signature heavy keyboard licks to a live set. I’d absolutely love to see them release a live CD from the modern-day Atomic Rooster. If you’re reading this please take this as a formal request. The final of my trio of past GOR favourites tonight is Geordie. Reformed in 2018, original members Tom Hill (bass) and Brian Gibson (drums) have given Brian Johnson’s pre-AC/DC band a fresh reboot and are joined by Steve Dawson (guitar) and Mark Wright (vocals). Originally notching up a handful of hit singles as an early 70s glam rock act before evolving into more traditional hard rock album territory in the years that followed, the band pull off both personas superbly and provide a perfect end to the evening.

Sunday

Young twenty-something Swiss guitarist, Félix Rabin, was one of the winners of the Introducing Stage in 2020 and he is back this year with the first slot of the day on the main stage. I missed him last time around but his incredible stage presence and virtuoso guitar skills make him a obvious winner with the crowd. As soon as he’s finished there is a huge queue forming at the merch desk. Unlike Matt Long, Félix Rabin did remember to bring along a big box of albums but they still managed to sell out before I could get to the head of the queue to buy one – definitely a name to watch. I stayed around for prog rock outfit the John Hackett Band but my energy levels dropped and after a couple of songs and some very obvious sound problems I sloped off for a long snooze. I was back in time for the awesome Gorilla Riot on the Introducing Stage. Frontman vocalist/guitarist Arjun Bhishma is gloriously cocky, cheekily irreverent and hugely talented. The band are an instant hit and their brand of raunchy, sleazy, bluesy rock and roll is delivered to perfection.

Gorilla Riot

Sunday evening’s entertainment is centred around another Giants Of Rock favourite Wille and The Bandits followed by Nazareth and Vambo. It meant missing the excellent King King but I’d already seen them just before Christmas and some good-time party rock and roll that the rejuvenated Nazareth provide in spades seemed just the ticket for the last night of the last ever Giants of Rock.

So that is that. Thank you Butlins Minehead. You’ve given me some incredible memories over the last seven years – from spending time back-stage with one of my all-time musical heroes, Ian Hunter, to meeting a very amiable Uriah Heep in the chippy, to discovering a host of superb bands like Hells Gazelles and Scarlet Rebels, to witnessing incredible performances from iconic performers like Procol Harum and the Pretty Things. And perhaps, most of all, the annual Giants of Rock weekend has helped build an incredibly friendly and welcoming community of rock fans, ably fostered by an extremely active Facebook group throughout the year. I am certain that some of that magic will long outlive the festival itself.

Thank you Giants of Rock and to everyone who has helped to make it special over the past eight years.

Giants of Rock 2020

Giants of Rock 2019

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Graham Bonnet at Giants of Rock 2016

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock 2016

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Procol Harum at Giants of Rock 2016

Bernie Marsden at Giants of Rock 2015

Slade at Giants of Rock 2015

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2015

Big River return with new single: ‘The Long Way’ released 28th January

Kent-based heavy blues band Big River come back with another new single towards the end of January.

‘The Long Way‘ is the second song to be released from Big River’s forthcoming EP and follows the excellent ‘Don’t Hold Out’ released last Autumn. ‘Beautiful Trauma’ the band’s eagerly-anticipated five-track EP is scheduled for release in the Spring.

I’ve long been a fan of Big River’s riff-heavy classic blues rock and forthcoming single ‘The Long Way’ is testimony as to why I’m predicting a bright future for the band in the months ahead. Their decision to team up with Adam Barron last year (ex Mick Ralphs Band and former Voice contestant) has seen the band go from strength to strength, both as performers and as song-writers. Certainly I look forward to hearing the full EP but check out the new single here.

“There’s many more where this came from,” Big River assure us.

Guitarist, Damo Fawsett: “We’ve played this song a few times in the later gigs of 2021 & it’s an ‘All out’ Rocker, from the moment the opening riff kicks in you can see on people’s faces they’re going to like what’s coming, and it just keeps on building.”

Big River are: Adam Barron (vocals), Damo Fawsett (guitar), Ant Wellman (bass), Joe Martin (drums / backing vocals). They will be touring the UK from March 2022 onwards with dates throughout the year.

‘The Long Way’ single released on all digital platforms 28th January 2022

https://www.facebook.com/bigriverblues

Live review – Big River at The Carlisle, Hastings 2021

Single review – Big River – Don’t Hold Out

Album review – Big River – Redemption

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants of Rock 2016

Dave “Bucket” Colwell at Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend 2016

Alt-folk: album review – The Daughters ‘Golden Shore’

Acoustic alt-folk duo The Daughters is a recent collaboration between two Scottish singer-songwriters Martha Middlemiss and Mary Moira McKay. Although the two had been singing together informally for a number of years, the quirks of lockdown and the arrival of socially-distanced walks into our day to day vocabulary led to things being taken a step further.

Songs began to materialise as the two shared their regular walks along Scotland’s Tyne River. An initial single ‘The Mountains’ was released in Spring 2021, which celebrated the beauty of Scotland’s landscape and the determination of those who sought solace, inspiration and escapism from conquering its peaks during the unsettling times as the pandemic took hold.

Soon enough songs began to materialise and Golden Shore is the result: twelve delightful original songs exploring themes around the great outdoors, love, faith and life dilemmas.

The duo’s charmingly quirky harmonised vocals are a real delight and Middlemiss and McKay have turned out to be the perfect fit for one another. Indeed, the pair’s voices are so alike that at times during the sessions even they found themselves struggling to tell one from the other.

The pair are backed by a talented collection of guest musicians each of whom deliver both charm and empathy to the collection of songs. These are Alice Allen (cello), Calum McIntyre (percussion), Chris Amer (acoustic and electric guitar), Duncan Lyall (acoustic and electric bass) and Martin Lee Thompson (euphonium).

An uplifting album and a new creative partnership borne out of the adversity of the pandemic Golden Shore has certainly helped put a spring in my step.

Released: 5th November 2021

https://thedaughtersmusic.com/

Album reviews: four recent solo releases from the extended Uriah Heep family

Going online to treat myself to the newly-released CD from former Uriah Heep singer, Pete Goalby, I ended up having one of those “customers who viewed this also viewed these” impulse purchase experiences. Before I knew it I had, not one, but four recently-released CDs from the extended Uriah Heep family popping through my letterbox, three of these being released posthumously.

The four albums are My Book of Answers by Ken Hensley (Heep keyboard player 1969-80), Eleventeen from Lee Kerslake (Heep drummer from 1971-79 and 1981-2007), Sail The Rivers by Trevor Bolder (Heep bass-player from 1976-81 and 1983-2013) and Easy With The Heartaches from Peter Goalby (Heep vocalist from 1981-85). If you’re simply looking for a replication of classic-era Uriah Heep, don’t expect that from any of these releases but there’s lots to like here for any dedicated Heep fan.

Taking them in turn, My Book of Answers was released back in March 2021 just a few months after Hensley’s sad and unexpected death in November 2020. A strong and consistent album it stands up well against Hensley’s other solo material. Showcasing some heavy, sweeping, majestic-sounding tracks, the genesis of the album lay in a collaboration with Russian poet and Hensley fan, Vladimir Emelin which came out of a chance encounter at an airport. Once Emelin’s words were translated, Hensley set about putting them to music. There’s a spiritual theme to many of the lyrics but it never gets too happy-clappy for an avowed atheist like me. I never believed in demons or wizards and that never put me off Hensley’s songs either. My Book of Answers is a classy album and a joyous farewell from a superbly talented songwriter and musician.

Similarly, I really wanted to enjoy Lee Kerslake’s album. Released in February last year Kerslake began work on Eleventeen back in 2015. In spite of battling terminal cancer the self-produced album was a labour of love and was finally completed in 2019. Sadly Kerslake passed away in September 2020 and, like Hensley’s, the album had to be released posthumously. Now, some drummers, such as Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, have proved themselves to be talented singer-songwriters. A singer the late Lee Kerslake was not, sadly. He really struggles on this album and it’s not a comfortable listen, particularly when he attempts to take on Carole King’s You’ve Got A Friend. Ranging from soft rock balladry to lively rockers to a big emotive theatrical number and even a jocular Chas and Dave style singalong, Eleventeenth is an eclectic mix for sure. Making it was clearly very important to Lee Kerslake and his special way of saying goodbye. There’s a beautifully poignant, heartfelt tribute from Uriah Heep’s Mick Box in the sleeve-notes. For taht reason I’m really pleased that Kerslake was able to do this album even if it’s something I’m not likely to listen to very often.

Although Trevor Bolder passed away in 2013 Sail The Rivers, the solo album he worked on in the year leading up to his death, was finally released in 2020. With the blessing of his family, friends of his stepped in to complete it. Packaged in a very evocative Roger Dean-esque cover artwork, Bolder’s solo album is probably the closest to Uriah Heep of the four reviewed here – including, as it does, contributions from both Mick Box and Lee Kerslake as well as containing a number of Bolder’s compositions that had previously appeared on Heep releases. In parts it’s actually quite a bit heavier than the average Heep album and, unlike Uriah Heep, keyboards are avoided with the emphasis placed firmly much on guitars rather than the trademark Hammond-meets-guitar sound. In contrast to Kerslake’s album, Bolder’s makes considerable use of the vocal skills of a guest vocalist in Derk Gallagher, who sings lead on five of the ten tracks. Sail The Rivers is a wonderfully strong album and a fine tribute to the ex-Spider from Mars and long-time Heep bassist.

The most recent release of the four is Peter Goalby’s Easy With The Heartaches which came out towards the end of 2021. The album was recorded before any of the others here though, with tracks laid down in 1990 but lying unreleased until now. Sonically, it can be seen very much as a natural continuation to the trio of albums that Goalby released with Heep: Abominog, Head First and Equator. This was in the period when Heep had moved away from their signature early 70s, Hammond-heavy proggish hard rock and embraced a more modern, melodic 80s sound. You’ll find similar on this album and the songs were written just after Golaby left Heep. Unlike Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake, Goalby’s post-Heep life always enveloped in a degree of mystery. Rumours abounded that his voice was completely shot and he could perform no more. In truth, he had just decided to pursue a different career path. As Goalby says in the sleeve-notes: “I think that they are some of my best work. I hope you like them too… and just for the record, my voice did not give up. I did.” There are some really strong melodic hard rock tunes here with Goalby in fine voice. It’s good to have this album finally seeing the light of day. And, what’s more, after so many tragedies in the Heep camp in recent years (former singer John Lawton is another who passed away last year) it’s reassuring to still have Goalby here with us and releasing such excellent music.

July Morning – a fifty-year-old British rock song and an annual celebration of summer in Bulgaria

Uriah Heep, London 2014

Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Uriah Heep, Bexhill 2019

2021 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2021. The blog has been the usual mad mix of hard rock, metal, folk, Americana, glam rock, britpop, and more – basically anything I enjoy listening to! Here, however, are the ten most popular blog posts from 2021.

1. Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water: so who actually was the “stupid with a flare gun”?

Fifty years after the events that inspired the recording of Deep Purple’s most famous song and the world’s most famous heavy rock riff, I take a look at the history behind ‘Smoke On The Water’. In December 1971 the band were planning to record their forthcoming album Machine Head at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland. As we know at the Frank Zappa concert on 4th December someone burnt the place to the ground. Who was ‘the stupid with a flare gun’? This post went viral after being shared by a certain Ian Gillan and easily became my most popular post of the year.

Read full post here

2. Tribute to John Rossall: Glitter Band founder passes away peacefully following cancer battle

This is my tribute to Glitter Band founder member sadly passed away on Saturday 2nd October following a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. John Rossall played on all the early Glitter Band hits before leaving to pursue a solo career. A popular figure at festivals and gigs on the 70s live music circuit for many years, he stunned both fans and critics alike with a hugely well-received comeback album The Last Glam in Town released in Autumn 2020.

Read full post here

3. Interview with guitarist/singer/song-writer and Grand Funk Railroad founding legend Mark Farner

I was luck enough to interview a number of music legends this year. My most popular of 2021 was with Mark Farner one of the founders of Grand Funk Railroad. In this interview we look back at Mark’s career: forming Grand Funk, performing at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 and London’s Hyde Park in 1971 as well as discussing the inspirations behind his songs, his collaborations with the likes of Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper not to mention his brand new DVD.

Read full post here

4. July Morning – a fifty-year-old British rock song and an annual celebration of summer in Bulgaria

Another post about another iconic fifty-year-old British hard rock song. July Morning is a 1971 song by Uriah Heep. Written by the band’s keyboard player, Ken Hensley, and vocalist David Byron with its distinctive organ sounds it has remained a significant highlight of the band’s live set. In most places the song is taken at face value for what it is – a classic slice of early 70s hard rock with lyrics celebrating the beauty of an early morning sunrise. In Bulgaria, however, the song has taken on a significance all of its own.

Read full post here

5. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang: former Accept vocalist re-unites old colleagues for new project

In the Autumn of 2020 former Accept lead vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, began putting together a new project that brought together some familiar faces. Going by the moniker Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the name is pretty self-explanatory. Along with Dirkschneider and his son, Sven, two former Accept members (bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Stefan Kaufmann) have also been brought in, along with singer Manuela Bibert.

Read full post here

6. A quick tour around my CD collection

I obviously talk a great deal about my love of music but I thought it might be an idea to give readers a quick tour of my actual CD collection. Although I was a keen purchaser of vinyl in my mid to late teens during the first part of the 1980s, frequent house moves in my late teens and early 20s meant that the format was becoming a bit cumbersome. By the time the 1990s came along I was glad to embrace the CD and gradually began building up a collection. From just a handful of CDs thirty years ago it’s now grown to what it is today.

Read full post here

7. Book news: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published 30th July 2021

Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam icons The Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. This was the post announcing the impending publication of my first book – ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ which came out as part of the Decades series published by Sonicbond.

Read full post here

Former Rainbow vocalist, Graham Bonnet, has announced that his forthcoming album will feature ex-bandmate Don Airey. The two who performed together on the classic Down To Earth album back in 1979 will appear on a new album Graham Bonnet solo album. Bonnet is currently recording with bandmates Beth-Ami Heavenstone (bass), Conrad Pesinato (guitar) and Mark Zonder (drums).

Read full post here

9. Peter Donegan: interview with Americana singer-songwriter and son of skiffle legend, Lonnie Donegan

Another of the interviews I enjoyed doing during 2021. In the week of the sixty-seventh anniversary of the recording of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’ I talked to Peter Donegan about his father’s legacy, about his viral TV duet with Tom Jones on The Voice and about his forthcoming album.

Read full post here

10. Let there be drums! interview with Slade legend Don Powell

One of my all-time musical heroes I catch up with founding member of Slade and drumming legend, Don Powell. Via Zoom in Don’s home in Denmark we talk about his single ‘Let There Be Drums’ raising money for crew, engineers and technicians hit by the pandemic, about the old Slade days, about working with Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott, about recovering from a stroke and much, much more besides.

Read full post here

2020 in Darren’s music blog

2019 in Darren’s music blog

Merry Xmas Everybody from Darren’s music blog

Apart from my traditional end of year round-up this will be my final post of the year. This is just to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and thank everyone who has visited the site over the past year and hopefully enjoyed some of the reviews, features and interviews I’ve done. Thanks to artists like Grand Funk Railroad legend Mark Farner and Slade legend Don Powell who were kind enough to find time to talk to me along with numerous others.

And thanks to everyone who bought my book ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ when it came out this year and gave such positive feedback.

On the PR side it’s also been a pleasure to work for some wonderful artists over the past year: Milton Hide, Green Diesel, Maniac Squat, Across The Sea, Little Lore and Roly Witherow – all of whom released some excellent music this year I was proud to promote.

I’ll leave you with the Christmas video of the learning disability charity I work for – Stay Up Late. As well as campaigning to transform social care so that no-one with a learning disability is prevented from accessing the support they need to go out to gigs, have an active social life and stay up late, we also run the successful Gig Buddies project. This year we decided to do our own tribute to Slade’s Christmas classic and I found myself donning my gold jacket and becoming impromptu choir master. Enjoy!

You can find out more about Stay Up Late and Gig Buddies here

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Douze Noëls – Twelve traditional Basque tunes for the Christmas season by Gwen Màiri

Douze Noëls is the latest album from harpist Gwen Màiri – twelve traditional Basque tunes for the Christmas season arranged and performed on lever harp by Gwen Màiri. The collection was published in 1897 as Douze Noëls populaires Basques en dialecte Souletin (Twelve popular Basque carols in the Zuberoan dialect). It formed part of the Archive de la tradition Basque, the result of musicologist Charles Bordes’s many years of documenting traditional songs and tunes in the Basque Country, Euskal Herria.

Gwen Màiri was brought up in a Welsh-speaking household in north-east Fife. Both her parents were keen folk singers – her father in Scots and her mother in Welsh – and Gwen grew up singing the songs of both traditions. Her Stirling-born father had learnt Welsh but Scots was often used with his side of the family (and in the playground, of course), while long holidays grandparents in Lampeter, Ceredigion kept a very strong sense of belonging on the Welsh side.

Gwen Màiri is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), BA(Hons) PGDipMus, where she studied pedal harp with Karen Vaughan (co-principal harp, LSO) and clàrsach (traditional Scottish lever harp) with Karen Marshalsay. Her career has been very varied, including work with professional orchestras (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and the orchestra and education department of Scottish Opera), chamber music, teaching, publishing music for the lever harp and her main passion; researching, arranging and performing the music of Wales and Scotland in a traditionally informed contemporary style.

Gwen brings her traditional and classical influences together in her arrangement of these beautiful and unique Christmas tunes from Zuberoa. This album was recorded at home in Glasgow and is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.  The stunning artwork and animation is by Léa Sautin.

Douze Noëls is now streaming on all the usual platforms and the CD is available to buy from Birnam

http://www.gwenmairi.co.uk/

This week’s featured artist: singer-songwriter Ed Blunt – Christmas single ‘The Dome of St Paul’s’

Ed Blunt is a singer-songwriter with a debut album out in February 2022. London-based Blunt, whose family home is in Graffham, Sussex, is a jazz and classically trained pianist, who earned his stripes on the London scene, and is in demand as a performer, arranger and choir leader (he is Musical Director and founder of the ensemble, Camden Voices).

As a foretaste of his coming album he has recently released a Christmas single, a heart-warming Christmas song inspired by the last big blizzard in the City of London.

‘The Dome of St Paul’s’ was written during lockdown and recounts a night in 2009 when the capital saw its biggest snowfall for several decades. The song is accompanied by a magical animated video created by London’s Chicken Fruit Studio and set on Christmas Eve.

At the time, Ed was a student at Guildhall School of Music and Drama living in its hall of residence close to The Barbican.

Blunt: “One freezing Sunday night it started to snow, at first just a few flakes, then soon enough a proper whiteout. As we walked the streets the city that was usually loud and frenetic stood perfectly still and quiet in the snow like a dreamland – it was one of those nights you will never forget.”

But it took 12 years before Ed’s memory of that snowstorm triggered a song. He started writing the melody and lyrics during a lockdown Zoom workshop with Chris Difford, of legendary band Squeeze, who describes the song as “brilliant”.

“The challenge Chris set was to write a song about London and, for some reason, the day the snow transformed the city into a winter wonderland came vividly to mind.”

Besides the city cathedral, it namechecks a number of other London landmarks – Finsbury Square, London Wall and Chancery Lane.

Recorded and mixed by David Simpson at the Crypt Studio, London it features James Nall on drums and percussion, Charlie Laffer on guitars and Tom Farmer on bass.

Ed Blunt’s debut album, Over the Moon is due out in February 2022, and serves up a rich mix of folk, rock, blues and gospel – original songs inspired by subjects as diverse as cinematic stories of men on the moon to the folklore of his home city — often cut through with a touch of humour.

The Dome of St Paul’s is out now on all digital platforms.

Listen on Spotify: https://li.sten.to/thedomeofstpauls

www.edblunt.co.uk