May 2009

I really, really haven't been neglecting music but it's all been a bit low key. For the first time in years I've only managed to fit in a couple of shows since Christmas. Most of those have been well worth seeing and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

March brought The Gaslight Anthem ably aided and abetted by Frank Turner. I have probably played more music from The Gaslight Anthem than anyone else so far this year, in particular their current album The 59 Sound. We caught them at Rock City in Nottingham and they are great live. Full of energy and fully committed to giving it everything they have got. Lead singer Brian Fallon brims with enthusiasm and puts me in mind of a young Brian Adams ... with balls.

Frank Turner was a revelation. I'd not caught much of his stuff before the show, but the fact that, despite being a support act, most of the crowd knew most of the words to his songs, shows how popular he is.

April saw my 14 year old daughter accompany me to The Plug to see the formidable Imelda May. Is it rockabilly? Is it blues? Is it rock n roll? - or maybe a smoothie made up of them all - blended together with Imelda's amazing vocals and enthusiastic backing band.

One musical down side was seeing The Rifles at the Leadmill. I hadn't heard their new album The Great Escape before the show, and was disappointed with what if offered live. They seem to be treading ground the same ground they covered in No Love Lost, but they did it better first time round. Very disappointing.

More recently I've been listening to Fleet Foxes, discovering Led Zeppelin, despairing of the new Bruce Springsteen album and wandering through the history of the Blues ... but more of that next time!

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It's true that I have been wandering around in a bit of a musical wilderness. There isn't alot that excites me musically at the moment and I just haven't been in the mood for most things that I would normally listen to. Maybe its because I have been busy focusing on the new job; I find it difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time. Music for me is never just there in the background. I can't sit and work with music playing.

It demands too much of my attention.

So I've been through my top ten albums the way you would go and visit old friends whom you love dearly but who have nothing new to say to you, you know there's gonna be no surprises from them. I'm currently here with this one thinking that here is a wonderful band, who don't really sound too much like anyone else I know, who have a real depth to them, but who are likely as not gonna stay in the backwaters of Dublin.

I hope not though.

 

I'm currently listening to this. It's on our wake up cd. The husband isn't keen but then we did have Bob Marley on for four weeks, which is just way too cheerful for first thing in a morning. Darklands is consistently in my top ten all time all times. And I am only happy when it rains!


Last night I took a trip down memory lane. I was a huge fan of Elkie Brooks before punk got it’s safety pins into me and saw her a couple of times at Newcastle City Hall back in the late 70’s. Loving most of her early work, it was a little disappointing when she ventured into releasing albums of mainly covers. I don’t know the history so don’t know why she took this route, but we sort of parted company at that point.

A couple of weeks back I saw she was coming to Buxton and decided to get myself a ticket. What I didn’t realise was that this tour was originally to include Humphrey Lyttleton, but unfortunately he died in May. Elkie and the band decided to go ahead with the tour as a tribute to her great friend and father figure.

Being only familiar with the name and not his work, I did a quick Wiki on Humph and to my dismay the word ‘Jazz’ kept popping up. Now I love a bit of sax and don’t mind a few horns here and there, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a great Jazz lover, so I started to think that maybe I had made a mistake.

So I took myself off to Buxton. The Opera House is a fantastic venue all cherubs and gilt and royal boxes and worthy of an article in its own right. The design of the venue gives a very intimate feel and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

7.30 on the dot and the curtain went up. On stage in the darkness was Elkie’s backing band, six fellas dressed in black. I spotted the sax but there were no cornets or trumpets to be found so I started to relax a little.

Elkie walked on stage dressed in a strapless white satin dress (ooh she’s gonna sing Knights in White Satin thought I). For a 64 year old woman, she is looking fantastic. I want some of what she is on please! To my utter delight she opened with ‘ He Could Have Been An Army’ – yes – she was going through her early back catalogue and I couldn’t have been happier.

This was followed by another favourite of mine, Love Potion No 9 – a song originally written in 1959 and released by The Clovers. Ooops, that would be a cover then. It’s a fantastic song,I love the blues, and I love Elkie singing the blues and she did it with style tonight. Next was ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’. I’m more familiar with Bonnie Raitt’s version, and its one of my favourites of Bonnie’s, so I was delighted to hear Elkie bring this one out tonight. Cover No 2!

Percy Sledge’s ‘Warm and Tender Love’ got the Elkie treament next, followed by Chris Rea’s hit ‘Fool if you think it’s over’ which had also been a hit for Elkie back in 1981.

Sunshine After The Rain followed– I would have staked my life on that being an Elkie original, but no, Ellie Greenwich wrote it and recorded it in 1961. I do prefer Elkie’ slower temp on this one though.

Oh my though, although the audience were appreciative, they were a little on the quiet side and I half expected to be told to ‘stop singing along and spoiling things’.

Don’t Cry Outloud, was next and hurrah we have an original! Great emotive song about not being emotive.

I didn’t recognise the next song at all but she then went on to sing ‘Til the end of time’ a Perry Como classic with an excellent sax solo by Steve Jones which gave me the shivers.

Now I was convinced that the awesome Lilac Wine was another Elkie original but apparently it first appeared in the musical ‘Dance Me A Song’ – I will have to look that one up because if the lyrics of Lilac Wine are anything to go by, it should be an interesting musical. Covered by Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone and latterly Jeff Buckley (I knew about that one!), I think I will stick with my original hearing of Elkie being my favourite.

There was a bit of Muddy Waters, He Moves Me to close the first half of the show. With awesome guitar, keyboard and bass solos throughout, it was the longest song of the evening and would have sat better opening the second half. Fantastic rendition by all concerned, did I mention that I love Elkie doing the blues?

During the interval a couple of more mature gentlemen mentioned to me on their way out that they were disappointed that she wasn’t singing more Jazz, and indeed their seats were vacated during the second half, so I guess they had booked their tickets in order to see Mr Littleton. I noticed a couple of other empty seats too, but I think on the whole the audience had enjoyed the first half.

Elkie appeared on stage for the second half of the show dressed in black – so much for my Knights in White Satin theory then! Gone were the ballads, this was the rock and roll and funk part of the show. The second half of the show was interesting. Kicking off with Fred Wesley & the JB’s ‘If You Don’t Get if the First Time’. I love Elkie’s ballads, but I prefer when she lets her raunchy side loose. I was relieved that she encouraged the audience to sing along, as it meant I could turn my own personal amp up a bit.

This was followed by Pearl’s a Singer, which in retrospect, I thought would have sat better in the first half of the show. I originally thought she would finish with this one as it’s her most famous song and an obvious audience pleaser. Followed quickly by the classic ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Road and Your Hands on the Wheel’, we were back to the funk again at the end of which the band left the stage leaving Elkie alone.

She gave an emotional talk about her friend Humphrey Lyttleton and how he had wanted to take a paragliding journey with her son. This was never to be, so Elkie and her family were taking his ashes to their home in Devon and having them spread over the countryside there from a paraglider. Despite his auspicious career, Humphrey had only one hit with Bad Penny Blues, in 1956. Over 40 years later he got around to writing some lyrics for this, and Elkie played us a tape recording of a message he had sent her. As the tape played, he started to sing the lyrics and Elkie joined in from the stage. It was the most moving part of the evening and a shame that Humphrey couldn’t have been there in person to perform it together.

The evening ended with Bob Seegers ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ – another great song well suited to Elkie’s style. The ending was strange, with a roll of thunder and it was over. Down went the curtain, up came the lights, and it was still only 9.30. Still she had been on stage for just under two hours, more than many younger artists can manage. It was a lovely night, one which expelled a few of my musical myths, but I’m glad to have caught her.

 

 

he made my heart sing

There was no way on this earth I was going to get drawn into another rock n roll circus. No sir, not me, been there, done that. Read the book, done the tours, bought the t-shirts and met all the members of the band, not once but twice with tread to spare ... I wasn't going down that road again for anyone.

Then I heard that "he" was gonna be in town and niavely thought it would be good to try to get some tickets for the husband's Christmas present.

'Just make a few posts on this forum and then mention you're looking for some tickets' my pal said.

'Nah - I've got absolutely nothing in common with anyone there' said I.

Six months on and I have listened to, reviewed and shared my opinion on the first half of his back catalogue, acquired an instant collection of excellent bootlegs, and got blown away in Manchester. How can this have happened? I only wanted a couple of tickets for his London gig - and I didn't even manage to get them.

I've spent the best part of the last month listening to him spin his Magic and it's gone onto my very small list of albums which don't have any bad tracks on them. Very small! It makes me sing, it makes me smile, it makes me happy. Something can't be right!

And I'm seriously contemplating the trek to Cardiff in order to catch him again before he spins off out of reach into the nether regions of the European Union and finally his American Land. Then life will return to 'normal' again. Or at least 'normal with a smile on my face'.

It may be a long time before he passes this way again.

 

 

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