Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Who View: The Invasion Of Time

Tom Baker's Doctor isn't quite himself in The Invasion of Time as he returns to his home planet of Galifrey to take presidency, banish his companion Leela (Louise Jameson) to the wasteland  and drop the force field around the planet of the Time Lords to make way for an invasion force lead by The Vardans then ultimately The Sontarans.

Sounds great doesn't it? Re-watching 1977's The Invasion Of Time on DVD this week, I discovered why I have stayed away from this story since it aired in 1977, it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

The Doctor is collaborating with a shimmering tin-foil like alien race called The Vardans in the first few episodes which despite looking totally unimpressive, sound it too, (their voices don't even come across as menacing). When they eventually arrive on Galifrey there are only three of them, (a nod to The Dalek invasion of Auderley House in Day of The Daleks no doubt) and appear to take human form, The Doctor himself, even admits hey are rather disappointing to look at.

The Galifrey scenes are equally unimpressive, shifting between what looks like an old Top Of The Pops set, endless corridors of a disused hospital, a quarry and an elaborately designed lead coated room with clock cogs and wheels (the budget clearly used on designing this).

Once The Doctor comes to his senses and Leela musters up some help from the quarry (I mean wasteland) the Vardans are banished by the end of episode four. Hooray! Not quite - perhaps the most dramatic point of the story occurs at this episodes climax when The Sontarans arrive.

Unfortunately it doesn't get much better after that, we have four Sontarans invading Galifrey, (as opposed to seven guards and around seven Time Lords). The action then shifts to The TARDIS for the next two episodes as The Doctor and his friends take refuge in it, except because of industrial action, the scene shifts back to the disused hospital to make up alternative corridors and rooms. Unconvinced? So are The Doctors friends as they criticise the look of it "I'm a time traveller, not a painter and decorator" pleads The Doctor.

The story wraps with Leela's departure to stay back and marry the guard commander Andred (who?, exactly!) and K9 also decides to stay too, but we know he'll be back the next season with a MK II version.

Although The Invasion Of Time left me wondering what was going on most of the time, I think the concept and story is a great idea. Particular highlights are John Arnatt as Borusa and Milton Johns as the sneaky Castellan Kelner. My whole issue is the final execution was unconvincing from the poor excuse of invaders The Vardans (who lacked conviction) to the rasping Sontarans (who lacked numbers). In fairness, I'm aware the production of this story was hampered by industrial action and was a hasty rewrite because another tale was going to prove too much to make. Fair enough, but surely it must have crossed someones mind that invading The Doctor's home planet might be also quite ambitious to do effectively?

Leela's departure was also unconvincing and not fitting with such a great character, I think Louise Jameson has it right that Leela should have been killed off saving The Doctor's life, although that would have been nigh on impossible given the fact that Leela was more than capable of taking out the entire Vardan and Sontaran force on her own. The Doctor's farewell to her seems detached and unmoved.

Not the best example of Tom Baker era Doctor Who, but certainly a good example of cast and crew muddling through to make the best of a story hampered by industrial action.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Theatre Review: Eric and Little Ern, Newport Riverfront

Morecambe and Wise were the funniest comedy double act on television during the 1960s and 70s and even though their partnership ended when Eric Morecambe died of a heart attack in 1984 their popularity has endured.

Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens stage presentation Eric and Little Ern is therefore most welcome. A tribute to Morecambe and Wise’s greatest comedy moments combined with dialogue of what Ernie might have said to Eric had he had the chance to see him one final time.

The opening scene, set in a private hospital room has an ailing Ernie visited by Eric (in Doctor Coat) and transformed back to Morecambe and Wise’s glory days. Classic scripts from the pens of Eddie Braben and Hills & Green were thrown into the mix including Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Eric’s throwaway comment when a police car siren wails past the hospital window, “He’s not going to sell a lot of Ice Creams going at that speed.”

Of course, it’s not just the dialogue that makes Eric and Little Ern brilliant, its Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens delivery and portrayal as the duo. Everything is there from the face slapping to the adjusting of Eric’s glasses via Des O Connor jokes and dance routines.

Sunshine and laughter certainly came into the Riverfront Theatre as the pair kitted out in trademark suits performed famous Eric and Ernie routines in the second half of the show.

Let’s hope it’s not too long before this brilliant show returns to Wales, as Eric Morecambe might have said, “Keep going you fools!”

Sunday, 12 October 2014

CD Review: Madness - One Step Beyond (35th Anniversary Edition)

One Step Beyond is 35 years old, yet this special edition release containing the original album, a 14 track 1979 rehearsal tape and comprehensive booklet comes marching onto the review desk with all of the Madness charm and charisma while still bustling with excitable energy.

As debut albums go, this ones a gem, it contains four (now classic) hit singles One Step Beyond, My Girl, The Prince and Night Boat To Cairo and demonstrates the bands creativity as they marry the world of ska with storytelling in Bed and Breakfast Man and Mummy's Boy.

The band also demonstrate themselves as excellent instrumentalists turning Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake into an upbeat ska track.

Much of Suggs and Co's popularity grew from their television appearances and comic pop videos making them the heroes of many a schoolboy across the UK and we have several here on an additional DVD including an appearance on Top of The Pops that got them banned for several weeks.

You'd be mad to miss this release, even if you bought it on vinyl the first time around, this is all you'll ever want and more from Madness' One Step Beyond.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Who View: Kill The Moon

Perhaps the most surreal Doctor Who episode so far this series, Kill The Moon sees The Doctor,  Clara and Courtney on a space shuttle heading for a crash course with the moon in 2049.

Coming across Captain Lundvik and two other astronauts on the shuttle, the group crash land on the lunar surface.

Finding a mining base full of corpses and vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, Clara finds herself given a dilemma that only she can decide the outcome as The Doctor disappears.

The Doctor seems to have acknowledged here that he maybe interferes a little too much and steps away from an earth shattering predicament, needless to say it backfires as it displays how much The Doctor is depended on to solve scenarios. With Clara basically threatening to disassociate herself from The Doctor , I am almost at liberty to plead give him a break for at least a week.

This episode seemed a little implausible despite having some fabulous mutant spiders in it, I'm also getting a little tired of the current Doctor companion dynamic, or lack of it, Capaldi's Doctor almost screams independence for me, maybe Clara and The Doctor really do need some away time from each other.

Monday, 6 October 2014

CD Review: R.O.C. By R.O.C.

The genre unspecific R.O.C. have reissued their 1995 debut album before releasing a new EP on us before the end of 2014.

This album is a mixture of installation pop, samples and instrumentals, much of which wouldn't sound out of place on a movie soundtrack with a disturbing plot line.

Desert Wind, Hey Chick and Dear Nicky are perhaps the most accessible tracks reminiscent in places of Saint Etienne while Excised and Thirteen Summers seem to either be self indulgent or possess moments of experimentation that remain curiosities rather than classics.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Television Review: Cilla

I rarely watch any ITV drama these days, mainly because I usually hate the dumbing down of the channel's television output and increase in commercial breaks within their programmes.

However, I made an exception in the case of Cilla, the dramatisation of the early music success of Cilla Black and her relationship with road manager/ boyfriend/ future husband Bobby Willis and manager, Beatles Svengali, Brian Epstein.

All to little is made of Cilla's chart hey-day in the 1960s. It was an era where her popularity rivaled that of British contemporaries Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw and Lulu. Audiences tend not to remember Cilla beyond her 80s game shows Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise

My early memories of Cilla are still very much of her as a popular singer turned TV star, fronting her own prime-time TV show in the early 70s, singing duets with either Cliff Richard or Marc Bolan and surprising unsuspecting members of the public by tapping on their door on a Saturday evening as they were watching her show (she never came to our house which as a five-year-old I always hoped she would!). So, a drama on Cilla's early years was certainly going to have some appeal to me.

Cilla redresses the balance of any preconceived ideas today's audiences may have on Cilla Black, peeling back the veneer of tv presenter and game show host  to the sassy Liverpool girl that sang at Liverpool's Cavern Club in the early 1960s alongside Kingsize Taylor, The Big Three and a (then) little known group called The Beatles.

The drama follows Cilla's struggles and how she was supported and encouraged by Bobby as well as close friend Ringo Starr. Cilla's failed audition with Brian Epstein, her eventual chart success and the struggles that followed including an unsuccessful bid for American stardom. There are also glimpses into the sad private life of Epstein, something rarely given so much detail in Beatles dramatisations but perhaps given more clarity here.

The lead actors really make Cilla compulsive viewing for anyone who has a love for 1960s music. Sheridan Smith is excellent as a young Cilla, making her believable while bringing a natural sassy flare to the role. Smith also rises to the challenge of showing how Cilla's public persona evolved as well as displaying her unseen behind the scenes ruthlessness in the third episode. The treat undoubtedly is Smith's renditions of songs such as A Shot Of Rhythm N Blues, Anyone Who Had A Heart, You're My World, Step Inside Love and Burt Bacharach's marathon Alfie recording session.

Similarly Aneurin Barnard brings Bobby Willis from the background to the forefront, highlighting how he really pulled things by emerging as a strong person from  a difficult family background to ultimately been the rock Cilla needed in her life. There are also teasing glimpses of Bobby's talents as a singer and songwriter and how he could equally have been a star in his own right.

Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein and Elliott Cowan as record producer George Martin help add authenticity to the drama, while the recreation of Cavern club and Iron Door performances in earlier episodes brought a vital energy to Cilla's story. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Cilla, both her and Bobby's story was one that clearly had to be told and proved compulsive without the usual need to have an overblown sex, drugs and rock n roll storyline.

Cilla was all the better for focusing on the energy of the music and the evolving love between Cilla and Bobby, set against the atmospheric backdrop of 1960s Liverpool lovingly recreated by the shows designers. As John Lennon wrote in 1967, "Love is all you need" and that was certainly put into this dramatisation.

CD Review: Heartleap by Vashti Bunyan

Incredible to think that Heartleap is only Vashti Bunyan's third studio album since Just Another Diamond Day in 1970.

Vashti's work goes right back to the mid 1960s and fans of her breathy angelic vocals and searching lyrics will welcome Heartleap

The album is almost reflective in feel with track highlights Across The Water, Holy Smoke and The Boy and worthy of a listen in quieter moments.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

CD Review: Unravelling - We Were Promised Jetpacks

Unravelling is Scottish Indie rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks third album release. 

Contrary to the album title this release finds the band very much together, mixing strong power house rock with driving guitars and vocals that sway between the undeterred focus of Safety In Numbers to the melancholy of Moral Compass, itself a track that could easily find itself swallowed into the soundtrack of a moody American drama series or film at some point in the future.

A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus supplement The Guide on October 3, 2014

Who View: The Caretaker

The Doctor going undercover is always tricky. Previous incarnations have tried it, think The first Doctor as The Regional Officer of The Provinces in The Reign Of Terror or The Third Doctor as a milkman or a cleaner in The Green Death. The truth is, The Doctor is way too loud and proud to be inconspicuous which is probably why Clara in full teacher mindset is concerned when he turns up as a caretaker at Coal Hill School in last weeks Doctor Who episode.

The Doctor is on the trail of the Skovox Blitzer but perhaps just as worrying for Clara is The Doctor's meeting with her new boyfriend Danny Pink.

As so far proven with this series of Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi is doing something quite different with his interpretation of The Doctor. I say different, there are many elements of other early Doctor's existent within this incarnation, Hartnell's tetchiness, Pertwee's matter of factness and Tom Baker's unpredictability.  Capaldi's additional Scottish eccentricities do make him a very different emotionally heightened Doctor, with quick elements of sardonic wit in places. 

I get the impression this Doctor is already keen to move on from his past, and I think that also means Clara Oswald, herself seemingly changing from the last series, no more an impossible girl, but more grounded and slightly predictable.

The Caretaker however, still produced some great moments, particularly between The Doctor and Coal Hill pupil Courtney Woods, recalling Doctor Who's original Grandfather - Granddaughter dynamic between The First Doctor and Susan, (or even Peter Cushing's 60s film Doctor and the younger Susan) with an almost comic edge.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Theatre Review: Simon Callow in The Man Jesus, Newport Riverfront

What a scoop for Newport Riverfront to play host to Matthew Hurt’s play The Man Jesus (Saturday, September 20, 2014) - a dramatic, energetic and funny one-man performance by the enigmatic Simon Callow.

Callow took the audience back some two thousand years to witness key moments in the life of “The Man Jesus” through the eyes of the people who knew him including his birth mother Mary, half-brother James, John The Baptizer, Simon, Judas Iscariot, Herod and Pontius Pilate.

In a day and age where people seemingly have less time and inclination to either embrace the Bible as anything but one dimensional stories, it was refreshing to see Simon Callow bring these scenarios to life with undeterred enthusiasm.

The play twisted and turned from comedy to drama.  Herod’s apparent compassion “I love my father – he’s dead!” was a stark contrast to Jesus causing a riot in the temple , which involved Callow throwing numerous chairs (a pile of which were his only props) across the stage.

Callow’s performance was faultless throughout switching through a variety of regional accents to bring depth and realism to the characters he portrayed. This was enhanced with careful lighting which the actor utilised to his full potential.

The Man Jesus brought a familiar collection of stories vividly to life through the performance of Simon Callow and deserves to be witnessed as a master class in the one-man performance. Should you have the opportunity to see it in the future – embrace it!

A version of this review by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus on September 24, 2014

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Theatre Review: Role Play, Dolman Theatre, Newport

Emma Hazelhurst and
James Reynolds in Role Play
Photo: Phil Mansell
Writing reviews over the last few years has seen me publish items for the local press and the internet.  In the case of Newport Playgoers' production of Alan Ayckbourn's Role Play back in 2011, I wrote the standard 250 word review for The South Wales Argus and a more detailed review for a magazine content website. As that review has not been on line for some time, I'm reproducing it here.
Between 17 May and 21 May 2011, Newport Playgoers staged Alan Ayckbourn's drama Role Play at The Dolman Theatre, Newport, South Wales. The directional debut from Judith Lindwall focused on the events of a dinner party from hell and the misconceptions of the characters that attended it. 
Along with Game Plan and Flat Spin, Role Play formed the third and final part of Alan Ayckbourn's 2001 Damsel's In Distress trilogy originally performed by The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. 
The plays were only linked in that they featured a female protagonist in an extraordinary situation, and dealt with several recurring Ayckbourn themes including a lack of communication between individuals, relationships, technology failure and the death of love. 
Role Play is set in a London Docklands apartment and joins Justin and Julie-Ann as they prepare a dinner party to announce their forthcoming engagement. The storm raging outside is almost a prophecy of things to come as the pair attempt to keep up appearances for Justin's sherry drinking mother Arabella and Julie-Ann's parents, Derek and Dee, who are travelling all the way from the North. 
Justin and Julie-Ann's seemingly perfect pairing already has cracks in it. This becomes apparent in the opening moments of the play when the highly strung Julie-Ann panics at the loss of a fork from the dinner set and makes a suggestion  that the couple abstain from sex for the next three months before their marriage. 
Dealing with Julie-Ann's tantrums and his mothers drunken interruptions via the phone, Justin's evening takes an interesting diversion when an ex lap-dancer called Paige Petite from the apartment upstairs spectacularly falls onto his balcony. 
Paige is on the run from her violent boyfriend and his gun toting bodyguard Micky whom shortly afterwards bursts onto the scene. As Micky and Paige await her boyfriends return from Birmingham they decide to crash Justin and Julie-Ann's dinner party which leads to revelations, confusion and much in the way of comedy and drama. 
Cassie Bowkett and Jamie Jarvis brought the characters of prissy Julie­-Ann and Justin to life.  The pair illustrated the couples tolerance of each other via heated arguments and a lack of communication akin to a couple who are closer to breaking up rather than starting a life together. 
Jarvis had some delightful scenes to react to, for as well as an over-bearing girlfriend, his character also has to deal with a bigot, a gun to his head, a drunken mother and a damsel in distress in the form of the plays reluctant heroine Paige Petite. 
Emma Hazelhurst with
Jamie Jarvis & James Reynolds
Photo: Phil Mansell
Emma Hazelhurst endeared the audience with her portrayal of Paige, an East-End girl who has fallen on hard times. Not only did she portray the character with sensitivity but also delivered her humorous lines with a touch of irony.  While making polite conversation with Julie-Ann's parents the judgemental but slightly dim witted Jobson's, they quiz Paige on her career as a dancer "Have you been in anything we might have seen?" "I Hope not" she replies decidedly.  Later on, there's a further wonderful moment, "Do you dance Cappella?" ask the Jobson's.  "No" responds Paige, "I've only been as far as Amsterdam". Hazelhurst as Paige also shined in moments when she wasn't at the forefront of attention reacting to the other characters and getting the chance to turn the tables by performing a lap dance routine much to the shock of the other characters. 
Rose Bissex brought a lot of laughter to the role of Justin¹s confused sherry drinking mother Arabella. Her confusion over who was actually Justin's girlfriend and her drunken collapse at the end of the first act only to be replicated in exactly the same position at curtain up in the second made excellent comedy. 
James Reynolds as Micky with John Sheen and Sue Morgan as The Jobson's also provided strong support and equally had moments to shine in this marvellous production. There was also a fully functional well designed set made up of Justin and Julie - Ann's apartment which allowed the cast to move freely around the stage and disappear in and out of doors as the narrative commanded. 
Although Role Play includes language that some people may find offensive, this is never used to gain cheap laughs. Ayckbourn¹s skillful writing delivers some wonderful scenarios situated around a dinner party from hell and with the skillful cast of The Newport Playgoers at the helm made this a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable production. 
For news on Newport Playgoers productions visit their website

Monday, 29 September 2014

CD Review: The Cry Of Love / Rainbow Bridge by Jimi Hendrix

The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge are Jimi Hendrix first and second posthumous studio releases respectively, both featuring tracks recorded between December 1969 and the summer of 1970 at Electric Lady Studios in New York, and intended to be part of an ambitious double LP First Rays of the New Rising Sun.

Only The Cry Of Love has previously been available on CD Format so the release of these early 70s collections will no doubt appease fans of the late rock idol.

As both albums were mixed by Hendrix musicians Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell, there is a strong energy going through the releases with Hendrix clearly having fun in the studio at a peak of creativity with his compositions Night Bird Flying and Angel (later covered by The Faces).

Thankfully much of what is featured here was completed before Hendrix untimely death so there isn't so much of a patchiness as found on some posthumous releases, worthy compilations that any serious classic rock fan would enjoy.

  • This review was originally published in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on September 28.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Retro CD Review: The Jukebox Collection: In The Summertime (The Sounds Of The 70s - Part 2)

Here I am reviewing a retro CD of retro 1970s music, found in a charity shop last weekend.

Back in the 80s the Old Gold label was a great (but slightly more expensive) way of picking up an old recording as a single as they specialised in reissuing classic hits. The thing was you usually had to pay the going rate (if not slightly pricier in some stores) of the single.

As the 80s moved on and CD's became popular Old Gold capitalised on releasing classic hits on CD compilations through a variety of series. One series was entitled The Jukebox Collection culling together a selection of obvious and not so obvious hits from previous decades.

This release, In The Summertime: The Sounds Of The 70s - Part 2 features 14 records released between 1968 and 1977. The album is book-ended by two number ones from 1970 Mungo Jerry's In The Summertime and Pickettywitch's The Same Old Feeling.

Proving that instrumental hits didnt die out in the 1960s there are three included here,  Pepper Box by The Peppers, Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman and Popcorn by Hot Butter (a favourite with TV continuity during the 70s).

Former Animal, Alan Price delivers his brilliant musical take on 1936's Jarrow Marches with 1974's  The Jarrow Song while Labi Siffre presents the beautiful Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying.

Jimmy James was taken by surprise when his single Go Where Your Music takes Me entered the charts after Jimmy Young played it on his radio show. Go Where Your Music Takes Me is featured here along with You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing, Barbados by Typically Tropical and Everything I Own by Ken Boothe.

The odd one out is The Paper Dolls (pictured right)  Something Here In My Heart, itself a product and hit of 1968, but ultimately still a big airplay hit in the 70s and well into the 80s which still justifies its inclusion within this compilation.

On the whole an enjoyable compilation bringing together some hard to find tracks with a few obvious one.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Who View: Time Heist

Turning The Doctor into a bank robber in Time Heist is almost the stuff of Hollywood movies, yet as he, Clara, a shape shifter and a cyber augmented gamer penetrate the most dangerous bank in the cosmos, it all becomes very much the formula for a strong Doctor Who tale.

The Doctor and his friends are deliberately trying to avoid the bank's security, a fearsome teller that detects and feasts on guilt, but in traditional Doctor Who fashion there is some chasing along corridors here, although not in a bad way, these corridors seem very real and even threatening.

Again, I really enjoyed this story, we are still getting the occasional nod to Doctor Who's past, with Sensorites and Terileptils briefly getting a mention with tenuous links Absalom Daak and Captain John Hart, but these don't interfere by any means with the flow of the story.

The real catch for me here was Keeley Hawes (a long-time favourite actress) as Miss Delphox /Madame Karabraxos. She utilises every moment of her screen time perfecting the steely villainess of the piece, you simply wouldn't want to cross her, nor would she herself (as the story ultimately reveals). My only disappointment is that she couldn't have been cast as some new recurring villain, (I'd love to see her as a new incarnation of The Rani).

There are a few little twists towards the end of the story, including a similar temporal paradox scenario reminiscent of Day Of The Daleks  but on the whole an enjoyable adventure from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Retro CD Review: Heaven On Earth By Belinda Carlisle (1988)

I've owned Heaven On Earth by Belinda Carlisle on vinyl since 1988 and probably haven't played it for the best part of 20 years. That's not because I disliked it, but purely because not having access to a the regular use of a record player it didn't get played.

Also I pretty much bought every Belinda Carlisle album on either cassette or CD after that so this album despite the major hits (which later appeared on Greatest Hits compilations) Heaven Is A Place On Earth, Half The World, Circle In The Sand and I Get Weak, rarely got an airing.

Finding a copy of the album on CD in a charity shop last week, I immediately snapped it up, because I do remember it for been a great album and my thoughts haven't changed.

When I bought this album back in 1988, I was struck by the accessibility of Belinda's pop/rock/ballad mixture and her nod towards 1960s musical influences, represented here with an incredibly contagious cover of Cream's I Feel Free.

There are also tinges of harder rock with Nobody Owns Me and Should I Let You In? and the more anthemic Fool For Love.  

Heaven On Earth does set the pace and formula for Belinda's next few albums Runaway Horses and Live Your Life Be Free, but with the inclusion of Love Never Dies, the album is still a very enjoyable release and unlike most of the records of the era has dated very little, probably due to the great production from Rick Nowels. Certainly worth a revisit.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Art Of MFP: Your One And Only Mrs Mills (MFP 1406)

While looking through my local Healthy Planet store last Saturday I couldn't resist browsing through a batch of old vinyl records in need of a good home.

Among the collection of Jim Reeves, Andy Williams, Val Doonican and classical LPs was this little gem on MFP - Your One And Only Mrs Mills.

Mrs Mills probably released as many albums as The Beatles back in the 1960s (as well as been signed to the same label as them - Parlophone) and was known for her feelgood old time piano numbers, not too far removed from Winifred Atwell, Joe Henderson and Russ Conway were doing.

These days Mrs Mills records are remembered more for her comical album covers, among them she posed with penguins, rocking horses, took part in knees-ups and here Mrs Mills posed as a Victorian chambermaid ("behave yourselves please!") complete with a nice cup of tea and a feather duster. This was in-keeping with her track I Was Queen Victoria's Chambermaid  which was a single in 1967 and was a response to Whistlin' Jack Smith's hit single I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman.

The style of these album covers are in some respects the vinyl equivalent of a comic postcard featuring a jolly looking lady. The style doesn't seem to have followed through to Mrs Mills later CD releases, which is a shame because I suspect it was these comical covers that gave the lady some of her appeal to fans back in the day.

This LP pulls together tracks from 1966 and 1967 and was probably released around 1970. Among the tracks are I Was Queen Victoria's Chambermaid, I'm Nobody's Baby, Second-hand Rose and Indian Summer. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Stars on 45RPM: It Isn't There by The Swinging Blue Jeans (HMV POP 1375)

Incredible to think that in the 1960s not everything turned to gold, popularity didn't automatically score you a chart hit and the music charts were a highly competitive area with bands struggling to maintain success.

It appeared for a time that Liverpool band The Swinging Blue Jeans could do no wrong, their second chart hit The Hippy Hippy Shake rocketed to No.2 in the UK charts in 1963 in good company at the time with fellow Liverpool bands Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Searchers, The Fourmost and The Beatles.

1964's beat boom dawned with another rocker, the Little Richard favourite, Good Golly Miss Molly (UK No.11) and the bluesy You're No Good (UK No.3).

By Summer 1964, there was another single Promise You'll Tell Her but chart success didn't follow and nor did it with their December '64 release It Isn't There.

It Isn't There shows a gentler side to the band who are perhaps better known for a slightly edgier hard hitting sound.

Chart success would elude The Singing Blue Jeans throughout 1965 although they would reach No.31 in early 1966 with Don't Make Me Over.

I found my copy of It Isn't There covered with One Of These Days (His Master's Voice, POP1375) in a Tenby charity shop back in August for 50p.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Retro CD Review: Matt Monro - Collection (EMI)

In recent years I've taken to picking up the occasional Matt Monro album on vinyl format. There's something quite wonderful about listening to Matt's music, be it his rich laid back vocal tones or the wonderful production of his records.

He was often compared to Frank Sinatra and for a time left the UK to work in America when signed to Capitol Records where he was held in as high esteem as Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.

It is said that Frank Sinatra even became a fan of Matt's music and a look through the Sinatra discography of the 1960s you can see he even recorded some Matt Monro ballads.

So there I was a few weeks back perusing a local charity shop and this 2005 compilation on CD pops up.

Matt Monro Collection opens in glorious style with John Barry'and Don Black's Born Free, the theme to the film of the same name then follows through with some fabulous Matt standards including Fly Me To The Moon and The Music Played and a great meaure of hits Softly As I Leave You, Portrait Of My Love, Yesterday and From Russia With Love.

My favourites undoubtedly are his 1964 hit Walk Away, (recently performed with egreat passion by Martine McCutcheon on the Don Black From Hackney To Hollywood Tour) and Matt's cover of Blood Sweat and Tears You Made Me So Very Happy demonstrating Matt's knack of making a great song a big song!

CD Review: Skid Row - Rise Of The Damnation Army - United World Rebellion Chapter Two

Although they may be clocking nearly 30 years, American rockers Skid Row seem to be showing no signs of slowing down on this, the second of their United World Rebellion EP series.

With the stigma attached to album releases these days the band seem to be enjoying their freedom of experimentation within the EP genre chucking in seven tracks to the mix with an emphasis on energetic vocals and cool guitar solos.

While We Are The Damned and Rise Of The Damnation Army are anthem in style, Zero Day is mosh pit heaven and Catch Your Fall is a glimpse of the bands gentler side.

UK fans can catch them at the beginning of their next UK tour at Bristol's Bierkeller on October 17.

Friday, 19 September 2014

CD Review: Taffy - Plus +++

Although Taffy hail from the suburbs of Tokyo their style and sound is very rooted in the late 80s / early 90s Brit Indie Sound popularised by the likes of The Primitives and The Darling Buds.

Tune In A Jar kicks off this 9 Track pop flavored Collection blending full throttle guitar fuzz with saccharin tinted vocals.

There are some great moments that both 1990s indie pop lovers and 2010s shoe gazers can unite together on. The best in pop distortion is generated with In The Fields I Lay (shades of Primitives Through The Flowers ) which evolves into a guitar distortion climax and Have U? giving strong prominence to Iris' vocal techniques.

Definitely worthy of its Plus +++ title.

Who View: Listen

Listen finds The Doctor in a questioning mood as he investigates if every being has a constant companion in their lives.

In this case, its a dream that everybody experiences, hands reaching out from under a bed and grabbing their ankles!

The Doctor asks Clara to help him investigate by returning to her childhood, but the plan backfires as Clara is distracted by her first date with fellow teacher Danny Pink. Distracted and Connected to the TARDIS telepathic link, Clara takes the ship back to Gloucester in the mid 1990s and to Danny's childhood...

Listen proves to be an interesting episode in that although The Doctor tries to examine Clara's timeline it is both his and Danny Pink's that ultimately seem to be investigated by Clara. Again the impossible girl seems to be leaving footprints in the past and future of of The Doctor and Danny with seemingly little knowledge of her own timeline.

Perhaps one of the most gripping of of the new Doctor Who episodes, Listen proves to be an exciting script from Steven Moffat and deliberately scary in places and all with good reason by ultimately proving there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

My children pulled away but returned as quickly to see the essential episode resolve which undoubtedly ends on a positive.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

It's Nearly That Time Of Year Again! - Oh Yes It Is!

Cinderella cast: Lee Mead, Linda Lusardi,
Gareth Thomas, Holly Bluett and Andy Jones
I'm quite shocked as to how quick 2014 has flown by and today bore testament to the fact as I interviewed several cast members of this years pantomime production at The New Theatre, Cardiff.

Thankfully everyone at The New Theatre was brilliant as were cast members, Sam Kane (who is also director), Linda Lusardi, Gareth Thomas, Lee Mead, Andy Jones and Cinderella herself Holly Bluett.

You can see by the photograph I took that several cast members were suitably attired and I'm sure Cinderella will be one of the highlights of the pantomime season.

There will be more photographs as well as write-ups of some of my interviews in The Guide in coming weeks and I'll make sure I'll add more pictures here.

  • In the meantime, what are your favourite pantomime memories?

For booking information of Cinderella at The New Theatre, Cardiff visit their official website.

Stars on 45RPM: Sorrow by The Merseys (Fontana, TF694, 1966)

Sorrow was a No.4 UK hit in 1966 for The Merseys, at that time made up of former Merseybeats Tony Crane and Billy Kinsley.

The song was originally recorded by The McCoys in 1965 with a folk-rock arrangement however The Merseys interpretation had the bonus of an upbeat drum style  provided by Clem Cattini giving it a rockier edge.

The lyrics of Sorrow "with your long blond hair and your eyes a blue" were later referenced by George Harrison in the closing moments of The Beatles "It's All Too Much".

David Bowie later took the song into the UK charts in 1973, ultimately scoring a Number 3 hit with it.

I recently  found this original 1966 copy covered with the track Some Other Day in a Tenby charity shop for 50p.

The Curious World Of Rachel K Collier

Curious’, the new single from Ray Foxx ft. Rachel K Collier, is the latest collaboration from the duo, following on from last summer’s infectious Top 20 hit ‘Boom Boom (Heartbeat)’.

23 year old singer/songwriter Rachel who hails from Swansea and is a former student of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama,  has had quite a busy year since her last chart appearance.

“I’m working on an EP now and another commercial release which will be coming quite soon after Curious,” she says, “I spent a bit of time in LA last year just song writing not only for myself but for other artists and other projects. I came back last summer and it all kicked off with the Boom Boom which was amazing because we got to play Majorca Rocks and the Radio One Live Lounge. Since then I've been working on my own stuff and getting all my solo material together.”

Anyone who hears Rachel’s music is usually struck by her diversity, she is equally at home playing piano and singing as well as laying down beat hooks for new dance tracks.

“I love dancing and I love writing over a beat, but scrape all that back and I’m a singer/songwriter,” she continues, “I play piano and write stuff with chords, if you take away the beat there will always be a strong song there. Sometimes it’s quite hard knowing where to fit yourself in.”

Rachel’s musical success is a far cry for the young girl from Swansea whose initial interest was drawing. “There was a piano in the house which my mum played a bit when I was small. One day I just switched from drawing pictures to playing around on the piano every night. It was like a complete transition; I found the piano and started experimenting on there, copying tunes from the television. I never really read music until I was about 18. I had a really good group of supportive friends who would just listen to me.”

Since studying a Music Tech course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Rachel has fronted her own band and released several recordings before signing to Island Records. Recently Rachel had to turn her skills to acting for the Curious video in which she is seen swimming with a male model.

“We shot it in Ibiza during July, I was quite nervous because it was an acting role. I did a bit of acting in school at the Glamorgan County Theatre. To be honest I didn't like acting, I just used to like the singing and the dancing. There was this moment in the boiling sun when I was just about to swim in the water to do this underwater kiss scene and I thought, “Actually the West Glamorgan county theatre had its uses!”

Does Rachel have a particular formula she follows when collaborating on a track with another artist? “With Ray Foxx it’s been a song beforehand and then he’s taken a song and made a wicked beat. Then Ray and I work on it to make the chorus strong. But in my next commercial release, the producer just sent me the beat. He said “can you write me a melody and lyrics over this?” In that case it can be beat first, it varies. It depends on the producer you are working with.”

A varied approach to music ensures Rachel won’t be restrained by a specific genre, so music fans can expect to be hearing more from her in coming months as a singer. Songwriter and producer. “There’s lots of ways you can go about making music especially for me, because I can go about making banging dance music or stripped back vocal and piano. With my forthcoming EP I want to get a blend in there I make a lot of music just from my vocal sounds. I do like to have a variety of what I can do. It’s definitely a challenge.”

Curious by Ray Foxx featuring Rachel K Collier is available on Island Records now.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Experience Hendrix With The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge Reissued

Two critically revered Jimi Hendrix albums will be reissued on CD, vinyl and digital today by Sony Music and Legacy as part of the Experience Hendrix series.

The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge, his first and second posthumous studio releases respectively, will be reintroduced with original album art and track orders. Both albums have been remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog masters. The Cry Of Love was last issued on CD in 1992, while Rainbow Bridge has never before seen an official CD release. 

Originally released in 1971, The Cry Of Love was compiled and mixed by Hendrix’s longtime engineer Eddie Kramer and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. The bulk of these tracks were recorded between December 1969 and the summer of 1970 at Electric Lady Studios in New York, and were intended to be part of an ambitious double LP tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun

Commercially, The Cry Of Love was a huge success, reaching No.3 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the UK, spawning favorites such as Angel, Freedom and Ezy Ryder. While Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox comprised the rhythm section on the lion’s share of the tracks, Buddy Miles played drums on Ezy Ryder and Noel Redding played bass on My Friend (recorded in 1968, before his departure from the Jimi Hendrix Experience).  The Cry Of Love also includes the participation of notable guest musicians including Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Buzzy Linhart among others.  VH1 recently declared The Cry Of Love the greatest posthumous classic rock record of all time.

Rainbow Bridge was also compiled and mixed by Eddie Kramer and Mitch Mitchell in 1971, with the help of Electric Lady Studios engineer John Jansen. Most of the tracks were recorded in 1969 and 1970, during the same sessions that spawned The Cry Of LoveRainbow Bridge is often misconstrued as being an entirely live album, being that the film of the same name features excerpts of a live Jimi Hendrix performance in Maui. However, Hendrix had no role in the creation of the rambling, unfocused 1971 film which was directed by Chuck Wein.  The film was not a Hendrix project in any way but instead an independent vision of his manager Michael Jeffery.  After Hendrix’s death in September 1970, Jeffery scrapped Hendrix’s original vision of a double studio album titled First Rays Of The New Rising Sun and called for Kramer, Mitchell and Jansen to compile two posthumous albums - including one that would that would serve as a soundtrack for the Rainbow Bridge film.

Mitchell, Kramer and Jansen drew upon Hendrix’s rich trove of studio recordings that the guitarist had been developing at Electric Lady Studios.  Songs such as Dolly Dagger and Room Full Of Mirrors were bright examples of Hendrix’s new creative direction.  Other standouts on the album included a studio rendition of Star Spangled Banner as well as the majestic Hey Baby (New Rising Sun). The one live track on the album, an extraordinary rendition of Hendrix’s original blues composition Hear My Train A Comin' is taken from a performance at Berkeley Community Theatre in May of 1970, and not in the film at all. Buddy Miles and Noel Redding both appear on one track each, and the Ronettes provide backing vocals on Earth Blues.

Beginning in the late 1990s, the tracks on The Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge were reassembled into various compilations, including First Rays of the New Rising Sun, South Saturn Delta, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set. Now, fans of all ages will be able to enjoy songs such as Straight Ahead, Nightbird Flying, and Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) as they were experienced when they first became available 43 years ago.

For further details on these and other Jimi Hendrix releases visit JimiHendrix.com

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Remembering August Play The Big Cwtch

Last weekend was particularly frantic as we had to travel to West Wales as well as get me back in time to review Ray Davies at St David's Hall on Sunday evening.

So it was nice to get an appreciative thank you tweet from Remembering August who I'd featured in a Q&A in that Friday's edition of The Guide.

You may remember I caught the band at their recent Newport NATO gig and must admit enjoyed them immensely.

Remembering August have a new EP out called Brother and play this weekends Big Cwtch Festival in Carmarthenshire so if you get the chance go and see them!

Remembering August Official Website

Ray Davies At St David's Hall Reviewed

"Rock bands will come and rock bands will go, but Rock and Roll music will go on" announced Kinks front man Ray Davies to a packed audience at St David's Hall on Sunday evening as he launched into All Day and All of The Night.

The statement midway though a 90 minute set largely made up of Kinks classics was stark recognition from one of music's greatest innovators. Davies has been credited for contributing much in the way of diverse music over the decades, yet clearly he is quite bemused by all the accolades introducing The Kinks 1966 hit Sunny Afternoon as "a sing-along song I wrote for my family that turned out to be a big hit."

Davies’ took to the stage after a strong opening session from acoustic folk duo Lucas and King who performed some fabulous original material and a memorable cover of Mystery Train. The pair were the perfect compliment to Davies own down to earth approach which warmed him to the audience from the offset, as did his acknowledgement of all things Kinks. There were renditions of I'm Not Like Everybody Else, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, Waterloo Sunset and a rare performance of Tired Of Waiting For You.

Davies also previewed songs and from his forthcoming Americana album (a world premiere as he hasn’t even recorded them yet). All songs were incredibly in keeping with the traditional Kinks style and given a n almost concept feel as he read passages from his Americana book.

Ray’s accompanying 5 piece band of talented musicians did much to help recreate the energetic urgency of the songs and had the audience on their feet and dancing midway through the set. Davies  himself was first to  encourage participation,  particularly on sing-along versions of Days and Lola.  Clearly performers and audience all had the time  of their lives and would have kept rocking All Day and All Of The Night had they had their way.

Long live Rock and Roll and the music of Ray Davies!

  • This review by Andy Howells was originally published in The South Wales Argus Entertainment Supplement The Guide on September 12, 2014

Friday, 12 September 2014

Who View: Robot Of Sherwood

Mark Gatiss has always had a knack of blurring the worlds of Doctor Who with other fictions and reality. His earliest Doctor Who story , The New Adventures novel Nightshade had echoes of not only Doctor Who's television past but also those of another eccentric scientist Quartermass.

New series episodes have Gatiss pair The Doctor with historic figures Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill while a 50th anniversary drama based on Doctor Who's early years found William Hartnell exchanging glances across the decades with none other than Matt Smith.

So, last Saturdays episode, Robot of Sherwood was always going to be interesting. Clara wishes to visit Sherwood Forest in the time of Robin Hood. The Doctor is amused to a point as he won't even acknowledge that Robin Hood ever existed. The Doctor's theory of what is a myth  is put to the test from the offset and there is much in the way of comic interplay between Peter Capaldi's Doctor and Robin Hood himself (Tom Riley).

Despite The Doctor's reservations about the outlaws apparent existence, he is looking for treachery in all the wrong places and seems more disconcerted with Robin Hood's existence rather than that of the game plan of The Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Miller).

I particularly enjoyed the flow and pace of this episode, both Tom Riley and Ben Miller made excellent guest stars (Miller I felt even resembled Anthony Ainley's Master in some scenes). Again, there were little echoes of classic Who stories, the android element of The Androids of Tara (1978) and aliens touching down in history as in The Time Warrior (1973).

There was even a lovely in-joke reference to Patrick Troughton's portrayal of Robin Hood in a 1950s TV series, a nice example of the production team inserting something in there for the fans.

Robot of Sherwood is a fine example of Mark Gatiss marrying The Doctor with another fictional character, now maybe he could write an episode featuring Sherlock Holmes?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A Special Life On Tour - John Mayall Interview

John Mayall with his band
As John Mayall embarks on his 80th decade, the Blues legend shows no signs of slowing down. He is about to embark on a year long world tour. This all follows a career spanning over half a century which has seen him release some 60 albums while simultaneously contributing to the rock-blues scene more than any other musician in history. He recently released his first new studio album in 5 years, “A Special Life”, along with his band, Texan guitarist Rocky Athas, bassist Greg Rzab, alongside fellow Chicagoan Jay Davenport.

“The preparation for it was only a couple of weeks,” says John, “with the same band you just fall into things naturally. The actual recording of the tracks only took three days to do and a couple of more days to put vocals and bits and pieces on, it was all very quick. That’s the way we like to work.”

While the trend for many musicians is to spend, months or even years labouring over recording an album, John’s approach to recording the album was spontaneous. “It’s very important to catch the feeling before you start running it into the ground,” he continues, “it was pretty much all first takes, just like we play live.”

John’s place in music history goes back some five decades, when he put together the first of his bands, the Bluesbreakers in 1963.  “It was pretty easy because people were so thrilled with this new music in the clubs,” he recalls. “There were so many venues for people to play.  They called it the British blues boom because there were so many bands that started off at the same time.”

The Bluesbreakers, acted as a finishing school for the leading blues-rock musicians of the day including Peter Green, Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton who joined Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones and Cream respectively.

John recalls Clapton’s arrival in The Bluesbreakers as a very important move for them both. “Eric had left the Yardbirds because of the direction they were going in," he says, “He wanted to play blues, so it just coincided with me hearing him properly because his progress was quite rapid. It was perfect timing for me to hire him; it was just what he wanted and just what I wanted."

The forthcoming tour sees John still shining limelight on new talent as Glasgow four piece, King King play support. The concerts will also hold some special treats for Blues fans old and new. “The set list changes every night,” says John, “it’s not always the same show but I try to make it a pretty good match of old and new stuff. I think there’s something for everyone.”

I ask John how after over 50 years of performing he still manages to make his music sound so fresh and exciting.  He responds philosophically and poetically, “The blues is an endless fountain of inspiration, with so many shades of expression of what’s going on around you, what’s happening with you, emotionally all these things are the source of it all.”

Interview With Trumpeter Alison Balsom

Alison Balsom Interview In The Guide
I recently interviewed trumpeter Alison Balsom who will tour shortly.

The tour will include repertoire from Alison’s much anticipated new album entitled Paris, which she has co-produced with Guy Barker as well as some classic material. “ I’m going to start with a little bit of Bach, but then I’ll go to Sachse and Ravel,” says Alison, “there will also be a lot jazzy things like April In Paris and Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me .”

Alison will also be collaborating with her own ensemble of musicians for her forthcoming UK shows.

 “I’m going to have a mixture of amazing musicians with me,” she tells me, “I’ll have a jazz trio, a rhythm section and string players. With the trumpet, I’m showing it can do all these different Miles Davis and Baroque things, and then there are these other instruments like the double bass and the piano that have all those different personalities too.”

Evidently Alison intends to exploit all the musical instruments in her show to their full potential, “It’ll be eclectic, classical and a bit more jazzy, something for everyone,” she says.

For more information visit Alison Balsom's Official Website

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Who View: Into The Dalek

Peter Capaldi's second Doctor Who tale seemed to have been described as his first adventure in some previews, almost ignoring the twelfth Doctor's debut in Deep Breath. Capaldi's encounter with The Daleks in Into the Dalek may not have been his birth but undoubtedly it was his baptism and what a story from Phil Ford and Stephen Moffat.

The Doctor rescues Journey Blue, a rebel fighter, when her battle cruiser is under attack by The Daleks. Her initial encounter with The Doctor on reviving is both dramatic and comical, exchanging a lesson in manners and her remark on leaving The TARDIS "its smaller on the outside", "Its far more interesting the other way around" retorts The Doctor. The Doctor then finds himself been asked to help a patient - a war-torn Dalek that appears to have turned good.

Picking up Clara from her post in Coal Hill School (is returning to Coal Hill bearing any significance beyond the 50th anniversary I wonder?), The Doctor, Clara and Journey are cut down to size to venture into The Dalek in a tale which has echoes of the 1977 adventure The Invisible Enemy while the concept of good Dalek is also a throwback to Human Factor Daleks in 1967's Evil Of The Daleks.

I personally enjoyed this tale, there are clearly a few sub-plots developing including the introduction of Danny Pink (ex soldier and new Coal Hill teacher) and the recurring role of Michelle Gomez as Missy.
Star performance: Zawe Ashton had a great presence as Journey Blue and its a shame she didn't join The Doctor on his travels at the end of the story!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Summit About NATO

I rarely delve into the political spectrum but as the NATO Summit has been on my doorstep this week, I haven't been able to ignore all the action centred around Newport. Policemen on patrol, helicopters overhead, and even aircraft flying past my house this morning heading towards the conference at Celtic Manor.

Yet there is the usual skepticism that comes with such occasions and the criticisms hurled at people like Barrack Obama, David Cameron and other world leaders.

Frankly, its high time critics started looking at whats going on around the world, not just in other countries but in their own. Cruelty exists on many levels from war victims to everyday domestics at home and we simply can't keep on ignoring things by walking away.

I frequently struggle with what I see on the news as well as what I hear people talk about as been perfectly acceptable in the office on a day to day basis. A lot of what I see and hear sickens and troubles me.

Thank goodness there are people in power that are making steps to changing our world, I may not support everything they say and do, but I certainly appreciate the tough decisions they have to make and although NATO in Newport might be over, the world and its problems will keep on turning, until we all find answers.

CD Review: That's The Way It Is (Deluxe Edition) - Elvis Presley

In 1970, Elvis Presley fans were thrilled by the arrival of two cultural milestones: one an album, the other a full-length concert/documentary and each of them called Elvis: That’s The Way It Is. 2014 sees Legacy recordings revisit the original album, but this time with additional recordings from five other Elvis concerts of the period and several out-takes from the sessions.

Totaling some 150 tracks there is naturally some repetition but the clarity of most of the live performances allows the die-hard Elvis fans to cherry pick their favourite cuts, among them BJ Thomas' I Just Can't Help Believing, Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and George Harrison's Something.

A separate disc of insightful rehearsal highlights, featuring unusual song selections showcases both the hard work and the playful atmosphere that governed Elvis’ relationship with his band of the period.

There are some further attempts for Elvis to visit what he terms on the album as "The Beatles songbook" in a series of out-takes which make interesting listening.

That's The Way It Is is available as both a highly-collectible 8CD/2DVD box set and That’s The Way It Is (Deluxe Edition).

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in today's edition of The South Wales Argus Entertainment Section The Guide.

Retro CD Review: Screen Sinatra by Frank Sinatra (Music For Pleasure)

With someone as prolific as Frank Sinatra its hardly surprising there is a multitude of compilations available of his output. In recent years I've pulled back from purchasing several in charity shops as I began to find many repeats on some compilations even if they are early years recordings (my favourite Sinatra era).

A few weeks ago, I came across  this 1998 Music For Pleasure compilation entitled Screen Sinatra, which does what it says on the label and brings together songs from several Sinatra movies of the 1950s.

Music from films such as From Here To Eternity (of which he got the 1953 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Oscar for best song with Three Coins In A Fountain), Young At Heart, Not As A Stranger, The Tender Trap, Johnny Concho, The Joker Is Wild and Kings Go Forth grace this album. In many cases its less obvious material but still retaining the Sinatra magic which make such themed compilations a joy.

Evidently ballads are the emphasis with songs such as Someone To Watch Over Me and Young At Heart but there's also some swing with Chicago and Sinatra's 1959 singalong hit High Hopes (from A Hole In The Head).

The final track Dream is an early Sinatra recording and taken from a film he didn't appear in, Carnal Knowledge which starred Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson.  

Several albums could no doubt be created of Sinatra's film music both as a star or as a contributor, but Screen Sinatra certainly captures his musical essence from the silver screen.

Meet The Band: In Flames

I recently chatted to drummer Daniel Svensson of Swedish metal band In Flames.

The band, who release their eleventh album ‘Siren Charms’ on September 8th 2014 have built their reputation as one of the most respected and beloved modern metal bands over the course of 10 albums, selling three million albums and packing venues all over the world in the process.

Formed in 1990, In Flames redefined the melodic metal genre and continue to create music that defied simple categorization, have been blazing a metal trail for nearly 25 years, having toured with everyone from Metallica to Slipknot to Killswitch Engage to Slayer. 

Many of their albums, namely 1996's The Jester Race, 1999's Colony and 2000's Clayman, are considered modern metal classics and "essential listening" by both fans and critics.

Yet, two decades deep, the band remains vital and continues to up the ante. 
In Flames have delivered what will be considered one of the best albums of their already impressive catalog with Siren Charms, taking a huge step forward all the while remaining true to the sound that earned them their status as a hard rock band to watch, within the scene and beyond.

The band recorded Siren Charms at the iconic Hansa Studios in Berlin and the 11-song effort will be preceded by first single "Rusted Nail."

Siren Charms is your eleventh album in 20 years, what makes this album stand out from all the others?
Siren Charms is probably our most diverse album up to date.  It has all the components that an In Flames album should have, but it has more of everything. I also think it is the most “mature” album of our discography, in a good way that is. All notes, beats and rhythms etc. are there for a reason and not just because…Sometimes it´s easy to ruin a song by adding to much components into it.  We definitely couldn’t do this album better than we did and we´re are relay proud about it. Siren Charms has a little bit for everyone I think.

Can you tell us more about the background of the album?
The album was record at Hansa Tonstudios in Berlin. All and all the recording took us 6 intense weeks. Björn took all the music he had written prior to the recording to the studio, then all of us came with suggestions and brought our own “touch” to the sound. Anders did all the vocals afterwards, and also Örjan Örnkloo who did the all the keys added his touch to the final product. It was really a great experience, even though it was very intense and sometimes exhausting to do everything in such a rushed pace (last album took 4 months to record) it was well worth it and we are more than happy with the result. 

The first single from the album will be Rusted Nail can you tell us more about that track?
Rusted Nail is probably one of the most “classic” -In Flames song on the album. It has a heavy intro/theme riff and a really good and catchy chorus. We made the verse part a bit longer than normal and worked with the groove, and let it grow slowly, until it peaks into the short bridge before the chorus explodes. It also has a stunning solo by Björn Gelotte. Basically, its just a great song.

You’ve had a few personnel changes over the years, how does this affect you as a band?
We´ve basically had the same line-up since 98 except that Jesper left the band a few years ago. But that was a pretty smooth change since Niclas Engelin that replaced him already had been in the band before.  There were a lot more member coming and going before 98 but at that time the band wasn’t a the same level so those changes didn’t really affect the band itself. 

Will you be visiting the UK soon?
We will be back touring UK this fall.  We will play Manchester, Glasgow and London in mid October. Hopefully we will do a UK-tour next year and visit more cities.

In 20 years of In Flames what do you think has been the bands greatest moment?
We´ve had so many great moments throughout our career. We are honoured that we´ve had the opportunity to tour together with some of the biggest metal acts such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, Slayer etc. etc. We´ve headlined some of the biggest open-air festivals in Europe and we have travelled all around the globe and visited places that I never thought I would see. Its tough to select one moment because there are so many, and I´m just grateful that I have experienced all this.

What have the band got planned for the future?
First of all we will release our album on the 8th of September and after that we will try to tour as much as we can on this album until people get sick and tired of seeing us.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Stars on 45RPM: Nina and Frederik, The New Seekers, Chas & Dave and Lulu

Here's a few 45RPM finds from a Newport charity shop last Saturday. All in original picture sleeves too..

Nina & Frederik - Sing For The Young In Heart (Columbia, 1964)
 I'm always quite thrilled to find a Nina & Frederik release. This EP goes back to 1964 and it seems despite the onslaught of the Beat Boom they were more than happy to stick to their roots of fok-pop. The EP features four tracks including Puff (The Magic Dragon), Inch Worm, The Worm Song and Scarlet Ribbons.

Lulu - I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do) (Alfa, 1979) 
1979 single from 60s star Lulu covered with Dance To The Feeling In Your Heart. Both songs were written by musician Neil Harrison who was the original Bootleg John in the Bootleg Beatles.

Chas & Dave - Ain't No Pleasing You (Rockney, 1982) 
Chas & Dave's biggest hit from 1982 covered with Give It Some Stick Mick featuring Chas's fellow Rebel Rouser Mick Burt on drums.

The New Seekers - I Wanna Go Back (CBS, 1976) 
Although their success was on the decline by 1976, The New Seekers still managed to have a minor hit with I Wanna Go Back covered with The World Belongs To Me.


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