Thursday, 31 July 2014

Retro CD Review: Jim Reeves - The Collection (Demon Music, 2007)

Fifty years ago on July 31 1964, Country singer Jim Reeves died when the light aircraft he was piloting crashed in severe weather conditions in Davidson County, Tennessee.

Texan Reeves had been a popular recording artist in the USA since scoring his first hit Mexican Joe in 1953. He is remembered mainly for not only been a stalwart figure in the country music world  but also for been an ambassador of the genre by taking it into other countries across Europe as well as India and Sri Lanka.

He gained popularity in the UK with the hits Welcome To My World and He'll Have To Go and by the time of his death in 1964 had become one of the best selling country artists in the world (alongside Johnny Cash). 

His success showed no sign of swaying in death. He topped the UK charts in 1966 and saw off competition from The Beatles with his version of Distant Drums and a steady schedule of unreleased recordings released as singles continued to flow well into the 1970s.

A back-catalogue of albums also saw subsequent reissues on RCA's Camden label. A quick perusal in many charity shops today usually turns up a few Jim Reeves albums in the vinyl box.  I remember my father having several of Jim's albums back in the 1970s including Bimbo which showed Jim on the cover with a young boy laughing (presumably Bimbo himself!).

It was memories of Bimbo which prompted me to pick up the CD release Jim Reeves - The Collection in a charity shop recently. The Collection is a title whichis used quite loosely these days on most compilations  for it usually can mean anything. The Collection in this case pulls together 18 tracks from Jim Reeves early years 1953-56 and in all honesty its not bad!

There are early singles Mexican Joe, Bimbo, Penny Candy and Yonder Comes a Sucker all bordering on a cross between old country and early pop. While there are roots of modern country with songs Red Eyed and Rowdy and Its Hard Just To Love One.

There's a few examples of pure old country too not too far flung from the style of Hank Williams Jr or Tex Ritter.The heart wrenching narrative of Padre of Old San Antone for example is one of those death-disc recordings that always makes you wonder why these songs seemed so attractive back in the 1950s, while there's some good old yodelling (or is it whooping?) on Drinking Tequilla.

Not a bad compilation to have uncovered however, and might even encourage me to look at some more of Jim's material in the future.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Pudsey's A Film Star Now! - Ashleigh Butler Interview

Tom meets Ashleigh and Pudsey
One of the family film's featured across cinema screens this summer is Pudsey The Dog - The Movie featuring the Britain's Got Talent canine star along with a supporting cast that includes Jessica Hynes and John Sessions.

I recently interviewed Pudsey's trainer Ashleigh Butler at a pre-release screening of the film in Cardiff.
Has Pudsey becoming a film star taken you by surprise?
Yes, we filmed the movie in October time for five weeks and then it kind of went a little bit quiet while we were doing panto and then the past few weeks we've been promoting it, it’s been a crazy couple of months but fun as well. 
Is this anything you could have envisaged when setting foot on stage on Britain’s Got Talent?
No definitely not. I think with a show like  Britain’s Got Talent for me personally, I don’t know about anybody else, I was always trying to get to the next stage, I was never thinking, "Oh! I’m going to win and make a film…" It was never about that. It was like,"I've got through to this stage," that was the main thing for me. 
I know Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams has been involved with the film (David provides Pudsey's voice)  has everyone else been supportive?
When we went on Britain's Got Talent our year was like a little family everyone was supportive. I’m still really good friends with Charlotte from Jonathan and Charlotte. The judges were really supportive, David (Walliams) the most, we've worked with him quite a lot now, everyone’s really happy and supportive, it’s nice. 
Interviewing Ashleigh
How do you both relax when you’re not working?
I don’t know about Pudsey but he loves sleeping, I love sleeping as well, that’s probably something we’ve got in common. I like Pudsey when he has got his free time to be a normal dog and we like to compete at weekends in dog shows. 
Besides the film. I know you and Pudsey have got another panto lined up this year at Bristol Hippodrome. What else have Pudsey and you got planned for the future?
Next week after we've finished with the film promotion we go on to filming the CBBC show Who Let the Dogs Out?  That’ll take up a lot of our time maybe well get a bit of free time and then straight into panto. We’ll probably do some promotion and rehearsals will start around November time and we’ll continue with that until the end of January.

  • Pudsey The Dog - The Movie can be seen across cinema's in the UK now. Visit the official website.
  • A version of the above interview appeared in The Guide section of The South Wales Argus on July 18, 2014.
  • Tuesday, 29 July 2014

    Audiobook Review: Doctor Who - Inferno (BBC Audio)

    It is interesting that although long regarded as a classic, the Doctor Who story Inferno was not adapted into a novel until Target Books were getting desperate for old stories to fill their Doctor Who book series schedule back in 1984.

    Terrance Dicks gained the task of novelising all seven episodes of Don Houghton¹s original script into book form and did a splendid job of it too.

    It's therefore fitting that the story has received a more prominent audiobook release on AudioGo’s classic Doctor Who schedule read over four discs by the late Caroline John who played the role of Liz Shaw in the original story.

    Inferno finds the Doctor in the early days of his third incarnation, exiled to earth by the Time Lords and doing his utmost to try and find a means to escape so that he can freely roam time and space once again in his TARDIS. Enter Project: Inferno operated under the supervision of Professor Stahlman, in which the aim of the project is to try and penetrate the earth’s core in order to gain free energy. ­

    The project is given the full support of the British government, however; there are dangerous emissions from the drilling plant which are having a deadly effect on several members of the technical team. Despite The Doctor’s insistence that the drilling should stop, Professor Stahlman is adamant it should continue.

    Experimenting with his TARDIS, The Doctor is thrown into a parallel Earth where Great Britain is ruled under a fascist regime and Project: Inferno is bringing the end of the world closer than ever before.

    Caroline John gives a dramatic reading of this exciting Doctor Who adventure originally broadcast at the close of Jon Pertwee’s first Doctor Who series in 1970. 

    Despite the stories age, the overall drama of Inferno hasn't dated. Today, world events involving earthquakes are as prominent as parallel universe tales in science fiction drama making Inferno just as relevant in 2011 as when it was first broadcast in 1970.

    The overall drama of Inferno focuses on The Doctor and his experiences on the parallel earths and there are some stark examples in originality as to what Britain could have become had the country lost the Second World War and succumbed to a fascist regime.

    Inferno retains all the excitement of the original story and at a running time of just over four hours is a worthy addition to the Doctor Who Audiobook collection.

    As well as being available on Compact Disc format Doctor Who – Inferno is also available to download as an MP3 direct to an IPod Nano or MP3 player equivalent. For further information visit the BBC Shop website.
    • This review was originally published in 2011. It has since been expanded upon for inclusion on the Retrospace blog.

    Monday, 28 July 2014

    Stars on 45RPM: Hit The Ground / Pretty Girl by The Darling Buds

    Newport band The Darling Buds biggest hit single in chart terms was their second hit entitled Hit The Ground which spent five weeks on the UK chart in January 1989.

    The Darling Buds were formed in Caerleon in 1986 and took their name from the title of  HE Bates novel The Darling Buds of May.

    Fronted by Andrea Lewis the band came to prominence with their first release If I Said before a signing to Native Records and coming to John Peel's attention. The band would later be signed to Epic Records.

    The single Burst gained particular prominence and several showings on Channel 4's The Chart Show in 1988 and managed to bubble under the top 40 for several weeks, however it was Hit The Ground covered with Pretty Girl that gave the band Top 40 success in early 1989.

    I particularly remember the band for their hard edged feel good vibe and colourful videos. My copy of Hit The Ground was bought in Woolworths in Richmond, Yorkshire not long after it was released. So I'd like to think I actually helped get it to No.27!

    Their album Pop Said followed shortly afterwards and I actually got my copy by swapping an old Tracey Ullman album with someone who wasn't as impressed with The Darling Buds as I was, a fair exchange at the time!

    It would be many years later that I discovered The Darling Buds were a Newport band when working in The South Wales Argus newsroom and seeing a reporter had just interviewed Andrea Lewis! Small world!

    I understand Andrea has since entered the world of acting but also recently reformed The Darling Buds for a selection of dates.

    So there's still a hope I may see them live someday!

    Sunday, 27 July 2014

    Dragonfly In The Kitchen

    I found this little fella (approx around 7cm in length) sleeping on the kitchen ceiling earlier!

    After grabbing a few pictures I coaxed the Dragonfly back to his natural habitat - outside - nice of him to visit though!

    This is the second time I've known such a creature descend on our kitchen, one came for tea a few years back and narrowly missed my brothers head as it zoomed through the back kitchen door accompanied by the sound of a Tiger Moth, Needless to say it nearly gave him a heart attack!

    Have you had any curious creatures in your home over the last few weeks?

    Retro Vinyl Find: All Of Me by Shirley Bassey (Regal Starline, SRS 5032, 1970)

    Shirley Bassey - All Of Me SRS 5032

    All Of Me by Shirley Bassey (Regal Star Line SRS 5032) is another 20p find from a charity shop.

    This time celebrating Tiger Bay's first lady of song returning to UK shores in 1970 from the USA  by highlighting tracks recorded in the early 1960s when she was signed to EMI's Columbia label.

    As usual with Shirley Bassey compilations theres a nice mixture of songs from shows (Tonight from West Side Story, Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany's) and a selection of popular songs (Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye, All Of Me and A Lovely Way To Spend an Evening).

    Shirley Bassey: All of Me 
    (Regal Starline, SRS 5032, Stereo, 1970)
    Produced by Norman Newell

    Side One
    1. Who Are We?
    2. Tonight
    3. Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye
    4. Moon River
    5. All Of Me
    6. A Foggy Day
    7. If You Love Me
    Side Two
    1. Imagination
    2. So In Love
    3. I'm In The Mood For Love
    4. How Can You Tell
    5. Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
    6. I'll Get By (As Long As I Have You)
    7. A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening
    Featuring orchestral accompaniment from Nelson Riddle and Geoff Love.

    Saturday, 26 July 2014

    Poem: The Wind by Andy Howells

    The Wind

    Am I content?
    Walking these roads and paths
    Uncertain of where I’m arriving?
    Is the sky content?
    The clouds are still but are dark
    And what of the river?
    It continues to move
    Never remaining still
    And the grass
    It sways from side to side
    And you ask me am I content?
    When there is a love I yearn for
    And an aching in my heart
    The wind may blow against me
    But it can’t touch the feelings within
    I know the one called my saviour
    But where is the loved one he promised?
    And again you ask me
    Am I content?

    Andy Howells, 1993, 2009

    Treading The Boards: Dora Bryan

    Following the death of the actress Dora Bryan earlier this week at the age of 91, I thought it would be nice to include Dora's mini biography from a Dick Whittington theatre programme from 1977.

    As previously stated in our Treading The Boards feature, Dora played The Sultana of Morocco in this production which took place at Eastbourne's Congress Theatre, opposite Harry H Corbett and Anita Harris.

    There was of course much more to Dora Bryan than her stage appearances, a regular face on television in the 60s and 70s as well as numerous film appearances, among them A Taste of Honey, Carry On Sergeant and Two A Penny.

    She also dabbled in the recording world releasing numerous singles and albums her most famous probably been All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle!

    Other Dora Bryan facts are that she appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs twice, in 1956 and 1987. Her luxury items were slides of her family (in 1956) and a stuffed dog (in 1987). Fans can hear Dora's Desert Island Discs from 1987 at The Desert Island Discs website.

    Friday, 25 July 2014

    Retro Vinyl Find: A Song For Everyone by Peter Dawson (Music For Pleasure MFP 1144)

    Peter Dawson - A Song For Everyone (MFP 1144)
    Here's another 20p vinyl find on the Music For Pleasure label from last Saturday. Many of Music For Pleasure's releases featured recordings by popular artists from previous decades.

    An early example is this compilation from the 1960s (circa 1966)  looking at the work of Australian Baritone Peter Dawson (1882 -1961).

    Entitled A Song For Everyone (MFP 1144), this release highlighted 12 of Dawson's recordings from the 1920s and 1930s.

    Keith Davis provided the artwork cover of a fishing harbor, no doubt to illustrate the track Fishermen of England. Other songs to appear on A Song For Everyone included Old Father Thames, When The Sergeant Major's On Parade and Roses Of Picardy.

    Peter Dawson:  A Song For Everyone
    (Music For Pleasure, MFP1144, Mono, 1967)

    Side 1
    1. When The Sergeant Major's On Parade
    2. Roses Of Picardy
    3. The Gay Highway
    4. Song Of The Flea
    5. Fishermen Of England
    6. The Erl King

    Side 2
    1. The Bandolero
    2. Boots
    3. Somewhere A Voice Is Calling
    4. Old Father Thames
    5. Song Of The Volga Boatmen
    6. I Travel The Road

    Thursday, 24 July 2014

    Stars On 45RPM: The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man / I Knew I'd Want You (CBS, 1965)

    Written by Bob Dylan and performed with a jangly guitar sound inspired by The Searchers, The Byrds Mr Tambourine Man topped the UK charts on July 24, 1965 taking over the number one position from The Hollies I'm Alive.

    Although The Byrds sound may have been inspired, it would soon develop and blossom with other folk rock tunes including Turn, Turn, Turn and The Bells of Rhymney.

    This would be the first hit single for the Los Angeles originated band comprising of Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Michael Clark and Chris Hillman. The B-Side of Mr Tambourine Man was a Gene Clark composed number I Knew I'd Want You.

    40 years on, Byrds front man Roger McGuinn is still touring and will be revisiting Byrds classics as well as material from his own back catalogue this autumn. For more news on Roger and his current work visit his official website.

    Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    Review: Chas & Dave, That's What Happens Tour, Newport Riverfront

    Its Chas & Dave's distinct knack of being able to pull songs out of the air and make them their own that makes them such great entertainers. After all, as Chas Hodges said at the Rockney duos gig at Newport Riverfront on Friday evening "In the old days when we played the London pubs its how we paid the rent. We didn't always know what we were doing but it usually turned out alright."

    On evidence of Friday nights show they are still doing more than alright, mixing in roots of early rock n roll with a vibrant passion of music hall with Chas on keyboard, Dave on guitar and Chas' son, Nic ("giving it some stick") on drums.

    The two hour show was a fun and sometimes impromptu performance, with either Chas or Dave ready to turn the set-list on its head in favour of the pace of the show. Numbers such as Midnight Special and Chas' brilliant boogie woogie recreation of Rocking Glowworm  from the duos latest album That's What Happens easily slotted in with classics such as Got My Beer in The Sideboard Here and Edmonton Green.

    There were some live treats too, a rendition of Chuck Berry's Don't Take But A Few Minutes in the style of how Buddy Holly might have played it, and one of Buddy's own songs Fool's Paradise which saw Chas & Dave create an instant stage hit as Nic had apparently never played it before.

    Of course no Chas & Dave show is complete without performances of their greatest hits including Gertcha!, Rabbit and Ain't No Pleasing You, all in all a real feel good end to the week which saw several members of the audience out of their seats and indulging in a good old knees up.

    Chas & Dave will continue to tour the UK through 2014. Visit their official website for further information.

    Monday, 21 July 2014

    Stars On 45RPM: The Lumberjack Song / Spam Song by Monty Python (Charisma, 1975)

    "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm okay..."

    Monty Python may have given their final ever stage show performance at the 02 in London, but there are decades of material to still enjoy from the team comprising of Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, (the late) Graham Chapman, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam.

    The Lumberjack Song/ The Spam Song on vinyl  for instance is only a small example of The Python's 1970's vinyl output, of which they became quite prolific before the days of video and DVD.

    The single (released on Charisma Records) dates from 1975, although its possible it was reissued a few years later (I remember Terry Wogan playing The Spam Song on several occasions on his Radio 2 Breakfast Show around 1978).

    Looking at Discogs website, the single was also available in a snazzy picture sleeve. Not mine, unfortunately, this copy was picked up some 18 years ago in a Carmarthen charity shop in a paper white sleeve...

    Sunday, 20 July 2014

    Retro Vinyl Find: The Glorious Voice of Paul Robeson (Music For Pleasure MFP 1095, 1967)

    Its a few years since I saw Tayo Aluko's excellent show on Paul Robeson entitled Call Mr Robeson at Newport's Riverfront Theatre, so I was quite pleased yesterday when rummaging through a box of 20p charity shop vinyl that I found The Glorious Voice of Paul Robeson on MFP from 1967.

    The Glorious Voice of Paul Robeson (MFP 1095) features 12 songs and spirituals recorded between 1931 and 1939 as well as sleeve notes written by Roger St Pierre.

    As usual with these early MFP albums a lot of time and effort appears to have gone into putting them together as well as presenting well informed sleeve notes.

    Given the time period of the recordings, this release features recordings in mono, songs included feature At Dawning, Rockin' Chair, The Cobbler's Song and Lazy Bones.

    The Glorious Voice of Paul Robeson would later be reissued by MFP in the 1970s (MFP 50332)

    The Glorious Voice Of Paul Robeson 
    (MFP 1095, Mono, 1967)

    Side One

    1. At Dawning
    2. Rockin' Chair
    3. Mammy's Little Kinky Headed Boy
    4. The Banjo Song
    5. An Eriskay Love Lilt
    6. River Stay 'Way From My Door

    Side Two

    1. The Cobbler's Song
    2. Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes
    3. Lazy Bones
    4. She Is Far From The Land
    5. Gloomy Sunday
    6. Honey (Dat's All)

    Read on: Review of Calling Mr Robeson

    Friday, 18 July 2014

    Chas & Dave - It Gets Better All The Time : Chas Hodges Interview

    Chas & Dave Today
    Photo: Barry Collings
    Chas & Dave are currently touring the UK and will visit Newport Riverfront tonight. I've had the pleasure of interviewing Chas Hodges twice and find Chas is a great interview subject because hes done so much in his career! 

    Prior to teaming up with Dave he not only played alongside legends such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent but also was a member of Joe Meek's band The Outlaws and one of Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers. Here's an interview I originally did with Chas last year...
    “It’s a nice feeling.” Chas Hodges tells me as we discuss Chas & Dave’s new tour, “At last people are realising that if you go out and see Chas & Dave you’ll have a good time.” 
    The pop-rock duo consisting of Chas on piano and Dave Peacock on bass guitar, originate from the East End of London. They took the UK pop charts by storm in the early 80s with hits such as Rabbit and Ain’t No Pleasing You. They are now touring again. 
    I tell Chas it’s a pleasant surprise to see them back. Their 2011 tour was regarded to be the final for the pair following the death of Dave’s wife Sue, a main driving force behind the band and prompting Dave’s decision to leave show business.   
    “It was going to be our final tour, confirms Chas, “I carried on as Chas and his band. I gig every week and always will do. You never get over somebody dying but it gets a little bit easier to cope with as time goes on and Dave fancied doing another one so here we are.” 
    Chas & Dave back in the 1970s
    Chas & Dave had already known each other a decade when they came together as a duo in 1972, both having already experienced success in other bands. 
    Chas, who learnt the piano as a boy switched to bass guitar when he began playing professionally. As well as playing for both Jerry Lee Lewis and Gene Vincent on their UK tours, Chas was also a member of the Joe Meek produced group The Outlaws and later Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers who supported The Beatles on their last European Tour. 
    Chas carried on playing bass guitar until the early 70s by which time he found himself in America performing with Albert Lee and singing in an American accent.  “It came to a head, I was sort of thinking this doesn’t feel right to me,” he says. 
    Chas decided it was time to return to playing piano and sing songs in his own East London accent. He then invited Dave to join him on bass, thus starting a musical partnership on the pub rock scene that over the next seven years defined their Rockney style.  
    Terry Wogan favoured their recording of Billy Tyler on Radio 2 while Gertcha! and Rabbit proved successful in the charts. 
    Chas & Dave scored their biggest hit in 1982 with Ain’t No Pleasing You which reached Number 2. 
    They were later invited to appear on television with Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in The Two Ronnies. “That was fantastic; they were big fans of ours,” says Chas, “When we were talking to their wives afterwards they said they’ve never invited anyone else to do anything musical with them. We did a cockney sketch with them with banjos and they were great.” 
    Chas is delighted with the response from fans who attend the new shows “They sing all our songs, more than they’ve ever done. It gets better all the time.”
    A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide  in 2013.

    Chas & Dave Links: 

    Thursday, 17 July 2014

    Retro Vinyl: Golden Hits of Shirley Bassey (Columbia, SCX 6294, 1968)

    Here's a vinyl album find from a few months back which I forgot to add to the Retrospace blog.

    Released on Columbia Records in 1968 Golden Hits of Shirley Bassey (Columbia SCX 6294) brings together several singles recorded by Shirley Bassey.

    Much of the content here, produced by Norman Newell was recorded between 1960 and 1966 but it didnt stop the album reaching Number 28 in the UK album charts.

    Among the tracks featured were Goldfinger, As Long As He Needs Me, I Who Have Nothing and What Now My Love? There were also a couple of double A side releases which had proved their popularity over the years Climb Ev'ry Mountain / Reach For the Stars and With These Hands /The Party's Over.

    The real cream of Shirley Bassey's early EMI years is represented well on this compilation and features a pretty snazzy 1960s style cover with Shirley's image in the middle surrounded by titles of the featured tracks.

    The Golden Hits Of Shirley Bassey 
    (Columbia SCX 6294, Stereo, 1968)

    Side one
    1. Who Can I Turn To
    2. As Long As He Needs Me
    3. Goldfinger
    4. I (Who Have Nothing)
    5. You'll Never Know
    6. What Now My Love
    7. What Kind Of Fool Am I

    Side two
    1. Climb Ev'ry Mountain
    2. Till
    3. Reach For The Stars
    4. The Party's Over
    5. Once In A Lifetime
    6. With These Hands
    7. No Regrets
    All recordings produced by Norman Newell.

    Pudsey The Movie Special Screening

    Tom with Ashleigh & Pudsey
    I went along with the family for a special screening of The Pudsey movie in Cardiff last Monday evening. The family loved the film and Rachel has written her own little review of it over on Purplecrafter. I particularly enjoyed the reactions from the children who gave genuine belly laughs to many of the scenes.
    Interviewing Ashleigh as Pudsey looks on
    I also had the chance to interview Pudsey's trainer Ashleigh, this interview will appear in tomorrow's South Wales Argus Guide.

    Tuesday, 15 July 2014

    The Alternative Adventures of Doctor Who - Episode 2

    Dr Who realised that as his position in the universe grew
    he needed a better set of publicity stills.
    Here's a few more examples of Dr Who illustrations from the first Dr Who Annual (1966) with captions added for comic effect.This exercise proved quite fun when I originally did it on my Instagram account earlier this year!
    "Kindly put that pop gun away" protested Dr Who,
    "I am not Flash Gordon!"
    "I never intefere in the affairs of other planets," Dr Who
    told his companions as the TARDIS materialised
    underwater and pulverised the last surviving Babel Fish.
    "I have no desire to attend your party" said Dr Who
    You can still read Episode 1 of The Alternative Adventures of Doctor Who here...

    Monday, 14 July 2014

    50 Years Of The Beach Boys' All Summer Long

    The Beach Boys LP All Summer Long was released 50 years ago today. A group that went on to define the meabing of Summer through their music, this LP, released on Capitol Records probably defined the meaning of Summer itself.

    The raw energy of the album itself kicks off as the needle hits the record with  I Get Around and continues with tracks such as Wendy and Little Honda.

    What's your favourite Beach Boys track?

    CD Review: The Beach Boys - Fifty Big Ones - Greatest Hits

    Sunday, 13 July 2014

    Charity Shop Finds: Shirley Bassey, Katherine Jenkins, Avril Lavigne and Jim Reeves

    Found For A Pound: 4 CD releases
    One of my favourite charity shops in town yesterday was having a bit of a clear out, so I picked up 4 CD's at 25p each to load some more tunes onto my iPod with.

    The releases found were
    • Katherine Jenkins - Living A Dream
    • The Best of Shirley Bassey
    • Jim Reeves - The Collection
    • Aviril Lavigne - Let Go

    Finding two albums from Welsh-born artists is probably not too difficult here in Wales, I'm still scratching an itch for early Shirley Bassey material while I always enjoy Katherine Jenkins classical tone.

    Avril Lavigne always seemed to be in the UK charts over a decade ago and both Rachel and I were quite big fans of her singles, we'd never got around to getting the album so I thought this was a good opportunity!

    Finally, I must have thumbed over several Jim Reeves albums in charity shops over the years, I remember my father having a huge collection of them back in the 1970s, one track Bimbo particularly stands out in memory and that was on this compilation as well as several other country flavoured ditties.

    Friday, 11 July 2014

    50 Years Of The Beatles' A Hard Days Night

    The Beatles album and film A Hard Days Night is 50 years old!

    The third Beatles LP, the only one in the original canon of releases to be made up of compositions by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The first feature film, a humorous slant of the inside world of Beatlemania penned by Welsh playwright Alun Owen and directed in Black and White by Richard Lester.

    So why so special?

    The album follows on from 1963's Please,Please Me and With The Beatles. Both albums establishing the essential fab four sound through influences and original compositions. The Beatles had well and truly conquered the UK by the fall of 1963, they had taken the USA by Spring 1964.

    On their return to the UK they went straight into recording their next album which would be the soundtrack for their first feature film. Well... almost!

    The album comprises songs written for A Hard Days Night. Side one featuring songs from the film and side two featuring songs that nearly made the film.  As an entity the album defines that The Beatles have finally landed, not only as performers but as songwriters. There isn't a duff song on the album and its incredible to think the decisions the films producers had to make in leaving six songs from the album out of the finished film. Anytime at All, You Can't Do That and I'll Be Back are all great songs that didn't make the final film and remain as strong as If I Fell, Can't But Me Love and A Hard Days Night.

    Similarly the film sets a template for the caricatured image of Beatlemania, which would be later seen in The Monkees TV series and even the humour of Yellow Submarine.

    There are some unforgettable scenes too. The Fab Four breaking loose from the confines of a TV studio via a staircase to a playing field with the strains of Can't Buy Me Love playing in the background and Ringo taking leave of the group to parade the streets at the suggestion of Paul's wily Grandfather (Wilfred Brambell).

    The film also features a stellar cast of British character actors to help The Beatles along the way including Victor Spinetti, Deryck Guyler, Wilfred Brambell, Norman Rossington and John Junkin.

    A Hard Days Night probably introduced me to The Beatles. It was the first film I saw featuring them on television back in the 1970s and I remember playing my Mum's mono LP to death for years afterwards. For me, it defines a pinnacle moment for The Beatles and Beatlemania.

    The hard work of constant recording and touring would begin to take its toll by the next album, but for the moment The Beatles were happy to be who they were, pop stars and film stars and that fun, and joy are captured forever on LP and film - enjoy!

    Monday, 7 July 2014

    Music Finds: George Formby and Vikki Carr

    When I'm Cleaning Windows - George Formby
    Here are two finds from the weekend. The first of the finds was a George Formby CD entitled When I'm Cleaning Windows featuring 24 of his songs. I found this CD really enjoyable as it featured many different songs to the LP I recently purchased including a few alternate takes...

    Superstar - Vikki Carr
    ...and here's another vinyl find, yet another Vikki Carr LP!

    Superstar is on CBS Records and originates from 1971. Features a lovely shot of Vikki on the cover too!

    What are your latest charity shop and car boot sale finds?

    Sunday, 6 July 2014

    Live Shows: Kast Off Kinks and Sharon Fitzgerald School Of Dance

    Kast Off Kinks
    Heres a couple of shows I've seen over the last few weeks... The Kast Off Kinks featuring original Kinks drummer Mick Avory played St David's Hall on June 27 read my review over on Retrospace.

    Dance Is The Answer
    My daughter has been a member of the Sharon Fitzgerald School of Dance for a few years now, so it usually seems unethical to write a review for their shows.

    However this years entitled Dance Is The Answer which ran at the Dolman Theatre this week was full of colour, charisma and choreography. The shows never fail to draw me in and I just often wish I had an ounce of talent that would enable me to dance! Still its nice to dream!

    CD Review: Oasis - Definetely Maybe (Remastered)

    Crazy as it might seem its 21 years since Oasis exploded onto the music scene with their debut (and some regard - still best) album Definetely Maybe. 

    Some might say (excuse the pun) that the album might not need revisiting, but as the Gallagher brothers have frequently pointed out over the years Oasis has rarely got much better than this, except withis expanded re-release it does.

    While all 11 original tracks from the album  including Rock and Roll Star , Shakermaker and Supersonic have been remastered, fans and collectors will also enjoy the two extra discs in this package which contain 33 demos, rarities, b-sides and live tracks including Half The World Away and their cover of The Beatles' I Am The Walrus.

    Amongst the cut and thrust of rock n roll and raw Brit pop there are also the occasional surprises including the string version of Whatever which closes the collection, Classical Oasis anyone? 

    Jobs a good 'un!

    Saturday, 5 July 2014

    CD Review: The Nation's Favourite Motown Songs

    Following the recent success of a TV special and compilation album looking at The Nations Favourite Elvis Songs, ITV and Universal Records have followed up the concept with a look at The Nations Favourite Tamla Motown Songs.

    Scraping past the outard commercialism of this release its hard to fault the track listing. An instant collection of essential Motown tracks heavily seated in the 1960s among them The Supremes Baby Love, The Four Tops Reach Out I'll Be There, The Temptations Papa Was A Rollin' Stone and Stevie Wonder's Uptight are all featured here and will no doubt deliver once again in introducing sweet soul music to a new generation.

    A TV special looking at The Nation's Favourite Motown Songs will be broadcast on ITV tomorrow (Sunday, July 6).


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