Saturday, 31 May 2014

Newport Festival Big Splash 2014 Opening Night In Pictures

John Lilygreen
Tonight we visited the opening of Newport Festival's Big Splash event down at The Riverfront Theatre.
Several music acts opened the event on The Riverfront terrace, while a cabaret show took centre stage in the main theatre.

The music terrace events are underway
Singer/songwriter John Lilygreen was on stage first with a brilliant set that featured his own compositions mixed with choice covers from Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and Labi Siffre.

Lilygreen entertains
John Lilygreen on stage
Ampersand tune-up
Ampersand were up next mixing space suits with electronic sounds, they seemed to have a strong fanbase with them too!

GLC's Eggsy comperes
Goldie Lookin' Chain's Eggsy got the crowd excited as well as adding a touch of humour to proceedings!
Ampersand play
John Lilygreen and Ampersand were only the first of four acts of the first nights set, the remainder including Chris Ridgeway and Rogora Khart.
Art attack!
Jonathan and Thomas decided to get creative in The Riverfront foyer by colouring in some pictures!

Big Splash photo opportunity
Finally, before we left, the children posed for a Big Splash photograph! Newport Festival's Big Splash 2014 continues over the weekend - for further details visit The Riverfront's website

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Review: Formby, Newport Riverfront

Ewan Wardrop’s much-praised tribute show to entertainer George Formby played the final date of its current tour at Newport Riverfront on Friday evening.

From the very young to the most senior of audience members, the show raised smiles from the offset as actor/ dancer/ comedian Ewan Wardrop delivered a charismatic choreographed one-man show performance of Formby’s life and times.

Based on George Formby’s home truths appearance on the BBC’s Friday Show in late 1960, Ewan retold the entertainer’s life and times through song, dance and interpretations of George, his parents and his wife Beryl.

The result was a fast, furiously funny, and highly energetic with a hint of tragicomedy taking the audience back to Formby’s early days as an awkward young jockey before opting for a career in music hall.

The simplistic set with chair, table, lamp and phone were utilised to full capacity as cleverly structured spotlight cues and sound effects allowed Ewan to change character roles and scenes. These included controlling a horse in a stable with a mouth organ and learning to play his fast ukulele style while mirroring Beryl’s clog dance moves with his fingers, both of which Ewan performed simultaneously.

Other highlights, included Ewan’s impersonation of German spies observing Formby playing to UK troops during World War II and recreating a classic film scene, where Formby famously knocked the Fuhrer’s block off.

The show also looked closely at George and Beryl’s changing relationship, including Beryl’s controlling of her husbands career before her health deteriorated with  leukaemia.

Peppered with a soundtrack of Formby favourites including When I’m Cleaning Window’s, Mr Wu’s Chinese Laundry Blues and Leaning On A Lamp Post, Formby delighted all in attendance.

As an encore Ewan stepped out to allow Ben, a member of the audience to have a moment of glory by playing the ukulele, while Ewan himself performed one final favourite Auntie Maggie’s Remedy.

Formby has now ended its run, but I hope at least one performance of the talented Ewan Wardrop recreating the magic and comedy of George Formby for stage may at least have been immortalised for a future DVD release, as this show certainly deserves much wider acclaim.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Stars On 45RPM: The Red Balloon By The Dave Clark Five (Columbia DB 8465, 1968)

The Red Balloon by The Dave Clark Five has been in my collection for a good number of years, a car boot sale find gifted to me by my sister, I think she found it for 5p!

Although I was familiar with the bands earlier hits Glad all Over and Catch Us If You Can, this one was unfamiliar, but not for long.

In the mould of those earlier Dave Clark Five tracks The Red Balloon (penned by singer/songwriter Raymond Froggatt who later wrote Cliff Richard's 1969 hit Big Ship) is brassy, raucous and stomping but with an inviting sing-a-long melody.

It was arranged by Les Reed and produced by Dave Clark.

The Red Balloon peaked at No.7 following its release in the UK during September 1968, it spent a total of 11 weeks on the chart.

The single also featured a great psychedelic inspired song Maze Of Love on it's B-Side written by Dave Clark and Dave Clark Five vocalist Mike Smith.

Different in sound to The Red Balloon its interesting to hear how capable the band were of moving with the times just as much as their contemporaries, although its not a sound they appeared to follow through with in their hits.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Glenn Miller Musical The Bugle Boy Tours The UK

Bugle Boy, a production based on the true story of legendary music icon Glenn Miller is currently touring the UK.

Written by English playwright Den Stevenson, the production traces the life and loves of Miller from leaving college, his search for a unique band sound, and his time in the US Army, his famed A.E.F. Band and his sudden disappearance under mysterious circumstances.

Featuring all of Glenn Miller’s famous and instantly recognisable tunes from Little Brown Jug,  String of Pearls; Moonlight SerenadePennsylvania 6-5000 and Chattanooga Choo Choo; this fantastic new musical will once again put you In the Mood.

For further information and tour dates visit the official Bugle Boy website.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Review: Let It Be, New Theatre, Cardiff

Let It Be, is the latest adaptation of The Beatles story, a cross between a live concert and a (sometimes) chronological look at the bands musical career, with a touch of party atmosphere thrown in for good measure.

The Beatles and John, Paul, George or Ringo are never mentioned by name, leaving it to meticulously recreated music sequences and familiar mannerisms of The Fab Four to do the talking.

Energetic and fun performance speaks volumes as James Fox (Paul), Luke Roberts (Ringo), John Brosnan (George) and Reuvon Gershon (John) prove when recreating the sounds that shook the world from The Cavern Club (I Saw Her Standing There) in Liverpool via Royal Variety Performance at The London Palladium (She Loves You) to Shea Stadium (Help!) in the USA.

Multi-media projections help play a key role in recreating many events including a live stage performance of I Feel Fine at Shea Stadium intermingled with original footage of screaming fans on monitors.

Similarly the psychedelic inspiration of minds eye imagery also play a key role as the band perform Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and A Day In The Life  from Sergeant Pepper on a stage decorated with flowers.

The second half  of the show steps out of chronological mode to deliver an unplugged style set with James, John and Reuvon still in character sitting on stools giving intimate performances of Blackbird, In My Life (featuring a fabulous keyboard solo from Michael Bramwell) and Norwegian Wood before climaxing with a rousing version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Throughout the show the band regularly interacted with the audience encouraging them to sing along with songs  such as When I’m 64, this was brought to full fruition with the encore numbers Let It Be and  Hey Jude with the audience out of their seats, clapping, singing and joining in.

Get Back to the 60s and hear the music of The Beatles performed as they intended, with passion, energy and lots of fun. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

  • Let It Be continues at Cardiff New Theatre until Saturday May 24. Tickets are on sale now with prices from £10.00 to £35.00. For further details about the show or to book tickets* visit newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889.
  • For details on other venue performances check out the official Let It Be website.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Retro Vinyl Find: George Formby Collection (Ace Of Clubs / London Records)

In a career that spanned some 40 years between 1921 and 1961, George Formby achieved much including starring in some 21 films and  recording over 200 songs with his trusty ukulele. George wasn't really of the album era, his heyday undoubtedly been that of the 78RPM Gramophone Record, but the songs he recorded, with a cheeky but innocent edge have served to inspire and give pleasure some 50 years beyond his lifetime.

I was introduced to George through watching reruns of his films on TV in the 1970s and 1980s. It seems odd now that these are rarely shown considering the amount of film channels we have today. My younger brother in turn also became a fan and I remember even taking him to see Alan Randall's stage show based on George's later life Turned Out Nice Again to The Georgian Theatre in Richmond, North Yorkshire around 1990.

In 2014, Formby's legacy lives on through a committed appreciation society and a stage show starring Ewan Wardrop.

Although I've loved and appreciated George Formby's music for many years, I have to confess I've never owned much in the way of recordings by him so couldn't resist this recent vinyl find in a charity shop in Narberth, West Wales.

George Formby Collection (Ace of Clubs/London) features 10 classic tracks including Leaning On A Lamp Post, Auntie Maggie's Remedy and When I'm Cleaning Windows.

Theres no indication as to when the album was released, but apparently this is a Canadian issue (according to Discogs website) and I'm suspecting released either in the mid 1950s to early 1960s. The British strand of Ace of Clubs released a George Formby Souvenir in 1961 so perhaps this predates it.

There's a great selection of tracks featured here, all signature of Formby's style and success and the recordings (taken from the original masters) sound fabulous, even in mono!

George Formby Collection
Ace Of Clubs/London Records ACL7903
  1. Come Hither With Your Zither
  2. Levi's Monkey Mike
  3. It's No Use Looking At Me
  4. You Can't Keep A Growing Lad Down
  5. Auntie Maggie's Remedy
  6. When I'm Cleaning Windows
  7. She's Never Been Seen Since Then
  8. Swimmin' With The Wimmin
  9. Chinese Laundry Blues
  10. Leaning On A Lamp Post

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Turned Out Nice Again For George Formby Stage Show - Ewan Wardrop Interview

Ewan Wardrop in Formby Formbyshow.com
Following successful tours in 2012 and 2013, Ewan Wardrop’s smash hit show Formby is currently playing a final 25 date venue national tour which ends at Newport Riverfront next week. Ewan took time out to talk to Andy Howells earlier this week to chat about the show.
The show which is written by Ewan and co-devised and directed by Co-Artistic Director of Salida Productions Ed Hughes is the Theatre Company’s biggest tour to date.  
“I’ve been very pleased with its success, in fact it’s been my career highlight,” says Ewan, whose acting and dancing credits include Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Matthew Bourne’s Olivier Award winning play Without Words.  
Formby Formbyshow.com
Formby charts George Formby’s rise from awkward stable boy to one of the 20th century’s biggest recording and film stars of stage and screen. 
In a one-man performance Ewan Wardrop plays the role of George Formby, as well as other key characters involved in the performers life.  
“It covers his whole life,” adds Ewan , “it’s told in a theatrical modern way. I play the characters quite physically, as it’s a one man show. I’m playing George, his wife Beryl, his mam, his dad (George Formby Sr) and Arthur Askey who opens the show as a warm up man.” 
“Beryl was a clog dancer, so I dance as Beryl and play ukulele as George all at the same time. There’s a section which lasts for ten minutes at the end of act one where I don’t stop singing and dancing as I'm playing both of them.” 
Ewan is a long-term George Formby fan having seen George's films as a boy  during the school holidays on television. "George Formby stuck with me and I thought he was brilliant'" he remembers. 
Formby features many of George Formby’s classic hits recreated by Ewan on the ukulele, including Blackpool Rock, Leaning on a Lamp-Post, When I’m Cleaning Windows, TT Races and Mr Wu
Ewan learned to play the ukulele after acquiring one from a junk shop 15 years ago. It was while on tour with Enron that co-star and Formby director Ed Hughes overheard Ewan playing the instrument in his dressing room and suggested Ewan should put a show together about George Formby. 
Formby Formbyshow.com
“It’s a big subject to cover really and I was aware of how fond people still are of him,” says Ewan. 
I wondered if recreating George Formby’s distinct sound had proven a challenge for Ewan. “I’ve certainly had to up my game,” he says, “I give a reasonable account of the songs. With Formby, when you look back at what he did he was extremely fast, there are people now who probably play faster than him, but he’s got a touch no-one has ever quite matched.” 
Although George Formby died in 1961 his appeal has endured, “He’s one of those iconic type of characters,” says Ewan, “He’s a perfect blend of several things, his character especially during the war was the perfect happy-go-lucky character to get behind. He was a bit of a clown as well which is why children like him. The songs are still fun, when you play them to a younger audience; they are almost surprised that they are laughing at these old extremely innocent lyrics.”
Formby plays Mercury Theatre, Colchester tonight (Sunday, May 18) and continues to Lancaster Grand (Tuesday, May 20), Palace Theatre, Newark (Wednesday, May 21), Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea (Thursday, May 22) and The Riverfront Theatre, Newport (Friday, May 23). For full details visit The Formby Show Tour Page.

A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on  Friday May, 16.

For more on Formby visit The Official Website

Saturday, 17 May 2014

CD Review: Sweet Refrains by The South

New albums can be a difficult task for established acts particularly after a change of line up and a few years after chart success has wavered. 

The South (formerly The Beautiful South) latest release Sweet Refrains shows much in the way of their classic chart era as well as development for things to come. 

Still retaining the vocal talents of Dave Hemingway and Ali Wheeler this album offers a combination of storytelling humour and heartfelt lyrics on tracks such as Second Coming, If I Laugh, Pigeonhole and Thank You. 

The South are currently touring the UK, visit their website for further details.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Still Beautiful - Back On The Road With The South - Dave Hemingway Interview

The South
Following the success of their Autumn / Winter 2013 UK Tour.  The South make a welcome return to the UK venues when they return with a ‘Sweet Refrains – Spring / Summer 2014 UK Tour’.

Ex members of The Beautiful South, Dave Hemingway and Alison Wheeler will be singing many of those hits including A Little Time, Don't Marry Her, Rotterdam, Good as Gold, Perfect 10 and many more from the back catalogue.

This 9 piece band will also be performing several songs from their wonderfully received debut album as The South, Sweet Refrains.

The Beautiful South were formed back in 1988 following the disbandment of The Housemartins which featured Dave on drums alongside founder member Paul Heaton.
Dave had joined The Housemartins a year previously when he replaced Hugh Whitaker on drums. “The Housemartins was the first eye opener for me,” Dave told Andy Howells, “I’d gone from playing in local bands in Hull to not many people to my first Housemartins gig in Belgium to 90,000 people. From that point on, I realised I’d stepped up to the top level.”
But Dave’s time with The Housemartins wasn’t to last long, “I think Paul initially wasn’t sure what he was going to do,” says Dave “he’d started writing some more songs as he'd always been prolific and he decided to put another band together. He approached me to see if I wanted to be in the new band, I thought he meant as a drummer but he meant as a singer. He wanted The Beautiful South to be markedly different from The Housemartins in terms of personnel, getting away from the bass, drums, guitar thing. It was a brave step to do something markedly different but a good one to take because we didn’t want to tarnish the songs of the Housemartins. That’s why we eventually got the girl singers involved to make it a bit different from the previous band.” 
The Beautiful South’s first single Song For Whoever reached number 2 in the UK singles chart in 1989 featuring Dave on vocals, “I had to learn from scratch really, I wasn’t used to been up front. It took me quite a while to adapt to it and to any level of confidence. It’s not just the singing, its how to behave, how to conduct yourself." 
In 1990, the band scored a number one with A Little Time.  “At the time getting a number one seemed to matter more than it does at the moment,” says Dave, “The charts as a whole seemed to be more important to bands. The Top 40 was like dreamland. Getting to the top, even if it was just for one week is something they can never take away from you.” 
The Beautiful South endured for the next 16 years until Paul Heaton’s departure in 2007, “I didn't have any plans I wasn’t thinking too much about the future,” says Dave, “We’d had a good run and I’d enjoyed it.”18 months after the Beautiful South disbanded Dave was approached by drummer Dave Stead to reform the band, which they did as The South with Paul Heaton’s blessing.  
Now featuring Dave and long-time Beautiful South vocalist Alison Wheeler, the band are touring the UK mixing in their rich back catalogue of hits with the very best of material from their latest album Sweet Refrains. 
“I’m proud we’ve got an album out there,” says Dave, “We’ve had to start from scratch to write the songs ourselves. We’re not after world domination or anything. What we’d really like to do is get some more music out there and show we still produce songs so that people come along and see us. We’ll mix old songs in with the new stuff and hopefully everyone comes along and has a good night.”  
For more on The South and current tour dates visit their official website

A version of this interview by Andy Howells was originally published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in 2013.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Beatles' Musical Let It Be Comes To Wales

Let It Be Photo by Paul Coltas
Following a hugely successful run in London's West End, the smash hit Beatles show Let It Be visits Cardiff from Monday May 19 until Saturday May 24 as part of its UK tour.

Featuring  Wales’ own James Fox, Let It Be showcases the music of the world’s most successful rock’n’roll band, in a spectacular theatrical concert charting the band’s meteoric rise from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, through the height of Beatlemania, to their later studio masterpieces.

The show is packed with over forty of The Beatles’ greatest hits including: I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Hard Day’s Night, Day Tripper, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Strawberry Fields, When I’m 64, Get Back and many more.

Tickets for Let It Be  are on sale now with prices from £10.00 to £35.00. For further details about the show or to book tickets* visit newtheatrecardiff.co.uk or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889. Online sales carry a small additional transaction charge

For full details of the Let It Be show visit the Official Let It Be website

Check out this blog next week for a review of the show.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Retro Vinyl Find: 20 Original Chart Hits - Original Artists (Philips, TV1, 1973)

The appeal of gathering a lot of popular songs together by original artists on an album has been pretty standard since the 1980s but back in 1973 it was still a rare thing. Usually lots of clearances for recordings had to be processed with artists, songwriters and copyright owners.

20 Original Charts Hits was released by Philips Records in 1973 as part of a TV campaign  and mixed a variety of recordings from the label from the last 13 years allowing legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, The Platters and The Walker Brothers to rub shoulders with Rod Stewart, Status Quo and The Stylistics.

Perhaps the interesting element of this album is the inclusion of  recordings by Nana Mouskouri, Roger Miller and Val Doonican, evidently trying to broaden the appeal with something for everyone and not missing out older music fans whose tastes might be more middle of the road.

Listening to this release now there's a pleasing miscellany about it. The fact that it doesn't favour a genre and just features popular hits (with a healthy selection from the 1960s) makes for an enjoyable selection. Many of the songs were familiar to me although I have to say I enjoyed Donnie Elbert's take on I Can't Help Myself,  a release that's rarely heard and much overlooked these days.

I've reproduced the album track list below and added the year and UK chart entry to each track. For accuracy the only track on the album that didn't make the charts was Nana Mouskouri's White Rose Of Athen's from 1962.  However at the time of the albums release Nana did have a successful run of hit albums and TV shows so its likely the label included her due to her popularity.

20 Original Chart Hits
Philips Records, TV1, 1972
  1. Chantilly Lace - Jerry Lee Lewis (33, 1972)
  2. Feel The Need In Me - Detroit Spinners (3, 1973)
  3. I'm Stone In Love With You - Stylistics (9, 1972)
  4. I Can't Help Myself - Donnie Elbert (11, 1972)
  5. The Legend Of Xanadu - Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (1, 1968)
  6. I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten - Dusty Springfield (4, 1968)
  7. Wade In The Water - Ramsay Lewis (31, 1972)
  8. Ha Ha Said The Clown - Manfred Mann (4, 1967)
  9. Harper Valley PTA - Jeannie C Riley (12, 1968)
  10. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters (1, 1959)
  11. You Wear It Well - Rod Stewart (1, 1972)
  12. Paper Plane - Status Quo (8, 1973)
  13. It's Four In The Morning - Faron Young (3, 1972)
  14. Melting Pot - Blue Mink (3, 1969)
  15. The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore - The Walker Brothers (1, 1966)
  16. It's My Party - Lesley Gore (9, 1963)
  17. Me And You And A Dog Named Boo - Lobo (4, 1971)
  18. White Rose Of Athens - Nana Mouskouri (-, 1962)
  19. Morning - Val Doonican (12, 1971)
  20. Little Green Apples - Roger Miller (19, 1968)
Chart positions sourced from Official Charts Company Website

Sunday, 11 May 2014

CD Review: Giants and Gems, An Album Collection - The Stranglers

To celebrate The Stranglers 40th anniversary, Giants and Gems is an 11 album collection  recalling the bands first seven long-players from  1977’s Rattus  Norvegicus through to 1981’s La Folie taking in hits such as No More Heroes, Duchess and Golden Brown along the way .

The remaining four albums include a single rarities compilation, Off The Beaten Track, as well as Live at The Hope and Anchor  and two recent albums Suite XVI and Giants.

Much of the earlier recordings included here were featured in a comprehensive United Artists box set last year, however if you are looking to replace your original Stranglers LP’s on vinyl whilst retaining original track lists and cover art this could be the set for you.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

CD Review: All I Ever Wanted - Kirsty MacColl

Singer, songwriter, musical collaborator, All I Ever Wanted is a long overdue retrospective of the late Kirsty MacColl’s musical career featuring 43 tracks spanning some 20 years.

Of course, her seasonal hit with the Pogues Fairytale In New York is featured, but that is only a small glimpse of the Kirsty MacColl story.

Her self-composed Stiff records debut They Don’t Know  failed to chart due to a distribution strike and it seemed at  least for the early part of the 1980s she would be known for writing hits for the likes of Billy Bragg and Tracey Ullman rather than recording them.

A resurgence in her career helped by The Pogues collaboration and a hit with a cover of The Kinks song Days helped get Kirsty’s career back on track.

All I Ever Wanted collects together later successes Walking Down Madison and In These Shoes  while recalling earlier works Terry, Keep Your Hands Off My Baby and There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis.

Diverse, experimental and always with a cheeky twist these recordings still make great listening for those who remember Kirsty MacColl and will no doubt serve to inspire those who have yet to discover her.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Still Running Wild With The Troggs - Chris Britton Interview

The Troggs in 2013
Last year, I interviewed Chris Britton of 1960s band The Troggs in which we talked about touring and the groups heyday in the 1960s.
“People ask don’t you fed up playing the same songs every night?, strangely enough you don't,” The Troggs guitarist Chris Britton tells Andy Howells, “its not performing the song which is the buzz , its the atmosphere from the audience because they are having fun too.” 
The group, formed in 1964, originated from Hampshire and were fronted by the legendary Reg Presley. Following the death of Reg in early 2013, vocalist Chris Allen recently took on vocal duties at the bands live gigs delivering Troggs classics including Wild Thing, With a Girl like You and Love Is All Around.  
Chris Britton is now the only surviving member of the band from their chart heyday.  
The Troggs in the 1960s
Chris recalled how The Troggs recorded their first two hits in ten minutes following one of producer Larry Page’s orchestral recording sessions back in 1966: “We drove up to London with all the gear, set it up and in ten minutes recorded  Wild Thing and With A Girl Like You.” 
Wild Thing became a number one in America but only reached number two in the United Kingdom. 
“There were three papers,” Chris continues, “The Record Mirror, New Musical Express and Music Echo and they used to take it in turns to supply the chart. The one week we were number one in all the other charts  it was Music Echo’s turn and we were number two with them, so it blew us out for getting number one in England.” 
The Troggs follow-up hit With A Girl Like You did become a UK chart-topper. 
The bands legacy has endured over the years with acts as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, The Muppets and Wet Wet Wet covering their hits and a move which Chris believes has helped introduce the music of The Troggs to a new generation. 
“Playing live is more like a sporting event than a musical thing because we’re having fun and it gives you a buzz,” says Chris.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Retro Vinyl Spotlight: Bing Crosby


Recent perusals through charity shops have enabled me to find some great vinyl albums by Bing Crosby. One of the most popular singers of the 20th century, its not surprising that there is much in the way of recorded matter by the legendary star. I've probably been seriously looking for Bing recordings for over a year now and what surprises me is how few certain recordings rarely appear on current compilations.

The High Society soundtrack (above) featuring Bing with Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly was a nice find in Carmarthen recently, with  fabulous cover art!


The same time I found High Society I also found this 1962 Warner Brothers recording of Bing's Christmas LP I Wish You A Merry Christmas - another great cover!


The Very Best of Bing is a 1973 box set produced by the World Record Club featuring highlights from Bing's early years. The copy I found a few months back featured a facsimile letter from Bing Crosby introducing the collection and a few pages from a 1977 Daily Mail announcing his death. I really liked this set featuring a selection of familiar and not so familiar tracks, all in original mono format!

101 Gang Songs Part 1 finds Bing at the beginning of the 1960s with a lyric sheet included so the listener can join in with a sing song - beating The Beatles to printing lyrics on an album by several years - who says Crosby wasn't an innovator?

Coral reissued several classic Crosby cuts on LP in the early 1970s , Rhythm On The Range was an attempt to capture Bing's wild west recordings to a point of editing an orchestral section out of San Antonia Rose in order to keep in with the albums feel - sacrilege!


Wrap Up Your Troubles In Dreams was another 1970s retrospective looking at Bing's 1930s output, nicely packaged with detailed sleeve notes.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Beano and Dandy Book Finds

Here's two book finds from Healthy Planet last week, The Beano Book for 1969 and The Dandy Book for 1966.

As a child I had several copies of The Beano Book (in fact, I still do) and frequently returned to them for years afterwards.

These copies feature the traditional art I associate with these books - with the characters drawn in the classic style.

I don't think I ever owned a Dandy Book, but found myself reading a Black Bob story the very night I got the book to my youngest son. It was about several motorcycle rockers who decided to seek vengeance on a local shepherd when he was wrongly accused of causing an accident. 60s drama at its height!

Seekers Concert Review

I was pleased to notice my recent review for The Seekers concert at St David's Hall, Cardiff was among the top 5 shared stories on the South Wales Argus website last Saturday.

I usually go to great pains to write reviews and try and convey as much of the live experience as I can in a few hundred words, but it can sometimes be quite a challenge!

Wiz Photoshoot for Centrestage Cymru

Hannah as Dorothy and Snoop as Toto
I've been really pleased in recent years that my daughter Seren has been involved in some fabulous productions with Newport's Centrestage Cymru.

The company's recent production of The Wiz was a fabulous show and I was pleased a few weeks back to photograph Dorothy (Hannah Roper) and Toto (Snoop) for The Guide.

I was lucky enough to get some reasonably good light outside Newport's The Dolman Theatre the night I took the picture and thankfully Snoop was a good model!

Centrestage Cymru are now planning their next production White Christmas which will take to the stage in October, 2014. 

Check out more about Centrestage Cymru at their official website.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Seekers 50th Anniversary Concert at St David's Hall Reviewed

The Seekers
Here's my review of The Seekers opening night concert of their UK tour which took place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on Monday April 28:
I was born literally days after The Seekers made their farewell appearance as a group on a BBC TV special in 1968, so growing up loving their folk pop style I never even envisaging that one day I may get a chance to see them live onstage. 
And yet last spring it was announced, Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley would revisit the UK to play a special series of dates in the country where their international success had begun in 1964 as part of their 50th anniversary farewell tour. But after an Australian concert last summer, Judith was taken seriously ill with a brain haemorrhage. 
Seekers fans worldwide sent messages of goodwill while her band mates posted updates on her recovery via the groups Facebook feed. The UK dates were postponed and we all waited and wondered if we would ever see and hear our four and only Seekers live on stage.  
Then on Monday evening, the rescheduled UK tour commenced and we did. The words to Come The Day: “Lift up your voices and sing this song, Let the whole world hear it loud and strong” resonated across St David’s Hall’s auditorium with power and energy as Athol kept a firm sturdy pace on double bass, Keith and Bruce provided harmonies and guitar accompaniment and Judith defied any recent illness through the power of song. Athol described Judith as “this miracle right here” and he was right.  
There were several standing ovations, and pure joy came from the audience as the quartet performed their greatest hits including I’ll Never Find Another You, Georgy Girl and When Will The Good Apples Fall? 
A backdrop screen reminded the audience of The Seekers 1960s heyday including performing at the 1965 NME poll winners concert alongside The Beatles and The Stones before leading into a magical sequence where The Seekers from 1965 were seen performing A World Of Our Own on screen behind The Seekers of today. 
Athol and Judith encouraged audience participation with the evergreen favourite Morningtown Ride which was reprised twice while both Bruce and Keith respectively took the lead with their self penned songs I Am Australia and Guardian Angel. 
Towards the concerts two hour climax, Judith thanked both the fans and her brothers Keith, Bruce and Athol “…without whose encouragement I surely wouldn't have got here”. 
 “I don’t know about you, but I’m quite emotional after that” Keith told the audience, before The Seekers wound up a two hour set with Keep A Little Dream in Your Pocket and an encore of The Carnival Is Over.  
The beginning of the UK tour was clearly a dream come true for The Seekers and their fans. Long may they continue!  
The Seekers will be touring the UK until June 3, check out their official website for further details.
A version of this review appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on May 2, 2014.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Osmonds Relive Once In A Lifetime Experience - Interview with Jimmy Osmond

The Osmonds
For over five decades The Osmond Brothers have entertained sell-out concerts throughout the world.  They return to the UK this Summer as part of  Tony Denton’s Once In A Lifetime – The Final Tour along with other 70s favourites David Essex, Showaddywaddy and Les McKeowen’s Legendary Bay City Rollers.
“ This years line up is great, we're all friends,” says Jimmy Osmond as he takes time out to chat to me on a day off in Basingstoke, “ Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, David Essex, Showaddywaddy and the Osmonds it’s a good bill. Every person knows the music and that’s what makes it so much fun, we get along, I'm kind of sad it’s the last big one!”

Jimmy along with his brothers Merrill and Jay will perform many of their unforgettable hits on the tour from classics such as "One Bad Apple", "Down By The Lazy River", “Let Me In”, The Proud One", "Goin Home" and "Love Me For A Reason" to “Crazy Horses” and “Long Haired Lover From Liverpool” – the 1972 Number One from Jimmy.. A song I particularly associate with custard and Christmas pudding , and watching Jimmy perform it on the Christmas edition of Top of the Pops over 40 years ago.“You're not the first guy that says that,” laughs Jimmy, “there used to be a time when I’d go “oh no not that again” but when you perform it in a big arena or wherever, people still know it.”

I do point out that some music can recall good and positive memories and Jimmy agrees, “One thing me and my brothers have learned is we couldn’t have done it if we’d felt otherwise.  It’s not about us. Its helping people remember their lives and we were lucky enough to be on the radio. You have fun on stage and people feel more relaxed with you. When you’re up there they know your having fun as well.”

Despite performing for nearly 47 years Jimmy doesn’t take his fame for granted, “It’s really lucky, we had amazing people that were legends that were our mentors. The 70s were amazing years. Unless you actually lived through them people don’t get it, I think that’s why these shows we’re doing are going to be cool because it’s a celebration - the ultimate party.” 
  • Catch The Once In A Lifetime - The Final Tour across the UK this Summer, for more news on The Osmonds visit their official website.
  • A version of this interview appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in October 2013.

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