Archive for February, 2008

Free! Music for grown-ups on air in the next seven days

February 13, 2008

Over the next seven days, I hope to catch/record these tempting TV/radio broadcasts: 

(Wed 13 Feb – nothing) 

Thursday 14 Feb:

1400 Focus on Berlin, inc Bach’s B Minor Mass – BBC Radio 3 

Friday 15 Feb:

2030 Brecon Jazz – BBC4

2100 Legends – Edith Piaf – BBC4

2230 Jazz Library – King Oliver – BBC Radio 3

(to Sunday): Smiths Weekend – MOJO Radio 

Saturday 16 Feb:

1800 Live from the Met – Puccini’s Manon (Karita Mattila)- Radio 3

1910 The Culture Show – inc Moby – BBC2 

(Sun 17 Feb – nada) 

Monday 18 Feb:

(to Friday) 2045 Composer Of The Week – Verdi – BBC Radio 3

(to Thursday) 2230 Artist Focus – Susan Graham, mezzo – BBC Radio 3 

Tuesday 19 Feb:2230 Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour – Food – BBC Radio 2

2330 Jason and Iyare’s A-Z OF Street Music 1/6 – BBC Radio 2   

Gerry Smith

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You heard it here first: #1 Amy Winehouse

February 12, 2008

Congratulations to London chanteuse Amy Winehouse on her success in landing a fistful of Grammys on Sunday night. 

The jazz-inflected pop vocalist has long been a favourite of Music for Grown-Ups.   

Here’s what we said long before she became a global sensation: 

  

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Amy Winehouse: music for grown-ups If you’re reading this outside the UK, the name Amy Winehouse will probably be new you – the word is that she has yet to be promoted overseas.   

If you’re in the UK, you can hardly have escaped Ms Winehouse.  Back To Black, her chart-topping second album, her colourful lifetyle, and triumph at last week’s Brits awards, have made her the best-publicised English pop persona since, er, Oasis.   

Back To Black, the new album, released before Xmas, has already stacked up 700,000 sales.  Frank, her fine debut album, was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2003. 

A fine, ballsy, songwriter, an authentic soul/jazz/r&b voice, and on-stage charisma, Winehouse is a massive new talent.  Lovely tone.  Fine range.  Convincing actress.  And – bonus – she swings.   

But, because she was cross-promoted to the supermarket market with a bunch of less talented Brit “jazz” singers at launch, I’d dismissed her along with the rest of the wannabes. 

Mistake.  Amy’s the first pop star to have made me pay serious attention for many years. 

Music for grown-ups?  From a boozy, potty-mouthed, loose-lipped 23 year old?  You bet.  Best check out Amy Winehouse – rapido!  

Gerry Smith

Oh Vienna! Part 2 – Lieder in the Musikverein

February 11, 2008

Though generally willing to try any type of music, I’ve always resisted Lieder – classical German song.  Far, far too grown-up for my taste. 

But visiting Vienna last week, I was disappointed that the legendary Staatsoper was given over to the appalling middlebrow Opernball – the annual schmaltz waltz meets celebs’ night out.  Opera had been banished from one of the world’s great houses, for the duration. 

What to do?  The next best choice was soprano Dorothea Roschmann’s Lieder recital at the Musikverein.  I’d been mightily impressed by Ms Roschmann in several lovely Covent Garden performances.  And I wanted to tick off the Musikverein, one of the classical world’s great venues. 

But Lieder?  Schubert?  Schumann?  Wolf?  It could turn into a long night. 

I needn’t have worried. Though struggling with a heavy cold, Roschmann, supported by pianist Graham Johnson, converted me instantly.   

Great gig.  I loved the show – two hours, entirely in German, with German programme notes.  It was a belter. 

It confirmed a central tenet of Music for Grown-Ups – music is music.  Forget the packaging.  Language is unimportant.  Successfully evoking emotion is the aim and the sole criterion for judging performance. 

Musikverein?  A gas.  Perfect acoustics.  Though the small hall was only half full – 250 empty seats for a performance by one of the German repertoire’s greatest voices!   Weird.  Perhaps the disparus were all cosied up at home, watching wall-to-wall Opernball on TV.   

Gerry Smith

Morrissey mania for grown-ups

February 8, 2008

Following a very lucky break at the third, and what turned out to be the final, gig in Morrissey’s week-long London residency – Moz’s bad throat forced him to curtail then cancel the last three shows – I’ve been marvelling at the power of the Manc Miserablist’s PR machine. 

With the new single released last Monday and the Greatest Hits album due next Monday, Morrissey’s everywhere: Russell Brand show on E4, Jools Holland and Culture Show on BBC2 …   

The most visible press I’ve seen is the Smiths cover of the new (“March”) issue of MOJO.  It advertises several articles about Mr Gloomy of Manchester.  And MOJO’s sitting on the news-stand shelves right next to the Mozza cover on the front of the Feb issue of The Word.   

The de luxe 2CD Greatest Hits and the new MOJO are must-buys for those who get it (and those wondering what all the fuss is about).        

Gerry Smith 

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EARLIER RELATED ARTICLES: 

Coming very soon – Morrissey Week in London! 

Morrissey, one of the most revered of rockpop artists in his native land, returns to London next week with a six night residency at the recently reopened Roundhouse. 

Watch this space for the exclusive Music for Grown-Ups concert review – I’m due at the Wednesday gig. I expect the setlist to include a sizeable selection of the songs on Greatest Hits, Morrissey’s first compilation from his post-1997 releases (track list below), due on 11 February.  Plus some earlier solo material and the odd Smiths classic.     

Greatest Hits (de luxe version) tracklist: 1. First Of The Gang To Die  2. In The Future When All’s Well  3. I Just Want To See The Boy Happy  4. Irish Blood English Heart  5. You Have Killed Me  6. That’s How People Grow Up  7. Everyday Is Like Sunday  8. Redondo Beach  9. Suedehead  10. Youngest Wat The Most Loved  11. Last Of The Famous International Playboys  12. More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get  13. All You Need Is Me  14. Let Me Kiss You  15. I Have Forgiven Jesus  16. Alma Matters   

Disc: 2 – Live at Hollywood Bowl1. The Last of the Famous International Playboys  2. The National Front Disco  3. Let Me Kiss You  4. Irish Blood, English Heart  5. I Will See You in Far-off Places  6. First of the Gang to Die  7. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy  8. Life is a Pigsty   

Whooppee!  I can hardly wait.  Rave on, Mozza!  

Gerry Smith 

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Morrissey in London – pop for grown-ups  

Last night’s Morrissey gig at London’s Roundhouse – his third in a six night residency – was pure pop for grown-ups. 

The setlist was a mixture of recent and new solo material, with Irish Blood/English Heart, First Of The Gang To Die and Last Of The Famous International Playboys the standouts.  The forthcoming single, That’s How People Grow Up, will justify careful scrutiny. 

Mozza’s unique talent is pungent, wittily original lyrics, allied to an unmissable on-stage charisma: very few performers give good gig better than he.  His rapport with the faithful is wondrous to behold.   

Last night’s music was nothing to get excited about, though.  Trenchant lyrics apart, Morrissey’s solo work sounds pedestrian to my ears: too little variety in melody, tempo or dynamics.  No variation.  No improv.   

So his musos are in a straitjacket to start with.  But this crew sounded dull anyway.  And the sound, from stage left, 20 metres from the front, was muddy, too bassy, and Il Mozzo was too low in the mix. 

Morrissey was my first gig at the refurb’d Roundhouse.  Very impressive – it easily reclaims its traditional status as London’s premier rockpop venue.  Big enough for a 2,000 stand-up audience; small enough for intimate communion.  

Pity about the audience, though.  They’ve had to stop smoking (Hallelujah!), but most still yak incessantly, sing along as if they’re in the bath, and shuffle backwards and forwards to the bars all night long, spilling expensive beer from plastic mugs over innocent bystanders.   

All music venues, from the Royal Opera House to Ronnie Scott’s, attract more than their fair share of stiffs.  But rockpop gigs are notoriously bad: fully 50% of last night’s Roundhouse crowd were boneheads.    

Gerry Smith

Oh Vienna! Part 1

February 6, 2008

On my first trip to Vienna last week – Heaven only knows why it’s taken so long – I spent three days marvelling at the handsome Habsburg capital’s rich musical heritage. 

Never mind the magnificence of the built environment – Vienna is a world-class city – or the divine legacy of key visual artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Otto Wagner, the Austrian capital is a strong contender for Music for Grown-Ups global HQ. 

Everywhere you go, you’re reminded of its stature.  Major venues abound – Musikverein … Konzerthaus … Staatsoper … Volksoper …  And, round every corner you keep running into statues, squares, streets, plaques, and pavement memorials commemorating the great classical composers with roots in Vienna – Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg … the list is almost endless.  Only Bach is missing. 

And that’s not to mention Music for Grown-Ups favourite, jazzer Joe Zawinul.

No city has more musical resonance: Oh Vienna, indeed.   

Gerry Smith 

(to be continued)

Yet another Doors compilation?

February 5, 2008

The Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors is just hitting the shops.  Some readers might share my puzzlement at the appearance of yet another Doors compilation. 

The Future Starts Here comes hot on the heels of last year’s slew of highly praised reissues, which included a choice of three compilations, all called The Very Best Of The Doors. 

The explanation must be that last year’s wonderful compilations weren’t released in the USA, and are now being rolled out in North America under a different name.   

It’s all very puzzling for this Doors fan.

  

Gerry Smith  

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EARLIER RELATED ARTICLE: 

The Doors – rock release of 2007 A very strong contender for rock release of 2007 has to be the 40th Anniversary compilation, The Very Best Of The Doors. 

There are three versions: a single CD, in the supermarkets now; a better buy is the 2CD version; easily the best buy is the Limited Edition 2CD/DVD/book. Both of the 2CD versions have virtually everything you need by the Doors: 

Disc: 1  1. Break On Through  2. Strange Days  3. Alabama Song  4. Love Me Two Times  5. Light My Fire  6. Spanish Caravan  7. Crystal Ship  8. The Unknown Soldier  9. The End (full version)  10. People Are Strange  11. Back Door Man  12. Moonlight Drive  13. End Of The Night  14. Five To One  15. When The Music’s Over    

Disc: 2  1. Bird Of Prey  2. Love Her Madly  3. Riders On The Storm  4. Orange County Suite  5. Runnin’ Blue  6. Hello I Love You  7. The W.A.S.P. (Texas Radio & The Big Beat)  8. Stoned Immaculate  9. Soul Kitchen  10. Peace Frog  11. L.A. Woman  12. Waiting For The Sun  13. Touch Me  14. The Changeling  15. Wishful, Sinful  16. Love Street  17. The Ghost Song  18. Whiskey, Mystics And Men  19. Roadhouse Blues   

The packaging of The Very Best Of The Doors, with a naked torso shot of Mr Mojo Rising pointing at the camera, is stunning.  If, like me, you already own all the audio tracks, the Limited Edition is worth buying for the booklet, DVD and the packaging alone. 

It’s available online for about £16, delivered.  Bargain!

Gerry Smith      

New low price for Dylan (and Cohen) albums

February 4, 2008

The major supermarket chains have driven down CD/DVD/book prices just as much the online retailers and digital downloads.  Pity the poor specialist music retailers (only joking!) But I never thought I’d ever see prime Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen albums retailing at £2.50 each!   Tesco are selling a load of Sony 2-fers including boxed sets of Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind and “Love And Theft”, and Leonard Cohen’s Songs Of Leonard Cohen and Songs Of Love And Hate for £5 each – that’s just £2.50 per album.  I paid £15 each for some of these albums – when £15 seemed like a lot of money!  Will top albums soon be available at £1 each?  I wouldn’t bet against it. 

Gerry Smith