Archive for March, 2008

Morrissey – a post-Punk Dylan?

March 31, 2008

A couple of weeks before a Morrissey gig, a thirty-something friend had defined Mozza as “a post-Punk Dylan”.   

Though a recent convert, I’m a great admirer of Morrissey (and The Smiths).  I went to see Mozza solo at his enthralling recent London Roundhouse gig with the challenging Dylan comparison in mind – it had had me ruminating for days.  Morrissey, ex-front man of English post-Punk indie pioneers The Smiths and a solo artist for over twenty years, is certainly the nearest musician there is to a Dylan for a younger generation. 

Like Dylan, Morrissey’s main strength is as a writer: he’s a superior pop lyricist to anyone of his generation.  Like Dylan, Morrissey is revered by a large, loyal fanbase.  Like Dylan, Morrissey/Smiths had a profound impact on the direction of popular music.  And, like Dylan, Morrissey has a charismatic stage presence. 

But comparisons stop there.   

Dylan has far more depth and breadth than the Mozz.  His writing and music draws on far more sources than Morrissey’s.  Both his artistic canvas and his palette are far richer than Mozza’s. 

In a nutshell, Dylan is a great artist with universal resonance: he explores what it is to be human.  Morrissey is a great entertainer with a narrower focus: he explores what it is to be Morrissey.  

Gerry Smith

Palestrina portrayed

March 28, 2008

Giovanni Palestrina is one of the great sacred writers.  His masses, from his mid-16thC tenure in the Vatican, are one of the high points of Western culture. 

Missa Papae Marcelli of 1567, using six voices, and Missa Brevis are the best-known.  Even if you don’t know them by name, you’ll almost certainly recognise the melodies as they’re commonly used as scene-setters, denoting “Renaissance/High Church”, on television. 

Though few classical music listeners would rank Palestrina in their top five composers, many great musicians, better known than Palestrina, would beg to differ – he has always enjoyed a high reputation among later composers, who could wonder at his exemplary craft. 

And his reputation as a great cult composer among the listening public has been growing, slowly but inexorably: 450 years after his peak, Palestrina could well be a coming man.

The second part of BBC Four TV’s Sacred Music was a revealing tribute to the glory of Palestrina’s music.  You can catch a repeat, back-to-back with the first programme, on BBC Four on Sunday, 1900-2100.

And in a fortnight, the richly shot series reaches the Main Man – Johann Sebastian Bach.

Great art.  Wonderful arts television.  Highly recommended music for grown-ups. 

Gerry Smith

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

March 25, 2008

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

Wed/Th – nothing 

Fri 28 March

2000 Sacred Music (2/4) – BBC Four

2230 Dizzy Gillespie, Jazz Library – BBC Radio 3 

Sat 29 March

2000 Buddy Holly, Icons Revisited (1/10), BBC Radio 2 

Mon 31 March

2045 Manuel de Falla, Composer Of The Week – BBC Radio 3 (1/5, continues Tues-Fri)

2230 Karita Mattila (Finnish soprano), Artist Focus – BBC Radio 3

(1/4, continues Tues-Thurs)

2300 Maths And Music – BBC Radio 3, (1/4, continues Tues-Thurs)

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

March 19, 2008

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

Wed 19 March:  2045 Schoenberg, Composer Of The Week (3/5) – BBC Radio 3

(Plus programme 4 on Thurs, 5 on Fri) 

Good Friday 21 March: 1830 Bach’s St John Passion – BBC Radio 3

2000 Sacred Music (1/4) – BBC Four (repeated Sat 1900)

2230 Anita O’Day, Jazz Library – BBC Radio 3 

Sun 23 March:2030 Sacred Music – live concert – BBC Four 

Monday 24 March:2230 Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour (Instruments) – BBC Radio 2   

Gerry Smith

Shine A Light, the new Rolling Stones film & album: encore

March 18, 2008

The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band – and self-promo specialists – in the world.  No doubt about that.  Whenever new Stones product is about to hit the streets, boy do you know about it! 

With a few weeks to the launch of Shine A Light, the new film/double live album, the Stones are everywhere once again – in the mag racks (on the covers of current issues of both major heritage rock monthlies, UNCUT and MOJO); on the radio; in newspaper and magazine website advertising; and, I’d bet my life on it, TV/radio programmes, ads and interviews will be lined up ready to roll nearer the release dates. 

Some people disdain the Stones’s strong commercial impulse.  I applaud it – great musicians, great self-promoters; rich men, satisfied customers.    

Gerry Smith    



Shine A Light, the new live Rolling Stones 2CD, recorded at the Beacon, New York City in late 2006, is set for UK release on Monday 7 April.  (Tracklist below.)

 It’s followed on Friday 11 April by the nationwide UK release of the film of the same name, directed by Martin Scorsese.  And preceded on Wednesday 2 April by the film’s UK premiere – in London, but also to be shown in 100 cinemas nationwide: tickets cost £12.50.  

Album tracks:

Jumping Jack Flash


She Was Hot

All Down The Line

Loving Cup (with Jack White)

As Tears Go By

Some Girls

Just My Imagination

Faraway Eyes

Champagne And Reefer

Tumbling Dice

You Got The Silver


Sympathy For The Devil

Live With Me 

Start Me Up

Brown Sugar


Paint It, Black

Little T and A

I’m Free

Shine A Light

I’ll be passing on the CD and the cinema show, but waiting to buy the DVD in about three months – unless it’s as ludicrously overpriced as the last two Stones concert DVDs – Forty Licks and The Biggest Bang – which, combined, cost a cool £100 – about £75 too much – when I last looked in HMV!   

Gerry Smith

Sacred music – BBC Four’s promising new series

March 17, 2008

BBC Four, the TV channel for grown-ups, continues its exciting programming of high quality music with a promising new four-part series on sacred music, starting on Good Friday. 

Sounds like Musical Heaven to me … not to be missed …

This is what they’re saying about it:

“Taking the viewer on a pilgrimage spanning six centuries … performed by the award-winning choir ‘The Sixteen’ conducted by Harry Christophers …

“In the opening programme ‘The Gothic Revolution’ begins at St Paul’s Cathedral … travels to Paris to discover how, at the close of the twelfth century, plainsong (chant) became polyphony (music of ‘many voices’) – the birth of harmony in the west.

“The next stop in the series is Italy. In ‘Palestrina and the Popes’ …  links between the papal intrigues of Renaissance Rome and the music of the enigmatic Palestrina, ‘The Prince of Music’. Palestrina’s work is considered by many to be unsurpassed in its spiritual perfection, but running underneath it is the turbulent story of the counter-reformation, which would have a dramatic impact on the composer’s life and music …

“ episode three ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’ … the effect of Henry VIII’s break with the Pope and the subsequent tumultuous history of the founding of the Protestant Church in England through the careers of two professional church musicians who were also superlative choral composers …

“ … Germany where Luther’s Protestant Reformation led to a musical revolution and ultimately to the glorious works of Johann Sebastian Bach …

“A 90-minute celebratory concert accompanies the documentaries with music from the series for Easter Sunday performed by Harry Christophers and ‘The Sixteen’, specially recorded at LSO St Luke’s in London.”

Gerry Smith

Leonard Cohen European tour

March 14, 2008

Have you booked yet?  Better hurry up!

Booking for London O2 and Manchester Opera House opened this morning.  The Manchester option on Ticketmaster didn’t let me buy, so I booked for London O2, very reluctantly – far too big, far too expensive … . 

I wouldn’t have booked this venue at these prices for anyone else, not even St Bob … industrialised fun … blah … blah …, but I’ve never seen Lenny; I’ll just have to train myself to look forward to it.

Gerry Smith

Bob v Neil and 30th Anniversary Concert

March 14, 2008

Thanks to Martin Cowan: 

“Further to the recent discussion about Bob versus Neil, readers may be interested in following this link:

“And further to comments about the Dylan audience booing Sinead O’Connor, I seem to remember from John Bauldie’s coverage of the event at the time that the audience was made up of record company suits, showbiz types and corporate guests – I believe it likely there were very few ‘real’ Dylan fans present … “

OPERA ROUND-UP: Strauss’s Salome, Natalie Dessay, and a Mozzafest

March 13, 2008

Recent opera highlights for grown-ups: 

* David McVicar’s new London production of Strauss’s Salome (Royal Opera House) demanded respect, but it failed to engage fully.  It had some compelling sub-Wagnerian sounds from the pit, but the principals didn’t really fire my imagination.  Occasionally inspired, mostly disappointing.  

* Natalie Dessay’s star continues to rise.  Following her triumph in last year’s La Fille du Regiment in London – one of the most exciting performances I’ve seen, in any musical genre, in recent years – the French soprano has released some outstanding new product, including Bellini’s La Sonnambula and a must-have compilation, Airs d’Opéras Italiens  

Airs d’Opéras Italiens – tracklist: Verdi La TraviataE strano!… Ah, forse è lui – Follie! Follie… Sempre liberaBellini I puritaniO rendetemi la speme – Qui la voce sua soave – Vien dilettoDonizetti Maria StuardaAllenta il piè, Regina – Oh nube che lieve – Nella pace del mesto riposoVerdi RigolettoGualtier Maldé… Caro nomeBellini I Capuleti e i MontecchiEccomi in lieta vesta – Oh! quante volteDonizetti Lucia di LammermoorEccola… Il dolce suono – Ardon gli incensi –S’avanza Enrico – Spargi d’amaro pianto  

* Mostly Mozart, the Barbican’s welcome annual mid-summer Mozzafest, bravely pitched against The Proms season on the other side of London, runs this year from 10 July to 2 August, and booking is now open. Highlights include Cosi Fan Tutte, by Garsington Opera, La Clemenza di Tito, starring Alice Coote, and Mozart’s Requiem. 

The programme is well worth a look:   

Gerry Smith

Keep It Simple – more on the new Van Morrison CD

March 12, 2008

Promoting Keep It Simple, the new Van the Man album released in England next Monday (17 March), Lost Highway Records are hosting “good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks – full versions of ‘That’s Entrainment’ and ‘Behind The Ritual’”:

 And, for the next few days, you can hear Morrison’s interview with bluesman Paul Jones from his Monday BBC Radio 2 show:  

After an unpromising, solipsistic start – “the album addresses the propaganda about myself” (oooh, noooooooh, I groaned – not that stuff again …), the interview found Morrison in jovial, generous mode.   

Result?  An unusually compelling listen, and an intro to what sounds like Morrison’s best album since The Healing Game.   

Gerry Smith