Music

In the early summer of this year, I brought you Rachael Sage’s new single, Spark, ahead of the UK release of her thirteenth album, Myopia.  Happily, that album is now being released and I’ve been lucky enough to listen.  Rachael is one of my favourite artists to review as her songs tell stories, sometimes about dark subjects although you might not realise it at first, such is the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the lilting melodies and vocals that are Rachael’s signatures.

The sound of Myopia is a bit of a departure for Rachael, leaning as it does on guitars and strings rather than the more well known piano based songs.  I have to say that it works, Rachael’s song writing style and vocals being easily adapted to all forms of instrumentation.  The guitars lend a softness to the vocals and give the listener a new discovery about Rachael.  It will be interesting to see if this remains a one off or if we will see more guitars on the next album – and I’m sure there will be a next album, given how prolific Rachael’s output to now has been.

The title track is a new kind of anthem for Rachael, who sings passionately about a “screen of judge-
ment / in my face all the time” being lifted. It’s a declaration of self-assurance and vision that perhaps could only be made as disarmingly in the middle of a cultural crisis. Rachael’s own myopia started her thinking about nearsightedness on a much more macro level.   It’s all about perspective; the lens you might be looking through might be totally different to the lens of the person next to you.

The clarity that comes from being comfortable in one’s own skin is a theme that runs through much of the album with Maybe She’ll Have Cats being a stand out for me (“maybe she’ll have children, maybe she’ll have cats” endeared this song to me, having both a child and cats).  The song describes the difficulty of being comfortable in your own skin and also wanting that for your own children perfectly. It also has a great instrumental mid section.

Another stand out track is Olivia which sounds like a love song to Olivia, and my first thought on listening was that Olivia is a lucky woman to have this song written about her.  It turns out that the Olivia in question is Detective Olivia Benson, portrayed by Mariska Hargitay in the TV show Law and Order SVU.

Rachael says that  “I am a bit obsessed with that show, not only because the acting is superb but because it really juxtaposes the creepiest, most disturbed individuals in society against this incredibly fierce, resourceful and empathetic woman who does a hell of a
lot of saving and is basically the closest thing to Wonder Woman on TV.” Olivia Benson engenders the same kind of response in me – not just for the character but for the fact that she is the lead role in a traditionally male dominated TV genre.

Daylight is a song that shines a light (pun intended) on the murky subject of domestic violence, describing the vicious circle that keeps women in abusive relationships – it’s a very powerful song, made all the more so by the gentle lilt of the vocals and guitars.

Finally, we hear Rachael sing in Yiddish for the first time on Umru Mayne – the punk guitars are great and the organ sound a bit like The Doors.  Apparently Rachael channelled Mandy Patinkin when recording!

Myopia is available here:

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We’ve reached the half way stage of the poll to find the best Alfie Boe recorded song 2018!  The song at number five is a new entry to the chart, having only been released in 2017.  The third song to feature Alfie with Michael Ball and taken from Together Again, the song is The Prayer:

Happily, this song was voted in at number five in this year’s Alfie Boe Best Live Song poll!

The song was written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager, with Alberto Testa and Tony Renis for the 1998 film Quest for Camelot and was originally two solo tracks; English for Celine Dion and Italian for Andrea Bocelli. The song was then released as a duet by Dion and Bocelli and that is the version that is most well known.

Composer Foster had said that is is “a song that I just never get tired of playing, I never get tired of hearing it, and I never get tired of people telling me that they enjoy it. And it seems to mean a lot—it means a lot of different things to a lot of people. So it’s a powerful piece of music. I think it came through me, and I think Carole’s lyric is beautiful. And it’s very meaningful to me that when all is said and done, there is a piece of music like that, that will undoubtedly outlive me. It was a moment—that song was a moment for sure.”

The Prayer was was one of my standout songs of Together Again – it’s beautiful and is a treat for those who love to hear Alfie sing in Italian. Both Alfie and Michael excel here and it seems to be a fitting song for the troubled times we currently live in.

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In much anticipated news, Alfie Boe today announces a UK tour for next March and April!

To celebrate the release of his forthcoming album, As Time Goes By, the tour will start in March in Cardiff and end at the Royal Albert Hall mid April.

“I’m excited to get back on the road, especially with a new record that I’m so proud of. These songs are at their best when performed live!” says Alfie.  He adds, “We’ll be enjoying some great songs from my previous records, but I more than anything want to bring back to life an era when British audiences discovered a brand new kind of American music, full of energy, optimism and romance. I’d like to transport people to a time in their lives, a moment or even a style. I hope you all enjoy being transported there as much as I do!”

Tickets go on general sale at 10am on Friday 19th October 10am:

See tickets

Ticketmaster

Gigs and Tours

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Thoughtsofjustafan favourite John Owen-Jones has been recording his fifth album this year, to be released in 2019 and this is the first release from Spotlight:

From Beauty and the Beast, Evermore is perfectly suited to John’s beautiful voice, the soaring vocals are just sublime and really give the listener a taste of what’s to come with the album.  Alfie Boe fans will of course know that Alfie recorded Evermore as a bonus track on Together Again (with Michael Ball) and listening to the two versions one after the other, I found myself wishing for a recorded duet from Alfie and John.  After all, the impromptu duet of Bring Him Home at the Royal Albert Hall five years ago was absolutely sensational!

Spotlight will feature John’s unique take on tracks from musicals and more, with music performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of John’s long time musical collaborator, John Quirk. Fans can be part of being involved more in the recording of this album via a crowdfunding campaign on John’s Pledge Music web page.

Evermore is available here:

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Almost half way through our countdown to find the fans favourite Alfie Boe recorded song and we arrive at our second new entry, A Thousand Years, nominated this year by Karen Blower:

It’s the second song to feature Alfie’s collaboration with Michael but this is from their first album, 2016’s Together.

The song was originally performed by Christina Perri for the 2011 film Twilight: Breaking Bad Part One.  Written by Perri and David Hodges, the song also featured on the soundtrack of Breaking Bad Part Two, as a duet with Steve Kazee.  In addition to Alfie and Michael, the song has been covered by several other artists, many with millions of YouTube views!

Together is available here:

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Number seven in the 2018 quest to find the fans favourite Alfie Boe recorded song is my favourite…Keep Me In Your Heart:

Now a staple of Alfie’s live set (so far!) in a different form, I love this video as I can see so many lovely friends in it!

Keep Me In Your Heart is from Alfie’s 2013 album, Trust (one of my favourites).  Judging my the results of this poll (only once has the song dropped out of the top ten since it’s introduction in 2014) everyone else feels the same…I worry for the safety of everyone’s buttons!

The song was written by US musician and songwriter, Warren Zevon in response to receiving a terminal diagnosis of asbestos related cancer and was the last song to be recorded for 2003’s The Wind, Zevon’s final album. Zevon survived the album release by only a few weeks although he did manage to see it achieve a top 20 chart position, his highest position since his critically acclaimed earlier album, Excitable BoyClick here to read more about Zevon’s music.

Trust is available here:

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September is here – and nearly over – and I nearly forgot my 2018 New Year Resolution of listening to more, new music (new to me)! So, looking again to Alfie for inspiration, I decided on an artist who both recorded a song that Alfie went on to record and who has worked with someone who Alfie has also worked with.

I am talking about bluegrass, country singer Alison Krauss who wrote Onward’s A Living Prayer, much loved by Alfie fans and featured at number ten in this year’s best ever song poll.  The artist that both Krauss and Alfie have worked with is Robert Plant; Alfie on the track Song to the Siren and Krauss on a collaborative album, Raising Sand.  In both cases, the pairing was somewhat surprising but wonderful.

Krauss and Union Station have released numerous albums, both solo and together so I chose a few albums to listen to, including Raising Sand as the partnership with Robert Plant was intriguing to say the least.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The vocals are in perfect harmony and it seems incredible to the listener that this was not a long term collaboration when recorded.  When it’s right, it’s right.  Killing The Blues is my favourite track:

The melody and vocals wrap the listener in a warm blanket of harmony and bluegrass – loved it. Straight after Killing The Blues comes the uptempo Gone, Gone, Gone:

Both artists seem to be having so much fun here and the catchy lyrics and beat have danceability in spades – I dare you to sit still whilst listening!  Other stand out tracks were Stick With Me Baby and Please Read The Letter.  Can you tell, I really liked this album?

Moving onto an earlier album for Krauss and Union Station, 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways has A Living Prayer on (click here to see this) but that’s not the song I enjoyed most.  That honour goes to Goodbye Is All We Have:

Perfectly suited to Krauss’s pure vocals, the song plays to her strengths – many of her songs are ballads and the emotion she portrays in song shines out here.  Restless, the opening track and Gravity are the best of the rest.

Finally, the last album I looked at was Krauss’s first solo album for a while, Windy City, released in 2017.  The stand out track here is Goodbye and So Long To You:

Out and out country, it’s a song that screams joy and is in the best tradition of country women standing up for themselves. Another one I couldn’t sit still for.   In contrast, the ballad, River in the Rain is just beautiful, showing the range of Krauss’s voice:

All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable aspects of my New Year Resolution – I’ll be delving more deeply into Krauss’s back catalogue from now on.

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Three weeks into our countdown to find the fans favourite Alfie Boe song 2019 and we arrive at the first new entry to the top ten:

The first song from 2017’s Together Again, this is the roaring cover of John Farnham’s iconic eighties anthem, You’re The Voice.  This video from the 02 features students from Mountview theatre school and makes the song even more powerful.

Written by Andy Qunta, Keith Reid, Maggie Ryder and Chris Thompson as a protest song, it was a massive hit for Farnham in 1986 – I remember this being everywhere at the time.

Together Again is available here:

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The song at number nine in the 5th annual Best Ever Alfie Boe Song is one that last year came in at number two, having been in and out of the top ten several times before that.  The only representative from Storyteller for the second year running, it is Rank Strangers:

Alfie has performed this song many times over the years but never quite like this, at Joe’s Pub in 2013.  To me, the closest to the recorded song.

Rank Strangers was written by Albert Brumley, a musician and singer born in Oklahoma in 1905.  After studying at the Hartford Musical Institute, Arkansas,  Brumley toured with the Hartford Quartet and went on to write / copyright an astonishing 800 songs.  The most famous of these is I’ll Fly Away from 1932.  In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Song Writer’s Hall of Fame and his songs have been covered by amongst others, Bob Dylan, who I’m sure introduced Alfie to the song.  Here are the Stanley Brothers:

Storyteller is available here:

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This week, we’re looking at Sue Line’s Six Sensational Songs – this is what Sue says about how she found Alfie: ” I found Alfie through the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert. I heard this voice and was spell bound. The fact that he’s drop dead gorgeous helps! Through Alfie I met Greta and Graham and the three of us will always be thankful for that. We’re more like family than friends.”

Here are Sue’s choices:

Run, chosen by Sue because “it says so much that’s like my life. Also, it was during Run that Alfie came into the audience at Nottingham and  sought me out for a hug.”

Bring Him Home, because “Les Mis is my favourite music theatre and I found Alfie through that. It also reminds me of my Dad. Dad died whilst I was on a train to meet up with Greta and Graham for the first time, to go and see Les Mis. I cried my way through BHH. I’ve got a tattoo that says Alfie with BHH under his name.”

The Prayer because ” it’s a beautiful song and hearing Alfie sing it in Italian is wonderful.”

In My Daughter’s Eyes.  Sue says that this is a very personal choice as “I had a daughter who passed away as a baby but her eyes were beautiful and shone when she looked at me.”

Glory, Glory.  Sue chose this because “he sang it when I first saw him live in Newcastle and he kept making me laugh by just waving his wrist. My arm was in a cast and that was the only way I could wave at him.”

A Thousand Years.  Sue’s son sings it to her; “He has autism and many physical and psychological problems but has a beautiful baritone voice and always makes me cry when he sings it.”

Thank you Sue for sharing your stories with us.

If you would like to see your choices featured, please fill in the form:

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