Music

Almost a week since Alfie Boe’s new album, As Time Goes By was released and Alfie has been on full promotional detail with four album signings this week.  Starting with Manchester, Alfie then moved onto London before visiting Sheffield and Blackpool.

Thoughtsofjustafan was at HMV Oxford Street, along with two glamorous assistants, Linda and Cecelia, to film fans and find out some favourite tracks.  With thanks to Sally Sadler, Tienne Lockwood, Claire Shorter, Clare Lloyd, Rachael Hailey, Elaine C Roberts, Jean, Jo Cassidy, Lucy Goddard, Tove and Andreas, Ildi, Barbara Durham, Natalie Morgan, Sue, Sue, Pauline, Lesley Smith, Joolz Gray, Brenda, Miles, Nicky, Julie, Julie, Mark and Alexandra, here is the edit:

Of those asked, the track with most votes was Sing, Sing, Sing, with Moonlight Serenade coming a close second.  Minnie the Moocher, My Funny Valentine and The Way You Look Tonight were next but every song on the album was mentioned at least once, with the exception of Stompin’ at the Savoy.  Shame – I loved that one!

Friday sees the official album chart unveiled – wonder if Alfie will have improved on the midweek position of number 5?  Don’t forget to help him do just that by buying a copy here (and don’t forget Christmas presents!):

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Two days until the release date of Alfie Boe’s new album,  As Time Goes By and it’s not a spoiler for this piece when I start by saying that it’s worth waiting four years for a solo album – it’s glorious.  The music of the 1920’s and 1930’s suits Alfie’s voice so snugly that you feel as if he’s always been singing this music.  These songs give the warmth in Alfie’s voice time to shine and the switch between big band sounds and the more intimate feel of the slower tempo songs showcase his extraordinarily wide repertoire.  The musicianship at work on this album is wonderful; it will be interesting to hear the differences on this and the live approach on Alfie’s tour next year.

As Time Goes By is a balance of smooth, classy, slower tempo tracks and some big band, upbeat tracks and they’ve got that balance absolutely right.  You’re eased in with La Vie En Rose and Moonlight Serenade before Sing Sing Sing launches into a song that has you up and out of your seat and dancing around.  In some of the many promotional interviews Alfie has recently done, he’s described wanting to “get down and dirty” with some of these tracks and for me, that is best embodied with Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Minnie the Moocher.  Both have an almost gravelly feel to them and whilst Alfie’s voice could in no way be described as gravelly, the arrangements are so good that gravelly is what I hear.  Following on from Ain’t Misbehavin‘, Mood Indigo also has a bit of a down and dirty feel about it but the big band accompaniment juxtaposes exquisitely to give it a sound all of it’s own.  These two songs are the stand outs for me.

Prior to listening to this album in full, my favourite track was The Way You Look Tonight, probably helped along by a smouldering performance on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year!

Of the slower tempo songs, it’s still my favourite, although there isn’t a song out of place on the whole album.  These songs have such an intimate feel that you truly understand why the title of Alfie’s UK tour in 2019 is An Evening with Alfie Boe; they lend themselves to the kind of intimate feel a few lucky fans saw in the Isle of Man.  It remains to be seen whether the format stays the same – hope so!

There are three duets on this album and all three are delightful.  Alfie and Kelsey Grammer are clearly having a ball on Minnie the Moocher, you can hear the smiles and laughter in the singing.  Kara Tointon and Brennyn Lark on, respectively, Stompin’ at the Savoy and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square are featured on songs that suit their voices wonderfully.  Of the two, I prefer Stompin’ but it’s a close run thing.   It would be fantastic to see either of these lovely singers guest with Alfie at one or other of his shows next year.

Overall, this is a wonderful album – there is not one song that shouldn’t be there and I loved all of them.  You might think that you don’t need another big band / swing / jazz album in your life but you’d be wrong.  As Time Goes By is a must have album, not just for Alfie fans but for everyone who likes good music.  It’s definitely up there with Alfie’s best albums.

As Time Goes By is available here:

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The week of Alfie Boe’s new album release has arrived and there seems no better time to look at another set of Six Sensational Songs, this time from Carole Naden.  Carole’s first choice is:

Of course, Bring Him Home, ‘the’ song that we all associate with Alfie.

Another eternally popular song, and the winner of the Best Live Song poll for the past two years, Run.

Angie, from Storyteller.  This beautiful cover of the Rolling Stones is making it’s first appearance in six sensational songs.

Dimming of the Day, first heard with Emilia Mitiku on the Storyteller tour but recorded for Trust with Shawn Colvin.

Another new song for our list of sensational songs, this is Wagon Wheel from Cardiff 2017, the first time we heard Wagon Wheel and the second time we saw Alfie play guitar.  The last time was five years on the Storyteller tour!

Carole’s sixth choice is Islands in the Stream, another song that debuted at Alfie’s summer concerts this year but I couldn’t find a video with just that, so you get a freebie this time around!

I say this every time sensational songs is published but the depth and breadth of Alfie’s repertoire is such that we have added another three new songs to the Six Sensational Songs playlist! Bring on the next tour!

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As the weather grows ever more Autumnal, it’s another great excuse to stay indoors and watch Alfie on YouTube.  To aid you in this, here is another instalment of Six Sensational Songs and this time, they are from Marie Blair, who first got to know Alfie when he did the Les Mis 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2.

Some Enchanted Evening, chosen by Marie because “…it was the song he sang at STV when I met him for the first time on 28 January 2011. It is from the musical South Pacific. In a recent documentary to celebrate his 70th birthday, Andrew Lloyd Webber said that it is the greatest song ever written for a musical.”

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Marie says “I met Alfie for the second time in September 2011 in Dundee at the Last Night of the Proms. He sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. It was and remains the best live performance he has done of that song in my opinion. I think it is mesmerising. It is such a beautiful love song.” Sorry I couldn’t find video of the right performance Marie!

Run, by now needing no introduction.  Marie’s reasons for choosing this are that “I think the performance at VE Day was just wonderful. I often watch it on YouTube and I love the way he acknowledges Murray on stage. I loved Leona Lewis’s version of this song but prefer Alfie’s. I really hope he records it.” And so say all of us, regarding the recording Marie!

The official video for If You Go Away, from Trust.  Marie loves this song and also the video, having watched it loads of times – I’m sure you’re not alone in that!

Billy Joel’s Always a Woman to Me was a bonus track on Storyteller – and is kindly shared here by Marcia, along with photos of Alfie and Sarah.*

Marie says “My sixth choice, Parlami D’Amore Mariu, was written in 1932 for the singer Vittorio de Sica and means Tell Me About Love Mariu. It is exquisitely sung by Alfie and remains one of my favourites. I do wish Alfie would sing more Italian songs and opera arias in particular.”  Knowing Alfie’s views on music and his wide ranging repertoire, I wouldn’t be surprised if this again happens in the future.

Thanks Marie for sharing your songs with us – two new ones added to the list!

If you would like to choose and share your six songs with us, please fill in the form:

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We’ve made it! The top place in the fifth annual Alfie Boe Best Ever Song poll is shortly to be revealed, but before we do that, let’s run down the top ten so far:

10 – A Living Prayer

9 – Rank Strangers

8 – You’re The Voice

7 – Keep Me In Your Heart

6 – A Thousand Years

5 – The Prayer

4 – Love Reign O’er Me

3 – Bring Him Home

2 – First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

And so, the song voted in at number ten is:

Anthem, recorded for Alfie’s 2016 album with Michael Ball, Together, is this year’s top song, the last of four songs from Together and Together Again.  Last year, Anthem was a new entry to the chart, ending up at number six.

Anthem is one of the most famous songs (although for me, I have more of an affection for the Elaine Paige / Barbara Dickson song I Know Him So Well) from the Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus musical, Chess, which opened in London in 1986 before closing three years later.  A subsequent Broadway production was much less successful.  Prior to either show, a concept album was released, from which Paige and Dickson’s recording derives as Dickson was unable to open in the London production.

Thanks for all your votes – always interesting to see what comes up trumps – and as Alfie has now announced his 2019 tour, it’ll soon be time to vote for our favourite live song again!

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Alfie Boe’s one off show on the Isle of Man was this week and regular reviewer, Cecelia Powell, was there for us.

On Tuesday 6th November some good pals and I trampled through lashing, windswept rain in Douglas, Isle of Man to the Villa Marina hall in all its Edwardian grandeur for what was billed as ‘An Evening with Alfie Boe’. Half the fun of an Alfie concert is meeting up with old friends and making new. Once you’re hit by the Alfie bug, you never know where he’s going to take you – musically, or for that matter, geographically! There were fewer familiar faces and the audience was predominately Manx residents, but there was a real buzz in the air. With a new album coming out, none of us was sure exactly what was to come.

The audience was warmed up by the talented Lauren Samuels, who treated us to musical theatre songs and the music of Burt Bacharach, ending her set with, what else, Bacharach’s Alfie.  After the break, four men walked on stage: Ross (the brilliant pianist who accompanied Alfie on his recent radio tour), Pete (the wonderful Australian guitarist who joined Alfie’s band for the summer concerts), Murray, (Alfie’s MD whom we’ve all learned to know and love) and the man himself. That was it. No backing singers, no horns, no drums. So from the beginning we knew we this was going to be a different performance to what we’ve been used to of late. Just four superbly talented men seated on a stage in a darkened concert hall. Dressed semi-casually in black trousers and jacket, with a white shirt hanging out and a pair of clunky boots, Alfie almost immediately asked for some lights to be turned on in the hall so that he could see the audience. And so the concert began.

First came a few of the new New Orleans jazz songs that have been trickling out from the new album: Sing, Sing, Sing, followed by Minnie the Moocher and Stompin at the Savoy, ending with The Way You Look Tonight. But these weren’t the big production numbers that we’ve been hearing from the album. The whole feel was much more intimate, much more inclined to draw you into the feel of that smoky jazz club where the music was originally heard. For these numbers, and throughout, Alfie contributed to the musical arrangements with a tambourine. People weren’t up dancing in the aisles, but feet were tapping, hands were clapping and the focus was entirely on the man and his music. The diamond in his pocket, Bring him Home, had to come, but he preceded it with a few cheeky bars from Master of the House because there had to be a bit of banter – like the fact that he’d dressed up as Jean Valjean for Halloween wearing his jacket from Les Mis, and everyone thought he was The Greatest Showman!

A short break for people to get drinks and refreshments was followed by a selection of Neapolitan tunes. The sublime Parlalmi D’Amore Mariu from La Passione was followed by Serenata’s Mama, Volare and Mambo Italiano, and he left the stage to Buona Sera, which left us feeling like we’d all been kissed. There was banter, there was audience participation, but it was more the feel of being at a private party than at a concert.

Another short break, and we were treated to a folk/country section. First, Keep Me in Your Heart in the heart-wrenching way it’s sung on the album. But, of course, there had to be some audience participation on those Sha La La Las. When it came time to get the men to sing, and a voice cried out “Bring it on!” Alfie had the perfect foil. Little did Alfie know that Lester was a music teacher, and he not only joined in with the singing but belted out an accompaniment on the piano! Tom Petty’s evocative Wildflower came next, and then The Old Crow Medicine’s Show’s Wagon Wheel. Now this is a number that really allows his accompanists to shine, but there was ample time throughout the evening to let the musicians showcase their talents with fabulous guitar riffs and almost ragtime piano solos. This was topped off by a version of Guns & Roses’ Sweet Child of Mine. Not a rock star version, but one that was packed with so much raw emotion and longing it left me breathless. The Together albums that he recorded with Michael weren’t to be forgotten, of course. First Hero and A Thousand Years, and then He Lives in You, Pete joining in brilliantly on the vocals. The set ended with Run, for which Alfie called Lauren Samuels back on stage to join him. And then came the encore of Elton John’s Rocket Man. An extraordinary performance that took me up to the stars.

Over the course of the evening, there was plenty of interaction with the audience in his own inimitable northern style, including comments aimed directly at Manx residents that drew much laughter. My favourite was a story of his visit to the island as a ten-year-old lad on a school camping trip, on which the nuns kept the children in order by relaying tales of the “Moddey Dhoo”, a phantom dog said to haunt Peel Castle. And there was a collection taken up at the end of the evening for a hospice on the island, of which he is an ambassador and had visited that morning.

The man can sing absolutely anything so, unlike most performers, he attracts fans with very disparate tastes in music. Luckily for me, I love the man in all his musical guises. He can be any of them, or all of them. For me it’s all about the voice and where that voice takes me, and believe me I travelled a lot of miles that night! For this one night, we were treated to something that I found very, very special, and who knows if it will ever be repeated. Most of the songs were entirely delivered seated. There was power, but it was controlled. There was no razzle dazzle, no gimmicks, no distractions. The songs were stripped down to the bone. I heard things in familiar songs that I’ve never heard before and, as always, they were sung note perfect. It was like having a private gig with the man. I was sitting in packed concert hall, but it felt like he was singing directly to me. This really was Alfie unplugged, and for me the evening was magical. I was wrapped up in a musical bubble and floated out of the hall. In fact, I don’t think I’m still quite down on terra firma yet. For me, this concert was billed exactly right. We were treated to an evening with Alfie Boe, and I feel blessed to have been there.

What a fabulous review Cecelia and I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say that I wish I had been there.

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Just one week until we unveil the top spot in the fifth Alfie Best Best Ever Song poll and in at number two is a song that was once part of Alfie’s live set on a regular basis but has since made way for his more recent material.  The song has only once entered the top ten, at number five in 2016 and is First Time Ever I Saw Your Face:

The song was written by folk singer songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger before they were married although the song only became world famous when Roberta Flack’s version was used in the Clint Eastwood film, Play Misty For Me.

In a recent interview, Seeger retold the story of how the song came into being:

I told him [Euan MacColl] that I was doing a radio show and they wanted a love song and they would prefer a new one…He said, “how about this” and sang The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

In the years since, there have been many, many cover versions, (all of them hated, at least those recorded before 1989, apparently by MacColl) but my favourite is George Michael’s version. Somewhat controversially, I once made an admission that I prefer George’s version to Alfie! It’s still the case I’m afraid, especially now that George is no longer with us.

It’s rare that I find another artist’s version better than Alfie’s version but with this song, George’s phrasing edges it for me.  Certainly, it’s the best track on George’s album Songs from the Last Century.  Interestingly, in a long ago radio interview, Alfie picked George Michael as having a great voice and could have been even better if he’d gone down the route of vocal training.

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Almost time for the new album – who’s getting excited about As Time Goes By?  I imagine one or two of the songs will feature in the list of Alfie Boe’s Best Ever Song 2019 but before we get to that, here is another one in the occasional series of our Six Sensational Songs.  This time it’s the turn of Betty May to tell us her choices.

Dimming of the Day, from Trust – with a great Tom Jones anecdote at the beginning of this clip from Cardiff.

Bring Him Home, this time from Fleetwood, bringing the number of times this song has featured in this series to ten.

The ever popular live song, Run.

A throwback to La Passione with Parlami D’Amore Mariu at Leeds 2015 – note the short hair in preparation for Les Mis on Broadway!

Come What May with West End star Kerry Ellis.

Tell Me It’s Not True, from Blood Brothers – all the way back in 2012!

Thanks Betty for sharing your six songs with us.

If you would like to see your favourite Alfie songs featured here, please fill in the form:

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Ten months into my New Year resolution to listen to more new and varied types of music and I have to admit that for October, I have cheated a bit – the music I’ve chosen this month is not new to me.  However, she’s been out of the limelight for a while and delightfully, I discovered a new EP from her when I researched this piece.

Emilia Mitiku first came to the attention of Alfie Boe fans, myself included, when she supported Alfie on his Storyteller tour in March / April 2013. She was heavily pregnant at the time and this gave way to an unexpectedly hilarious moment when Alfie introduced her, before their duet on Dimming of the Day.  Emilia also duetted with Alfie on Angel from Montgomery on that tour.

This version of Dimming of the Day is my favourite and is often chosen as one of fans’ six sensational songs.  I’m still not sure how I managed to leave it out of mine!

Emilia has released several albums but the one I’m concentrating on, and is probably most familiar to Alfie fans is 2012’s I Belong To You, a collection of what Emilia calls vintage pop.  A mixture of pop, overlaid with jazz and country sounds, the album showcases Emilia’s rich, velvety voice in a number of styles, all of which reflect the jazz, pop and traditional Ethiopian music she grew up with. The first song I ever heard from Emilia reminded me of Dolly Parton:

The subject matter of heartbreak and the country lilt of the music show Emilia’s mastery of styles, especially when compared to the upbeat, sparkling So Wonderful:

One song from this time that didn’t appear on I Belong To You, is Why Is He So Mean?

This was a highlight of Emilia’s live performances in 2013 and quickly became a favourite with the mostly female Alfie Boe audience, as only catchy, rhythmic songs about women surviving relationships can!  It’s impossible to sit still and listen to this – before you know it you’re up and dancing, whilst also singing at the top of your voice.

As I mentioned earlier, I was overjoyed to find new music from Emilia when researching this piece.  Blue, Blue, Blue, a four track EP was released in late 2017 and is pure, vintage Emilia Mitiku, stylistically similar to I Belong To You. Opening with a slow, silky cover of Rihanna’s We Found Love, the EP gets into it’s stride with the title track:

Upbeat, with a catchy hook, this is another song you’ll be quickly singing and dancing along to.  “Blue, blue, blue, that’s what I learnt from you” appears to take up where I Belong To You left off and is all the more welcome for it.  I would be happy if Emilia made this sort of music forever.

When Our Roads Cross and Forgetful Lover hark back to another era of music, reminiscent of Alfie’s forthcoming album, As Time Goes By – I would love to hear Alfie’s voice sing some of Emilia’s songs.  This record is so smooth and silky, it was over far too quickly; I hope 2019 sees more new music from Emilia Mitiku.

Blue, Blue, Blue is available here:

I have one copy of Emilia’s album, I Belong To You, to give away, just answer this question:

Which two songs did Emilia sing with Alfie Boe on his 2013 Storyteller tour?

Competition will close at Midnight on 7 November 2018 – good luck!

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Just three more weeks of the poll to find out your favourite Alfie Boe recorded song – and we come to his signature tune, Bring Him Home:

Bring Him Home is of course a constant in Alfie’s live performances and in this annual poll; twice being voted number one and never being lower than number four.  So much has been written about Alfie and this song (quote a lot of it by me!) and it’s always a challenge to come up with something new to say about it, so this time, I’ll let Alfie do the talking with an extract from his autobiography, My Story.  Alfie is talking about his life changing appearance at the Les Mis 25th anniversary concert:

I knew that Bring Him Home would be my moment, the golden key.  I knew that was it.  ‘Boy needs a song!’  It’s incredible, how that song came to me again, after our false alarm with the Festival of Remembrance.  We knew that was the one, but it disappeared, and we didn’t think of it again until Cameron Mackintosh knocked on the door.  And it is such a spiritual song, it’s so special.  When Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil write it they must have been excited.  They must have known they had something special…Herbert Kretzmer was really stumped with the lyrics, he didn’t know what words would fit to these three syllable lines.  The John Caird, the co-director, said the melody sounded like a prayer, and Herbert wrote it overnight.  It is a prayer, it’s acutally called The Prayer, it’s not officially called Bring Him Home, and I treat it as such every time I sing it.  I pray.  That’s what makes it work.

Beautiful words from Alfie – and for those who don’t know, Alfie sang Bring Him Home at the Festival of Remembrance in 2007 and Harvey Goldsmith said, “boy needs a song” after the performance.  It just took a few more years to really get hold of it!

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