Angry Baby

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Christmas is almost upon us and here at thoughtsofjustafan we’re feeling very festive and listening to lots of Christmas music.  One artist I’ve been listening to is Beth Ford who has already had a phenomenal year and is topping it off with her version of Silent Night:

Beth’s voice, which is always described as ‘hauntingly beautiful’ and ‘mesmerising’ brings a whole new expression to this traditional carol. Even if you think you’ve already heard Silent Night too many times, you won’t want to miss out on Beth’s refreshing rendition -guaranteed to put a tingle in your spine for Christmas!

If you want to get a free download of Silent Night from Beth, all you need to do is click through from the video, or click here and pop your email under the red arrow!!

Beth is also releasing an ecard version of her video, which you can watch below, but if you want to show your friends and family you’re thinking of them this Christmas, you can share this link to give it as an ecard with the extra gift of a free copy of the track – what’s not to like about that?

Both videos feature Beth’s original artwork, which is very beautiful and subtly Christmassy.

This blog originally featured on Angry Baby – thanks Flo!

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As you know, here on thoughtsofjustafan I like to bring you new music from time to time and this is one of those times!  This week, I featured an interview with former Jean Valjean Dan Koek as part of the Club 24601 series and as he’s a lovely bloke he kindly gave me a free track to share with my lovely readers (that’s you, in case you’re wondering!) so click here to get it before the offer goes away.

In order to bring you this free track I partnered with Angry Baby who alongside Dan, featured an up and coming artist on her blog this week.  I listened to his music and I liked it a lot so here is Angry Baby’s review of Robb Murphy:

A couple of weeks ago I found a message in my Angry Baby twitter account from Robb Murphy, inviting me to listen to his music. I clicked the link without any great expectations for what I would hear, but within a few seconds I was captivated by his sound. My little sister, who is not known for being particularly engaged with music, even began to fairy dance around the room, so I knew that this was an artist that I needed to hear more from and share with you.

I reached out to Robb, who told me a bit about his music and his influences.

Although Robb’s music has a traditional feel and rhythm to it that must come from his Irish heritage, he told me that he takes inspiration from “normal day to day life, the ups the downs we all go though, and always try to have a positive element in them”.

He went on to explain that he is influenced by nature and his surroundings, both his home in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. He was lucky enough to write much of his current album in a small town in Tuscany, which provides an opportunity to explore the contrast to those influences from album to album. Since Robb is an artist whose music is worth spending time with, I am looking forward to spotting where Ireland meets Italy in his music.

Here is a video of Robb’s new single Headstrong for you to listen to. Robb explained that Headstrong is taken from his current album, Sleep Tonight and describes the video:

“The video is a glimpse into my crazy head; people dressed in animal costumes who stage a break out from a zoo and are chased around by the zoo keeper getting up to mischief along the way.” Now that has to be worth taking a look at!

The song Headstrong is about keeping your focus, not getting distracted and sticking to your goals, so take a listen, and maybe try out your own fairy dance!

Robb’s musical influences are varied. He explained that “lyrics draw me in mostly, even more so if with an emotive melody. And I love a good upbeat pop song too. Bands like U2, REM, Del Ametri, Bon Iver, Counting Crows, and singer songwriters like Paddy Casey, Damien Rice, Ben Howard and Ryan Adams. I also love 60s and Motown and I am a vinyl collector!”

The reference to a preference for vinyl makes even more sense when you realise that Robb has a background as a producer and engineer, which may also explain the beautiful, melodic arrangements and attention to detail that shine through in his recordings.

Robb is currently touring in the Netherlands and returns to Northern Ireland for two scheduled performances early in November. I’ll certainly be keeping a look out for any more dates across the UK as he is an artist that I would love to hear ‘live’. I’ll keep you posted if I hear from him!

Finally, here is Robb’s advice for anyone who is just starting out with music:

Love what you do, create what you are proud of, don’t get too influenced by other current music, and write / play as much as you can. If your music happens to catch a few ears along the way that is great, but for me it is secondary. Music is a good way to express creativity and to meet like minded people so just keep at it and rewards will come!

If you like Robb’s music, Angry Baby has a FREE track available so don’t forget to click here to go through and claim your free track.  It’s fab!

Thank you to Flo at Angry Baby for allowing me to re-blog and share Robb’s music.

Les Mis has passed it’s 30th anniversary date and we are continuing to celebrate Club 24601 with our series of interviews with former Jean Valjeans.  This week, it’s the turn of Australian Dan Koek who played the role in 2013-2014.

Dan first heard about the possibility of playing JVJ in early 2013 when he was back in Australia getting ready to reprise his South Pacific role in Melbourne and Sydney.  After an initial meet and greet audition, he then went through a total of nine auditions before he finally landed the role.  However, he first served his JVJ apprenticeship as he calls it, starting in the ensemble for twelve weeks before the creative team were sure he would be ok in the role.  Dan says that there were “a lot of notes after each performance” but after the first month or so he relaxed into the role more and that he just had to “make my own decisions about how to play the role”.  Fans have their favourite JVJ but Dan found he couldn’t think about that although he was sometimes conscious of following on from other stars.

In common with all the other JVJ actors I spoke to, Dan said that the best thing about the role was the “sheer exhilaration of singing that amazing score everyday.  I never tired of it.”  However, also in common with the other actors, the amazing score was also the worst thing about the role.  Dan comments “the pressure is always to be amazing, especially if you’re tired…it can start to eat away at you”.

When I started this series of interviews I wanted to know how similar the experiences of being JVJ would be, in particular, would they all choose the same song as their favourite?  Apart from Bring Him Home, of course, named as the “pressure song” by Dan, the most popular favourite song was the soliloquy.  In Dan’s case he chose it as it was “very satisfying from both an acting and singing point of view”.  On one occasion, however, the soliloquy was definitely not a good moment; in his first couple of weeks as JVJ, Dan was pretending to eat the bread before the soliloquy when a crumb shot up his nose and lodged in the back of his throat.  To his horror, the crumb stayed there and audience members may have been impressed by the emotion apparently shown by the tears streaming down his face when in fact, it was just that piece of bread!

In terms of favourite songs by other characters, Dan chose Eponine’s On My Own, mainly because of the incredible voice of his Eponine, Carrie Hope Fletcher. That is also my favourite song of the show, and Eponine is my favourite character too.

Earlier this year, Dan released his second album, High, after leaving the show last year.  He would love to go back at some time in the future, Cameron Mackintosh said he “looked forward to bring him home” but left in order to further his recording career.  As mentioned above, JVJ is very demanding, takes all the actor’s energy and it was also Dan’s fifth year of being in a long running musical, so time for a change.

Another reason for the change was the chance to make himself more employable and so the album, High (click here to buy) is what Dan terms popera, pop with a classical twist as opposed to “someone like Alfie Boe who does more classical with a pop twist”.  The tracks work well together, with highlights being Remember Me (duet with Carrie Hope Fletcher) and Always and Forever.  Of course, being a former JVJ, Bring Him Home features on the album – which is a duet with Jonathan Ansell.  Now, on top of being a fabulous singer Dan is also a lovely bloke who has given me a free copy of Bring Him Home to share with thoughtsofjustafan!  To share this with you, I’m partnering with the Angry Baby blog, so to add this free copy of Dan’s Bring Him Home just click here.  This iffer won’t be around forever, so do it now!

In the meantime, here is a video trailer for High:

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Hollie Aires is known in and around her home town of Rugby as the the “Rugby Songbird” –  I was first alerted to her pure voice by Flo Bannigan’s Angry Baby blog (click here for the link).   Hollie has just released her second EP, Ghosts in the Garden and at the grand old age of 17 is already a seasoned musical actress.  As Swallow in the West End’s Whistle Down the Wind, she received considerable critical acclaim; her next challenge is as Mimi in Rent.  Industry support has also not been slow in coming with Hollie having written with Hit composer Jayne Taylor and further support from Martin Sutton at the PRS in London, KISS FM DJ Charlie Hedges and Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale. And so to that newly released EP, Ghosts in the Garden.  Listening to it, I’m struck by Hollie’s wide vocal range, shown off perfectly in the second track, If I Should Break.  There is also a striking resemblance to the music of Suzanne Vega and Joni Mitchell, amongst others,  in this song.  The haunting melody showcases her range and the accompanying lyrics point towards a mature song writing future. One line gives the review it’s title whilst another gives pause for thought: “I can’t lose you like I’ve lost myself”.  If you like strong female vocalists with a penchant for hauntingly beautiful melodies and thought provoking lyrics, Ghosts in the Garden would be a great addition to your music collection.

If you want to catch Hollie live, she is shortly on tour (first venue this week sold out!) but check out her facebook page for further dates: https://www.facebook.com/HollieAiresOfficial

Ghosts in the Garden is out now and is available on iTunes:

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Back in May, Alfie referenced Pink Floyd as the ideal end to a perfect fantasy day (click here for the article).  Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve not listened to much Pink Floyd before so I thought I’d give them a go.  After all, I’d never listened to Led Zeppelin before Alfie either and that turned out ok!  So, if you want to know more about Pink Floyd, read on.  Even if you don’t want to know more about them, I’d still like you to read on!

A version of this first appeared on Flo Bannigan’s Angry Baby blog – thanks Flo!

The first age is their early years of whimsical pop.  The creative force behind Pink Floyd in these early years was Syd Barrett who, with Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason released albums The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) A Saucerful of Secrets (1968) and More (1969).   The singles See Emily Play, Bike and Arnold Layne are probably the best-remembered songs from this time and the compilation album Relics (1970) provides a good run through Pink Floyd’s early work.  Sadly, Syd Barrett suffered from mental illness, which has been linked to recreational drug use so the band recruited David Gilmour to fill in for Syd who, eventually left Pink Floyd. His genius and his influence on their music was later celebrated in the (1975) track Shine on you Crazy Diamond:

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond
Now there’s that look in your eye, like black holes in the sky
Shine on you crazy diamond

Pink Floyd then entered their second age and some of the material they produced at this time is of almost symphonic proportions. It’s hard to digest – or hard to find the digestible bits – and people tend to either love it or hate it.
The double album Ummagumma (1969) came out of this period and consists of one side per member of the band (Rogers, Gilmour, Mason and Wright) so each one is different.  Atom Heart Mother (1970) Meddle (1971) and Obscured by Clouds (1972) are other products of this age.  Of these,  Atom Heart Mother is the one that I’d recommend for a Pink Floyd record collection, along with the track Echoes from Meddle.

The third age of Pink Floyd is the time when they produced the work they are most known for and which was, and remains, commercially successful.  This age contains the music that I and I guess most people, know them for.  The classic Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon (1973) was in the charts for a mind-blowing 741 weeks  so I guess no Pink Floyd record collection is complete without it.  Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979) were released and toured extensively.
The Wall is probably best known for the track Another Brick in the Wall and Gerald Scarfe’s animations.  It actually expressed Roger Waters’ increasing sense of isolation from their audience as the band played bigger and bigger venues, and it was being toured by Roger Waters as recently as 2013.

Pink Floyd’s fourth age is described by Flo as ‘Deconstruction’.  The band was falling out with each other and the music they continued to produce together wasn’t critically acclaimed although the Roger Waters inspired Final Cut (1983) is still worth a listen.  The break-up is often described as a feud between Waters and other band members.  Waters went his own way in the mid-1980s and, although the remaining band members continued to work together, recording the albums A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987) and The Division Bell (1994), it’s clear that they had lost their spark.  The end of Pink Floyd was inevitable, although their earlier work is frequently revived in live albums, re-releases and Greatest Hits collections.

The final age of Pink Floyd is their solo work.  The band members had worked on solo projects, on and off, throughout their careers, but the end of Pink Floyd brought about a few solo projects.  These include Richard Wright’s album Broken China (1996) David Gilmour’s About Face (1984) and On an Island (2006) and Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (1981). Roger Waters has recorded several solo albums – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (1984) and his opera Ca Ira (2005) are the ones we’d recommend for a listen.

And it’s worth mentioning that, despite his illness, Syd Barrett also produced some solo work. His album The MadCap Laughs (1970) is surprisingly good and, together with his other solo album Barrett (1970) is a suggestion of where Pink Floyd may have gone if he had continued to be a part of their music.

Pink Floyd re-formed for the 2005 Live Aid concert in Hyde Park, performing a handful of tracks from their classic albums.  Syd Barrett passed away in 2006; Gilmour, Mason and Wright performed in a tribute concert for Barrett in 2007.  Although both Gilmour and Waters continue to perform live, the death of Richard Wright at the age of 65 in 2008 put an end to speculation of any further reunions.

Hope you enjoyed this look through the music of Pink Floyd!