Tag Archives: Exploring New Music

Exploring New Music: Warren Zevon

Three months into my 2018 new year resolution to listen to more music and this time, I’m looking at an artist introduced to me by Alfie but suggested for this project by Gill Jansingh.  The artist is Warren Zevon and he wrote the song that has become my all time favourite song by Alfie Boe, the wonderful Keep Me In Your Heart.  Although the basics of the song are the same in both versions, it’s Alfie’s interpretation and voice that really shakes the buttons on my blouse – they’re perfectly safe with Zevon’s original!

Of Zevon’s albums, I concentrated on three for this post, the eponymous 1975 album, 1978’s Excitable Boy and The Wind, released just before his death in 2003 (Keep Me In Your Heart is from The Wind).  Of the three, although liking elements from all, my favourites are Warren Zevon and The Wind.  Encompassing musical genres such as country, rock, folk, pop and blues, Zevon’s own style is somewhat harder to describe; in this respect at least, he reminds me of Alfie’s eclectic musical career so far.

There are several outstanding songs on The Wind, namely Numb As A Statue, Prison Grove, El Amor De Mi Vida and Rest of the Night, that showcase Zevon’s talent as a lyricist.  Please Stay and Rub Me Raw are also little gems, while Knockin on Heavens Door is one of the best versions of the Dylan classic that I’ve heard.  Prison Grove sounds like an old chaingang style song, similar to the rhythms of Rosie, from Alfie’s Trust album, while Rest of the Night is a great dancing tune which exhorts us to just enjoy life while you can – “we’ve got the rest of the night”.

Zevon’s eponymous album of 1975 has some cracking tunes and eminently singable lyrics, even if the meaning of what you’re singing takes you by surprise on occasion.  Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me, also a hit for Linda Ronstadt, is a song with great danceability and simple yet powerful lyrics that take a somewhat dark turn, as does Carmelita, which beguiles with a country sound whilst Zevon sings about addiction.  Sleep When I’m Dead, surely an anthem for would be rockers, has a definite edge of punk.

Excitable Boy was the least successful of the three albums I concentrated on for this post and also seemed to contain the most pop / rock sound.  Having said that, there aren’t that many albums that reference the Biafran war early on – Zevon was certainly an intelligent lyricist who knew how to tell a story as well as make the listener think.

One of the most enjoyable parts of listening to music recorded a while ago is working out the musical influences; I could hear Springsteen, Dylan, Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton amongst others and yet I know that many of you will hear different things again.  What do I take from Warren Zevon? The joy of music written for the sheer joy of writing and recording and not with one eye on the sales market, and it seems that his music was a critical success right from the start with the sales being a little harder to come by.  This is perhaps due to the intrinsic difficulty of categorising the music so this would be a good moment to remind ourselves of Alfie’s perception of music: it’s either good or bad.  And Warren Zevon’s music is good, very good.

The Wind and other albums are available here:

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Exploring New Music: Led Zeppelin

My 2018 new year resolution to listen to more music is into the second month and this time, I’ve chosen Led Zeppelin, recommended to me by the lovely Linda Wellington.  In fact, when I asked for recommendations, I would have been shocked had Linda not mentioned Led Zeppelin as she absolutely loves them!  Aside from Stairway to Heaven, I wasn’t really aware of much of the music of Led Zeppelin until I heard Alfie sing Rock and Roll and Kashmir – this made me listen to the originals but until now, that was as far as I got.

Linda kindly supplied the whole back catalogue for the band but especially recommended Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Graffiti as being the best albums to start with.  Led Zeppelin is a band that I would never normally listen to, having the preconceived notion that I’m not keen on that genre of music.  Now however, whilst admitting it’s still not 100% my kind of music, there is a lot to like, not least the different influences apparent over both albums.

My highlights from Led Zeppelin IV include The Battle of Evermore, with it’s eastern inspired sound and acoustic guitar and mandolin, Going to California, When the Levee Breaks and Misty Mountain Hop.  The shorter, acoustic inspired tracks appeal to me more but I really loved the blues infused Levee Breaks as well.  Rock and Roll is also a favourite, but I hope I’m forgiven if I say I like Alfie’s version better!

You can see how much I liked Led Zeppelin IV by how many highlights I picked but Physical Graffiti is also a great album.  Besides Kashmir, my favourites here are Night Flight, Down by the Seaside, The Rover and Trampled Under Foot:

Although many songs pass the get up and dance test, Night Flight, with it’s opening bars sending you headlong into the song is the best.  Some of the other songs have fabulous long intros which allow the listener to really appreciate the musical skill on show but getting straight into the main body of the song is what I liked about Night Flight.

As I mentioned earlier, my New Year resolution is to listen to more music, especially that inspired by Alfie, so I’m looking for more recommendations.  If you have any recommendations for me, fill in the form and I’ll see what I can do:

Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Graffiti are available here:

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Exploring New Music in 2018

Back in 2015, I interviewed Alfie just before he went off to Broadway to do Les Miz and just after he had created the role of Jimmy in the world premiere of Classic Quadrophenia.  Naturally, we spoke about the highlights of that concert at the Royal Albert Hall and I told Alfie that I was surprised by how good Billy Idol was.  I had to admit that aside from the obvious few hits, I didn’t really know much about Billy Idol and his music, to which the answer from Alfie was unequivocally, “well, you should – you should definitely listen more, especially to Rebel Yell“. That was over two years ago and although I had the best intentions, I still had not researched and listened to Billy Idol!  Now, however, looking around for a new year resolution that might actually stick, I came up with the idea of listening to more music, especially music that I would not normally choose to listen to and has been introduced to me by Alfie.  Of course, my first subject for this monthly post is Billy Idol!

Growing up in the 1980’s, I couldn’t help being aware of Billy Idol, particularly White Wedding, Hot in the City, Mony Mony and Rebel Yell but I would never seek out his music to listen to; rather, it was part of the music culture of that time.  So, embarking on project Billy Idol, what did I actually know about his music?  If you had asked me a month ago I would have said his music was punk but I came to realise that although the music is definitely originated in punk, it has much more of a pop sound and style about it that I wasn’t expecting.  Punk Pop, perhaps.

Although, this was the song that Alfie had recommended me to start with, he might have meant the whole album, also entitled Rebel Yell.  Regularly cited as Idol’s best album, I’ve now listened to the whole album and I agree, it’s great! It’s catchy, it’s got rocking rhythms and tunes and above all, it’s reminiscent of that whole era.  Aside from this song, Eyes Without A Face is my favourite track. Luckily, Idol was making his mark just when MTV started and I can still remember the novelty of watching music videos  non stop on the TV…something that we today can scarcely credit, with our non stop on demand music!

From Rebel Yell, I worked my way through his other albums but nothing caught my ear until his 2014 release, Kings and Queens of the Underground.  This is the title track:

I’m a sucker for songs that tell a story and the lyrics on this song are fabulous; recalling past glories whilst also moving the story forward.  It doesn’t hold back on the highs and lows of the rock and roll life either; it could be subtitled, ‘how the hell am I still here’? The sound is unexpectedly pared down and would be a great song to hear live.  Other tracks that appeal are Save Me, Postcard From The Past and Ghosts In My Guitar.  They have different styles, from the understated to the classic Idol sound but as a whole, it hangs together perfectly.

Kings and Queens of the Underground is available here:

As I mentioned earlier, my New Year resolution is to listen to more music, especially that inspired by Alfie, so I’m looking for some recommendations for another eleven posts.  If you have any recommendations for me, fill in the form and I’ll see what I can do:

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all your Alfie news straight to your inbox

plus 4 exclusive photos and a welcome message from Alfie himself