Almost exactly a year ago, I blogged about Beth Ford’s debut single, If I Could Escape, which reached number 3 on an iTunes chart. Following a year in which Beth has performed live with People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman and tenor Jonathan Antoine as well as recording a duet with Michael Boe, I’m thrilled to be able to bring you the news that this wonderful single is being followed by a three track EP, to be released on Wednesday 13th July.
The Voyage comprises the title track, How We Love and Follow Your Dream and all three tracks showcase the improved maturity and strength of Beth’s voice. Last year I was struck by how much Beth had improved since I first heard her sing (on Alfie Boe’s Bring Him Home tour, with Alfie himself and Flo Bannigan) and a full twelve months on, I’m again struck by a much richer tone in her voice.
My favourite track is Chris Broom’s Follow Your Dream which sums up the performers mantra of believing in your dreams. Beth herself says “This sums up so perfectly what I believe in, nothing is impossible if you pursue your dreams…The lyrics of the song are simply perfect ‘your star will shine if you follow your dream‘”.
All three tracks flow seamlessly, telling a story of voyage, adventure and following your dreams which is what Beth seems to be doing quite successfully at the moment. Indeed, this weekend saw Beth sit at the top of amazon’s movers and shakers chart, thanks to all the pre-orders so far – an amazing achievement.
To order your download of The Voyage, just click on the image below:
If you click through now, you will also receive a musical gift from Beth to say ‘thank you’ and the chance to grab a special edition CD which features two bonus songs not available anywhere else. Having heard these extra two tracks, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend pre-ordering now. How do you get your hands on this? Once you have pre-ordered, just email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘The Voyage Bonus’ in the subject line – then you sit back and wait for your download and free musical gift to arrive. Hurry – you only have until Wednesday to get this exclusive special offer!
I recently heard some great new music from Angry Baby and I wanted to share it with you – thanks Flo!
Being a fearless storyteller is a great starting point for any contemporary folk singer. Add to that the creativity to build stand-out instrumentation topped by a voice that is uniquely sweet and complex and you have all the ingredients you need for a breakthrough folk album.
That’s what I found in Kelly Oliver’s Bedlam, released on boutique indie label Folkstock Records on 6 March 2016. It’s no surprise that she is already a favourite with the UK’s Folk Radio station and legendary music presenter Whispering Bob Harris.
Before you read on, Kelly Oliver is giving a FREE download of her song Lay Our Heavy Heads from Bedlam to Angry Baby readers – just click here to hop over to Angry Baby and get your free track.
Raised in Hertfordshire, Kelly Oliver’s Celtic heritage shines through. Lay our Heavy Heads is a timeless love story that gives the album a flavour of ‘Once the Musical’ – appealing to anyone’s inner musical theatre geek, especially mine!
I guess that Kelly comes from a tradition of strong women. Miles To Tralee, which Kelly wrote for her grandmother, tells a first generation immigrant story of struggle, against a backdrop of love and tragedy, and it’s clear that the young woman who is the subject of the story is a force to be reckoned with. Go Granny!
Kelly’s own life story proves that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Proud of her working class roots, though clearly not constrained by them, Kelly was travelling the world when, one day in Rio, she resolved to make her living from her music. It’s a gutsy decision, especially for someone who pours herself into her lyrics and doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects. But with courage in her genes, we shouldn’t expect Kelly Oliver to do any less than challenge us with her stories, while giving us music that entertains and enchants.
The title track Bedlam doesn’t pull any punches. Just to prove that folk music is built on the tough stuff of human existence, Kelly Oliver brings us the hellish scenes of Victorian mental asylums and the cruelty meted out to women suffering from post-natal depression. Cheery it ain’t, but social justice isn’t won with pretty poems.
Bedlam delivers contrast too. Within the Celtic vibe and theme of feisty women, Jericho could (in my head anyway) have been written for a Disney princess – specifically Merida, from Brave, all grown up and ready to claim her man. ‘I’ll fight off any girl in town, for him I’ll break the walls of Jericho down‘.
In the City tells a contemporary story of urban love and violence through mediaeval imagery of hunting and dancing, while The Other Woman explores a love triangle, proving that some themes are timeless.
Die this Way, brings us full circle to themes of social justice through a migrant’s eyes ‘Daddy, I don’t wanna stay here… why is there screaming and shouting and shooting…lets move away…they won’t let us in, why would they keep us out here …like a dog in the rain?‘. The final song Rio ends the album on a high note, something a little more cheerful, upbeat and optimistic to finish on,which you can expect to hear many more times as we near the start of the 2016 Olympics.
With such a creative, inspiring and thought-provoking selection of songs, Bedlam is definitely an album that no self-respecting music collection should be without. I have a feeling Granny is proud.
I asked Kelly what advice she would give to someone just starting out with their music. As you might expect, her advice reveals the steel in her spine:
‘Hopefully anyone starting out in music is passionate about the music they create and perform, which is the best place to start!
An important lesson I’ve learned is to make the most of your social media – engage with and respond to your fans and get your music online so that it can be listened to and shared. Invest in good promo photos and album cover photos – these get shared more widely than you might initially think!
I’d say try not to compare yourself too much to other musicians on the scene. Every musician is following their own personal path, and it’s more productive to focus on your own musical journey and concentrate on what you personally want to achieve as a musician.
Expect rejection and learn to brush it off instantly – it’s what I’ve done from the very beginning and it’s been the most valuable piece of advice that I’ve ever received. Saying that, it’s also important to keep an eye out for opportunities and take them wherever you can. I personally celebrate every small victory and, for me, that makes every day of being a musician fulfilling.’
Producer Harvey Weinstein said “… who better to take over the role than Alfie Boe? Known for his exquisite tenor voice, he’s also a superb actor whom we’re thrilled to have as part of the family.”
Director Diane Paulus went on to say “It is very exciting that our next J.M. Barrie will be Alfie Boe, whose breadth of experience and enormous musical talents I know will make him a thrilling Barrie. I can’t wait to work with Alfie and to welcome him to our company at the Lunt-Fontanne.”
Alfie himself said “I can’t wait to join this wonderful show and cast. I’m so excited. Just a little disappointed I’m not Tinkerbell” – glad to see the sense of humour is still intact!
So, how do we feel about Alfie taking on the role of JM Barrie in this new musical? When the rumours first surfaced this week, there were a fair amount of tweeters suggesting that while Alfie has a wonderful voice, he’s not right for the part. Looking closer at these tweets, it seems that most of the concern revolved around Alfie’s age as the previous performers in the role have been younger; add in the casting of a younger Sylvia and you can see why the comments were made.
However, what if the casting of a actor who is the same age as Barrie when he wrote about Peter Pan were to redefine the role? To answer this question, I turned to Angry Baby Music’s Flo Bannigan, who recently chose Finding Neverland as one of her Top Ten Shows of 2016. This is what she had to say:
Alfie is currently the same age as JM Barrie when he first wrote about Peter Pan so he is the perfect choice for the role. So far, younger actors have been cast but having someone older might mean a change of emphasis on the way the relationships are played out. The main relationship centres around that of Barrie and Sylvia but I’m intrigued to see how Alfie’s portrayal brings out Barrie’s relationship to the children – many reviews of him in Les Mis have specifically mentioned the authenticity of Alfie’s relationship with little Cosette. Different actors bring different aspects to the same character, no actor wants to take on a new role and play it exactly the same as all the others who went before.
When Alfie stepped onto the stage at the O2, he transformed the role of Jean Valjean forever. This was underlined when he stepped forward during the Valjean quartet – there was a definite sense of the baton having passed and a new style of JVJ was born from a different genre of performing arts. Before that, if you had asked ardent Les Mis fans whether JVJ could be played by an opera singer who wasn’t big and full of muscles they would probably have said no. That all changed after the 25th anniversary concert. Why shouldn’t he do the same for JM Barrie in Finding Neverland?
Thanks Flo. So, as Alfie so successfully redefined one of the most iconic roles in modern musical theatre, what if he could do the same for a new musical like Finding Neverland? How amazing would that be!
In the meantime, have you entered the Alfie Boe Les Mis Goodie Bag competition yet? Click here – good luck!
Although this blog is primarily about Alfie Boe, I also like to bring you new music and one person who has featured fairly regularly here this year is the super talented Beth Ford, who first came to our attention singing Impossible Dream with Alfie and Flo Bannigan. That was a few years ago now and Beth’s voice has matured and taken her to places she never even thought of at the beginning of the year.
So far in 2015 Beth has released her debut single, If I Could Escape, which reached number 3 in an iTunes new releases chart, scored a viral YouTube video with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Pie Jesu and supported People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman in concert at the Lichfield Garrick. The chance to sing on Rebecca’s stage meant a lot to Beth. She said “Appearing at the Lichfield Garrick to support Rebecca in July was a wonderful experience and I was genuinely touched by the generosity of Rebecca in asking me to be a part of her show.” Luckily, we can all enjoy the fruits of Rebecca’s generosity as she has given us permission to show this video of Beth’s performance:
This hasn’t been shared anywhere else yet so aren’t we the lucky ones!
Somehow or other Beth also found time to record a duet with Michael Boe which is included on his and Sean Ashmore’s new album, Along The Way, record an entry for G4’s Search for a Christmas Star competition and now she’s busy preparing to sing with young tenor Jonathan Antoine on the Birmingham date of his current UK tour (11th November, click here for tickets). We know that Beth has sung with Alfie Boe but did you also know that Jonathan has appeared with him too? They both appeared on the same night at the Llangollen Eistedfodd this summer – and another link – Beth went backstage to meet Alfie when he appeared at the Eistedfodd in 2012. Jonathan’s first solo tour is a bit of a back to basics approach, he says “The aim of this tour is to do away with over production. The intent with ‘An Evening with Jonathan Antoine’ is to remove the barriers between me and the audience…and go back to basics”. Having a local singer on the bill will do wonders to enhance Jonathan’s rapport with his audience too.
With all this happening for Beth in 2015, I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in 2016! Until then,as she’s such a lovely girl, she’s giving away a free music track, so hope over to www.bethfordmusic.com to add her beautiful voice to your music collection.
Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore’s album, Along The Way (featuring Beth on Streets of London) is available here: North Star Opera.
Tickets for Jonathan Antoine’s tour can be found by clicking here.
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Each summer there seems to be a ‘feel good’ song of the moment that perfectly encapsulates all the hopes and dreams that summer brings. This year, that song could very well be If I Could Escape from the natural voice of Beth Ford. A floating, dreamy song that talks of escaping to a place where everything is perfect. If you have ever wanted to do just that, then you could do a lot worse than escape via the pure tones of this song which will be released on Monday 13 July.
To get a free download of Beth’s music (two free tracks when you download If I Could Escape on release day plus a free copy of the double No.1 song I’m Always Chasing Rainbows now) just visit www.bethfordmusic.com. If you want to hear Beth perform the new single live, why not go along to the Lichfield Garrick on 16 July; Beth is appearing as a support act with the People’s Soprano Rebecca Newman. Tickets are still available, just click here.
Beth recently performed with Flo Bannigan for the first time since they met and sang Impossible Dream with Alfie Boe on his Bring Him Home tour. Warwickshire Pride was the venue this time around and they had the stage to themselves, no Alfie in sight! We’ll let him off as he was preparing for Classic Quadrophenia when the girls were singing this – but we’d love to hear your comments Alfie! For me, this shows how much both girls have matured and improved – fabulous job:
And I know you’re all dying to hear Beth and Flo sing with Alfie again so here is the Impossible Dream first time around:
This time last week I asked you to vote for your favourite Alfie Boe Tour – you have been voting but this was somewhat eclipsed by the Classic Quadrophenia controversy. So come on, what’s your favourite tour so far?
The most recent UK tour is streaking ahead so if that’s not your favourite please vote!
Over the next few weeks we’ll reveal some of your favourite tour moments, starting with the Bring Him Home tour in 2011/12. Of the fans who chose this tour, three moments stand out:
Seeing Alfie at Blackpool whilst sitting amongst both Alfie and Jason Manford’s families:
Hearing Alfie sing In My Daughter’s Eyes whilst the film of Grace played on the big screen (the moment picked was at Bristol but I can’t find the video of that so have used Blackpool):
Finally, back to the Impossible Dream, this time with Beth Ford and Flo Bannigan at Birmingham:
Regular readers will have seen the video from earlier that day of the sound check when Alfie first heard the girls sing; he was so impressed he invited them back again for the evening performance. And they even got some of his Roses! There’s a lot happening for Beth Ford Music in the next few weeks so click here to keep up to date.
Beth Ford is having a very good week: a video of her singing Pie Jesu to her mum in an empty church was picked up by the San Francisco Globe and went viral. 34,000 views and almost 300,000 facebook likes later, Beth featured on local Midlands radio and TV before going into the online edition of the Express and Star (click here).
This is fantastic news for Beth and her growing number of fans who look forward to her first single release later this year. In the meantime, take a look at the video that went viral:
Beth herself seems bamboozled by all this, when I asked her for a comment, this is what she had to say:
I am just amazed , but very happy that people seem to love what I’m doing, 34000 views , TV, radio, Press , Wow!
In case you need reminding, Beth first featured on thoughtsofjustafan a year ago when we looked back at her experience of singing with Alfie Boe and Flo Bannigan on Alfie’s Bring Him Home tour. Since then, her website has been launched and you can get a free download of an unreleased song, I’m Always Chasing Rainbows – all you have to do is click here and subscribe. It will be totally worth it, I promise!
Although this blog is primarily about the uber talented Alfie Boe, we also like to showcase other music, especially young and upcoming voices who are starting out on their musical journey. Long term readers will remember reading about a young singer by the name of Beth Ford – I’m happy to tell you that Beth has just launched her website ahead of the release of her debut single later this year.
I caught up with Beth recently to talk about this exciting development in her musical career:
Beth started singing in public with her local church choir, Jigsaw at age 5 and she also had her first solo at this young age! From then, she has been singing with the Voice in a Million Choir and the Walsall Youth Choir amongst others. In addition, Beth regularly performs at an Open Mic night in her home town of Bloxwich and always gets lovely comments about her pure, natural voice. This quite often leads to further performances; most of her appearance invitations can be traced back to those open mic nights.
In this day of reality TV and the seemingly never ending ways of making it to the big time quickly, many people will want to know why Beth hasn’t tried and has no interest in, Britain’s Got Talent or similar. Quite simply, Beth prefers to hone her talent in a natural progression – she knows she can sing so being told that she can sing in such a public way does not hold any attraction for her. She wants to make it on her own merits and not just because she appeared on a TV talent contest. This isn’t the confidence of youth talking either as this quote from Rebecca Newman, The People’s Soprano shows:
‘Beth’s interpretation of these songs is very relaxing and sung with an elegant simplicity – without pretence or ego – which is so refreshing!’
Perhaps surprisingly for a teenager, Beth’s musical influences are mainly musical theatre, especially Les Mis which is how she first came to hear the vocal ability of her main inspiration, Alfie Boe. Upon seeing the DVD of LM25, Beth was overwhelmed with the music and Boe himself, so much so that her parents got her VIP tickets for Boe’s Bring Him Home tour. The concert date was December 2011 and Beth soon found that the VIP element involved a meet and greet with Boe before the performance. Also at that meet and greet was another young singer, Flo Bannigan and Alfie invited the pair to sing Impossible Dream with him at that afternoon’s soundcheck. To say they were excited was an understatement but the result was beyond their wildest dreams. The video below shows Alfie and conductor James Morgan exchanging glances of appreciation at Beth’s voice and Alfie was so impressed that he invited the girls to sing in the concert with him.
Beth cites this as the moment that gave her the confidence to further explore and develop her voice; as she says
“if Alfie hadn’t have done that, I would never have had the confidence to keep going”.
As inspiring as this was, that wasn’t the last of Alfie’s generosity. Beth and family had tickets for Alfie’s concert at Llangollen and when his management got wind of this, they were all invited backstage during the interval. Beth still has the unopened Mars Bar Alfie gave her!
Now, Beth is starting to take her first steps into the world of recording and releasing which she first got into through her singing teacher Gary Hill who worked at Birmingham Music Academy which has its own recording studio, Progress Studio. The result was the unreleased I’m Always Chasing Rainbows and Beth is giving you the chance to download and hear her naturally gifted voice – for free!
Click here for Beth’s website and download I’m Always Chasing Rainbows now – hurry, this is a limited time offer!
You won’t regret it but don’t take my word for it, this is what Michael Boe had to say about Beth:
‘So refreshing to hear a young artist really use her natural and unique voice without resorting to vocal gimmicks. This is an artist who deserves to be heard and is certainly one to watch out for in the future. Every note, spot on.’
So, if you’re a fan of soulful female vocalists, visit Beth Ford Music and get the free download I’m Always Chasing Rainbows. This hasn’t been released…so get it while you can!
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, Ghostsin 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 CrazyDiamond:
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 ofReason (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!