Tag Archives: new album

Rachael Sage: Myopia

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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John Owen-Jones Releases New Single – Evermore

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.

Evermore is available here:

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Alfie Boe Launches New Album

Alfie Boe fans have been waiting not so patiently since he announced he was recording a new solo album earlier this year – his first for four years.  Titled As Time Goes By, the album is currently scheduled for release on 23 November 2018.

Track list:

La Vie En Rose
Moonlight Serenade
Sing Sing Sing
Stompin at the Savoy feat. Kara Tointon
A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square feat. Brennyn Lark
The Way You Look Tonight
Minnie The Moocher feat. Kelsey Grammar
As Time Goes By
My Funny Valentine
Ain’t Misbehavin’
Mood Indigo
I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance

As we know, Alfie recorded this album at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, here Frank Sinatra made so many of his vintage albums.  Alfie had a specific sound in mind for his new album: “I kept saying to the players in the studio, ‘Please don’t play clean, please make it dirty. You had Louis Armstrong blasting out songs, Gene Krupa hammering on the skins. Cab Calloway was as wild a performer as you could possibly get. There were all these musicians who know how to play with emotion. What we’re also trying to do is to show how it all came together and how it influenced the music scene in the UK. You could say it was like a revolution.”

The record boasts a full band, led by Grammy award winner Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band. It journeys through the defining songs of the era – from the full force of Sing Sing Sing – a song strongly identified with big band and swing, through to slower, smoother numbers such as The Way You Look Tonight (I’m still not over this song on Britain’s Got Talent) and As Time Goes By.  The trend for singers to feature duets on albums (Alfie guests on Bryn Terfel’s new album) continues here – I’m most looking forward to hearing Kelsey Grammer on Minnie the Moocher.

All Alfie’s albums have some personal significance, that one song inspired by Sarah or his children, but it seems that this whole album is a nod to his parents love of big band music.  Alfie says “They were really into the big bands – Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, I remember a story my mother told me. When she was pregnant with me she was watching a TV show and Gene Krupa came on and started the drum solo from Sing Sing Sing. She had a cup of tea on her tummy, and immediately she felt me kick and the tea went up in the air. She always told this story and it made me realise I was connected with music even before I was born.”  Those who have read Alfie’s auobiography will remember this story!

As Time Goes By is available now for pre-order.  Click here.

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Alfie Boe Announces Concert in Isle of Man

Alfie Boe’s Summer concerts are over and as we head into Autumn, fans are keen to know when they can next see Alfie perform live.  The wait is over, at least for fans who can get to the Isle of Man as Alfie is today announcing a show at the Villa Marina, Isle of Man.

The show is on 6 November and will feature Lauren Samuels as a guest artist; those fans who were at Kenwood House will remember Lauren was one of the support artists on that day.

Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Friday 31 August – click here.

Alfie has performed a couple of times before on the Isle of Man, on the first leg of his Bring Him Home tour and again at a fundraiser for the island’s hospice in 2014, so he obviously likes it there!

Alfie is currently preparing for the release of his new album so I expect many of the songs from that will feature – let me know if you end up going!

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Oh Scarborough – A Beautiful Evening with Alfie Boe

Another Saturday in June 2018 and another opportunity to spend an evening with the beautiful music of Alfie Boe, this time in Scarborough.  Alfie was there a year ago, almost to the day, with wet weather of biblical proportions but this time around, the sun shone, and so of course, did Alfie and his band, each of whom are brilliant musicians / singers and complement each other as well as Alfie.

Each of the three concerts I’ve attended this summer has been different, despite having a similar set list.  Fleetwood was magical and the experience of a lifetime, Kenwood was one of the smoothest Alfie concerts I’ve ever seen and Scarborough saw Alfie at his most relaxed, taking a couple of mistakes in his stride and having the audience wrapped around his little finger from the very first note. Changing the lyrics of Volare to “Oh Scarborough, beautiful Scarborough, the beautiful town by the sea, I know you’ve been waiting for me” didn’t hurt either!  There was banter aplenty, audience included and a fabulous moment for fan Geoff, singing his heart out on Keep Me In Your Heart.

Alfie likes to change up the set list with each concert he does, even if it’s only the running order but this summer, each concert has seen at least one new song.  Scarborough saw Alfie include Wild Flowers from Tom Petty and it was wonderful:

Another song new to me and I think I’ve found the next subject of Exploring New Music.

Other highlights included Run, which saw Alfie run around the entire audience, including up in the stands, You’re The Voice, featuring the support act Belle Voci (they also returned for Run), Ophelia, and He Lives In You.  Every time I hear Alfie sing this, I love it more.   Sing, Sing, Sing and A Pencil Full of Lead started the evening off with a bang and along with The Way You Look Tonight (one of my new favourites) assured me that the new album is going to be a corker.  Due out some time in November, it appears that as well as big band sounds, the album will also be exploring New Orleans rootsy, gutsy jazz – I can’t wait.  Alfie’s voice is made for rootsy, gutsy music – the last few tracks of Storyteller and Rosie on Trust demonstrate his mastery of this sound and it will be a treat to see what he makes of it.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster in one and I’m so grateful for all the supportive messages you’ve sent me  – I really do appreciate it. it’s also been a pleasure to meet so many readers over the last few weeks.  If you want to know more about what Jane did next, click here.  Alfie ha brought many wonderful things to my life and one of the best is the fabulous friends I’ve made.  Attending a concert is made all the more special by spending time with these wonderful ladies.  Thank you to Linda A, Linda W (me and the two Linda’s are now able to give guided tours around the North Bay area of Scarborough), Cecelia, Annie, Pauline H, Jean, Ayano, Mitsuko, Jennifer and Donna, Pat and Janet, Carole N, Sue, Barbara Watkinson, Roberta and Sharon for your friendship and company.

There will be another competition over the summer, to win a few signed goodies so make sure you’re subscribed to get first chance at entering!

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Rachael Sage: Spark

One of my favourite musicians to write about and listen to in the last couple of years has been the New York based singer, songwriter and visual artist Rachael Sage.  I love songs that tell a story as well as being beautiful to listen to and Rachael’s songs deliver that in spades.  So, it was with delight that I learned that Rachael’s thirteenth album will be released in the Autumn.  Before that, however, we get a glimpse into the flavour of that album, Myopia, with a single released on 6 July.

Spark is the story about the intimacy of a shared experience with a total stranger: ‘I don’t know your secrets, but I feel you like a spark’, sings Rachael in her velvety tone. It is about the magical moment when a relationship is in its infancy, before anything can go wrong and you can just revel in the lack of familiarity. It is a beautiful depiction of an experience of excitement and exhilaration that is universally felt.

The track starts with a brief piano hook before Rachael’s voice joins the mix, with vocals as delicate as they are powerful. The track is then taken up a notch with the inclusion of a dynamic and vibrant string section, and a subtle but robust drum beat that gives the track a real pulse.

Click here to download Spark.

Listening to Spark, I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to write about it and I’m even more excited for Myopia, later this year – of course I’ll be bringing that to you too.

If you love Rachael’s music then I have two of her previous albums to give away – Blue Roses and Haunted By You.  To win, just answer this question in the form below:

How many albums has Rachael Sage released so far?*

Good luck!

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Win a Signed Ball and Boe Together Again Deluxe Album!

Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s new album debuted at the top of the album charts in the first week of release and in case you haven’t got your copy yet (what are you waiting for???) or didn’t manage to get a signed copy, here at thoughtsofjustafan we have one to give away. It’s the deluxe version which includes the DVD of the first Ball and Boe ITV special (it’s region specific to the UK, unfortunately) and was signed by the boys at HMV Oxford Street.  To win, just answer the question:

Which Disney songs appear on Together Again?

Fill in the form to enter*

Here’s one of my favourite tracks from the album:

If you want to see some excited fans at the Oxford Street signing, click here!

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Pre-Order Together Again!

It’s no secret that Alfie Boe and Michael Ball, having had such a success with Together in 2016 are teaming up for a new album this year.  Now you can pre-order – and there’s a DVD available too!  Take a look at the video:


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John Owen-Jones Brings It Home

Recently returned from Cape Town where he created the role of John Crichton-Stuart in the new musical Tiger Bay, a role written especially for him no less, John Owen-Jones tomorrow releases a compilation album, Bring Him Home.  A mix of musical theatre songs taken from three previous albums,  John Owen-Jones (2009, Unmasked (2012) and Rise (2015), there are also three new tracks to delight fans: Maria, Why God Why and Suddenly.  In addition to this, John is soon to embark on a short solo tour of Wales – click here for dates and venues.  All in all, with Tiger Bay moving to Cardiff in November and a trip stateside in September, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for John.

Given his super busy schedule, it was a delight to catch up with John over coffee this week to talk about the new album although of course, you’ll forgive us if we strayed onto all things Les Mis.  Like Alfie, it was through Les Mis that I first became aware of John – the Valjean Quartet at the 25th concert to be precise.  Talking about that incredible moment where Alfie first starts singing, John says that “being in the room when we first rehearsed that and everyone’s hair was blow off when Alfie hit that top note”.  Lovely to hear that the other Valjean’s thought that as it’s the same for most of us too.  As for Alfie, Les Mis is the show in which John first rose to prominence; at 26 he was the youngest actor to play Valjean.  He says of this time on Broadway that “I was very lucky at 26 that I had the chance to play Jean Valjean and I grabbed it with both hands”.   Since then he has returned to the role several times, most recently on Broadway again and for a short run in Dubai and doesn’t rule out another stint in the future “if the opportunity is there again, why not?”

Of the three new tracks on Bring Him Home, one is related to Les Mis and that is Suddenly, the song that was added to the movie version and as yet, has not been recorded by many people.  As such, it sounds fresh and exciting which is no mean feat for a song from a thirty year old musical that everyone is familiar with.  In understated style, John calls the song ” a nice little tune” and it fits in perfectly with the theme of this album which draws heavily on John’s roles with both Les Mis and Phantom, both of which are huge in Japan.  John has played several sell out shows there and in once concert last year, John says that the audience refused to leave the auditorium until he came back for a further encore – the musical director came back on stage without shoes and socks!

As for the other new tracks, Maria was chosen as West Side Story was the first show in which John was ever on stage and is a song he’s always wanted to record as a result.  Apparently it took him this long to actually do it because his mum’s not keen on the song but “she can skip that one”.  Great choice of song – despite there being many versions of this song out there, John’s acting ability enables him to bring an emotional depth that is not always heard.  Similarly personal, Why God Why from Miss Saigon was the song John performed at his audition for drama school and is a song that he has performed live for a long time.

As mentioned earlier, next week sees John embark on a short solo tour of Wales and he says that the set list will consist of mainly musical theatre songs with one or two others in the mix as well.  A number of local choirs will be joining John, not to mention Rhys Meirion in Rhyl and other guest artists.  Sounds fantastic!

Bring Him Home is released on Sain Records on 9 June and is available here:

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Drawing from The Well with Jennifer Warnes

Mention Jennifer Warnes to music lovers in the UK and you’ll probably expect most answers to include her Oscar winning movie songs Up Where We Belong and (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life.  However, Warnes is a respected singer and writer going back many years and there is much more to her career than those two (admittedly mega selling) songs.

Recent years have seen Warnes collaborating with a number of artists before returning to record a new solo album.  That will hopefully be released by the end of this year / early next year but in the meantime, tomorrow sees the first UK release of Warnes’ 2001 album, The Well.  Why the gap? Well, legal wrangles and what Warnes described in our recent interview as “a chaotic time” in the music industry and the life of her recording career meant that The Well could not receive a UK release.  Now, Warnes owns the master and in her own words, she can “do whatever I want with it”.  I began our interview by asking how it felt to be talking about music that had been recorded over fifteen years ago.  Not surprisingly, Warnes’ feels mostly “relief…the only reason we make records is so that people can listen to them and they can’t do that if they’re not released”.  This was said with a lot of passion and I wondered if, given the struggles, the end result of The Well was worth it.  The answer was of course yes because singing and pursuing a career in the music industry is not a choice to Warnes, rather she describes it as her destiny.  All careers have rocky moments and hers have been with the corporate side of the industry as opposed to the music side which she calls “bliss” in comparison.  Her last word on this was “I’ve paid a great deal for lots of things but I’m still here”.

Still here and still releasing great music no less.  Listening to The Well as a newcomer to Warnes’ solo music I was struck by the emotion and passion of the vocals.  This is an album constructed around a raw, throaty, emotional voice and it works.  The tracks are embued with blues, country, R&B and a hint of bluegrass and most invoke a deep sense of emotion which is, I gather, what Warnes was after; she cares about the listening experience.  Indeed, when asked how she chooses the tracks for her albums, Warnes said that she asks herself if “this song will cause a stir in the heart of the listener?”.  Warnes went on to describe her criteria for choosing songs as this: they have to speak to her life at the moment and they have to suit her voice and personality.  As a group, they have to be happy bedfellows, hanging together as a whole.  During the interview it becomes apparent that recording in a studio is a passion for Warnes, indeed she describes it as a “beautiful process, in which you’re chasing an invisible spirit”.  A further comparison comes from cooking – you can cook with the same ingredients time after time but sometimes the result is perfection and making records is like that.  Sometimes it just comes together perfectly.

My favourite tracks on the album are two of the simplest tracks: Tom Waits’ Invitation to the Blues and Billy Joel’s And So it Goes.  I felt more of an emotional pull from these two stripped back songs, more so perhaps with the Billy Joel song.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, Warnes is best known in the UK for her duets with Joe Cocker and Bill Medley and there are two duets on The Well.  Of the two, I most enjoyed Patriots Dream with Arlo Guthrie and I asked her what it’s like singing a duet as opposed to a solo song and this was her answer: “well, how is it making love with yourself or with someone else (laughter)?”.  I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting that answer! I meant to go on to ask about the duets on this album but instead, we talked more about duets in general.  Warnes says that many of her happiest times have been singing on stage with someone, experiences in which they are both feeling an almost spiritual connection.  Jo Cocker was the name that was volunteered along with this statement.

The Well draws on a welter of emotions that are clearly personal to Warnes and the overall effect is to leave the listener with an emotional response to the music.  Since my interview with Warnes clearly denotes that this was her intention, she’s done a great job.  If you’re a fan of bluesy, folky music then The Well is a great album.  It’s also a great way to discover that there’s a lot more to Jennifer Warnes than just a great voice.

The Well is available here:

Jennifer Warnes Well

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