Archive for Music

Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

bowiethemanwhochangedtheworld

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Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

1h 25min | Documentary, Biography, Music | 9 May 2016 (UK)
 
Genres: Documentary
Director: Sonia Anderson
Starring: David Bowie, Lawrence Myers, Paul Nicholas
Supporting actors: Dana Gillespie, Mary Finnigan, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, Clive Langer, Chris Sullivan, Breege Collins, Angie Bowie
Studio: Under The Milky Way
 
 
There are things to like in this documentary. It offers some of insight into a very complex, multi-faceted and creatively restless man. A man stimulated by new ideas and experiences. It features interviews with Bowie himself and people who knew him (if you ever could!). The documentary is fascinating because the subject never ceased to amaze, entertain and, at times, baffle us.
 
Bowie was a versatile innovator who had a huge impact on popular culture. Everyone saw the waves emananting from what he did but Bowie the man was a mystery. This documentary doesn’t solve that mystery but the interviews do give us some glimpses of the character behind the creativity.
 
For me the most interesting part was the first part dealing with his early life. Both Dana Gillespie and Mary Finnigan paint a bleak picture of his homelife.
 
Mary Finnigan says of Bowie’s mother “she was very stiff, very starchy, you had no chance of getting to know her properly, very reserved”.
 
Dana Gillespie speaks of visit to his home – “a cold house” “it was like walking around with cement blocks on your shoulders” and reveals Bowie said “Whatever it takes I want to get out of this place. I never want to grow up here”.
 
The rest really charts his escape to and triumph in a different world. There are some great Bowie moments. The 1976 interview with Russell Harty is very funny. Harty tries sarcasm on Bowie but he more than meets his match. The interviews with close friends and business associates can be informative. I had no idea that when he was broke he auditioned for the musical Hair! or how hands on he was on different aspects of his stage productions like lighting.
 
There is some great information in this documentary but it does jump around in terms of timeline and isn’t well structured. The images don’t always match the story being told and some are overused. My other big criticism is the complete lack of Bowie music which I’m guessing was down to not reaching agreement with the Bowie estate.
 
I saw this on Netflix so if you’re on there check it out. Would I buy it if I wasn’t on Netflix? On balance yes because, as a Bowie fan, despite my criticisms, it is worth watching.
 
Reviewed by Pat Harrington
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Let’s push for a set of UK postage stamps to honour David Bowie

ziggystarduststampBack in 2010 the Royal Mail released a set of 10 special stamps featuring classic British album covers including David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies and Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

Just 12 special stamp sets are produced each year. “The thing about stamps is that they are 1-inch works of art,” said Philip Parker, the Head of Stamp Policy for Royal Mail. “And thinking about this we thought that the old 12-inch vinyl cover is a great work of art. We thought putting them on stamps would be a great way to celebrate this art form.”

There is now a petition to get David Bowie a royal mail stamp range all of his own. Here at Counter Culture we think that’s a great idea. We think it would be a superb way to commemorate his life and work. The petition was started by a Bowie fan and can be found at:

https://www.change.org/p/royal-mail-get-david-bowie-a-royal…

At the time of writing 7,899 people had signed it. Come on Bowie fans we can do better than that!

Full list of album-cover stamps issued in 2010:
• David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
• Blur’s Parklife
• The Clash’s London Calling
• Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head
• Led Zeppelin’s IV
• New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies
• Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
• Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell
• Primal Scream’s Screamadelica
• The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed

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Dr JOHN COOPER CLARKE

CQAF Festival Marquee, Customs House Square, Belfast. May 3rd 2016

As he gets older, the Bard of Salford looks more and more cadaverous. John Cooper Clarke’s wry observation, “As you can see, I’ve been piling on the pounds” won one of the biggest laughs of the evening. Most folk I know have never heard of him, so I wasJohn Cooper Clarke pleasantly surprised to see the venue packed almost to capacity.

The huge audience in the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee had already been warmed up by another Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, who entertained them with a mixture of shrewd observational comedy and heartbreaking pathos. The most memorable item was Pay as you Go, a poem about a young girl who had been inveigled by a conniving boyfriend into ‘sexting’ him intimate pictures of herself. He then betrayed her trust by posting them on line. It was powerful stuff.

With a non-stop rapid-fire line of patter, John Cooper Clarke launched into a series of old favourites; Beasley Street and its gentrified update, Beasley Boulevard; Twat, ending with the full and unexpurgated version of Evidently Chickentown, made famous in an episode of the Sopranos (albeit in a toned down form).

Due acknowledgment was given to the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, who a couple of days earlier had tweeted his appreciation of the Tarantino movie Django Unchained, by describing himself as a ‘Ballymurphy Nigger’. This storm of universal disapproval and outrage – some of it may even have been genuine – that broke over him was still fresh in everyone’s mind. To the delight of the audience, Cooper Clarke dedicated his upbeat rendition of Some Cunt Used the N-Word in the Sinn Féin president’s honour.

Cooper Clarke is rude, irreverent, iconoclastic and at times profane. He manages to be all this and also very, very funny – even when you can see a mile off where he’s going or what he’s going to say.

The Bard of Salford is touring throughout the UK and Ireland during the month of June. If he comes to your town, go and see this show.

**** Four stars.

David Kerr

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Weill at Heart: Bremner sings the cabaret songs of Kurt Weill

Aug 8-22, 17:30
The Jazz Bar
1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Tickets: £8.00, concession £6.00
tickets at www.edfringe.com

bremnerRight from the get go you can tell that Bremner is passionate about the songs of Kurt Weill. The programme I was handed on entry says that Bremner:

“became aware of Kurt Weill’s music around the time I was sticking safety pins in my leather jacket and leaping into the mosh pit to dance to bands like the Dead Kennedys and the Subhumans. I knew nothing about Germany between the wars, or the social turmoil that produced artists like Weill, Brecht, Otto Dix or Max Beckmann. Something in his music resonated with me. Since then, I’ve been entranced by the music of Kurt Weill throughout my adult life. I’ve sung his songs in lovely concert halls and in dark dilapidated saloons. I’ve sung his music with rock bands and with classical string quartets. I’ve never grown tired of these marvellous songs.”

Bremner’s performance encompasses music written by Weill in both Germany and the United States. I was more familar with his German work so it was fascinating to be introduced to songs like Lonely House, Stranger Here Myself and Moon Faced Starry Eyed written in the US. Bremner switched from light to dark in a heartbeat. I loved Stranger Here Myself which Bremner performed walking amidst the audience.

Bremner brought out in his short commentaries between songs how positive Weill was in many of his songs (like One Life to Live) despite having faced dark times. He told us that the music and a quote from Weill had inspired and motivated him in his own adversities.

When he sang Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny the audience lit-up to these old favourites.

David Patrick on Piano and the Sax player were extremely accomplished and worth listening to in their own right.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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Muse

24-29 August 2015
Time: 1715
Duration: 50 mins
Venue: SpaceTriplex

sophiejugeAs we entered the theatre Jazz musicians played Caravan I had come to see Muse a fascinating telling of the story of Jean Ross, the inspiration for the character Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Sophie Juge plays Jean Ross who tells us her story through drama and music. The music is great including such classics as Mad About the Boy, Alabama Song and Love for Sale.

In Cabaret and ‘Goodbye to Berlin’, the book by Isherwood (who lodged in the same house in 30s Berlin) the story of ‘Sally Bowles’ ends abruptly. In real life Ross continued to have a series of lovers. In fact one lover, Eric Maschwitz, wrote These Foolish Things about Ross after the end of their affair. Ross was also a political journalist who reported from the front-lines in the Spanish Civil War and married Claud Cockburn who wrote for the Daily Worker (and also had a column in Private Eye for many years). She was a life-long Communist. Juge Performs the anti-fascist El Quinto Regimento to illustrate this part of the life of Ross.

This is a great story with a passionate, expressive and skilful performance from Juge. I highly recommend it. It is on at the Fringe till the 29th. Try and catch it!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook

Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook

I CAN’T SING, dance or play any type of musical instrument. Indeed, when I try to sing most people think that I’m mucking about and don’t believe me when I say that I’m actually trying to hit a note! If I tried to dance I’d end up in my local Accident and Emergency – assuming it hasn’t already been closed by government cuts. And when it comes to playing anything all I can do is make a bit of a racket with a couple of spoons or a comb and some tissue paper.

However, I’m not too sure if spoons, a comb and tissue paper actually qualify as musical instruments. Indeed, if my life depended on singing, dancing or playing anything I’d have been dead and buried many years ago!

Despite all of this, I really love music. Living without a TV wouldn’t really be a problem for me, but I just couldn’t imagine living without music. I think that, to some degree, all of us associate particular songs with memories of family and friends. Maybe that’s one reason why music stirs the sole and certain songs really do get under the skin.

I’m also a bit of a geek when it comes to learning about different genres of music. I love to discover how one form of music is linked to another – particularly how and when they developed. The same goes for individual songs. I always want to know who wrote what, when it was written and what the inspiration was.

With all this in mind I was really looking forward to seeing the excellent Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band (a brilliant eight-piece band known as the Birdland Big Band) performing a show called The American Songbook. The show was being held in the equally excellent Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim.

I was looking forward to the gig for two main reasons. Firstly, Harry Hamilton has successfully carved out a name for himself as the lead singer of Flash Harry. My wife and I have seen them several times and they’re probably one of the best Queen tribute bands you’re ever likely to see. However, I’ve always wanted to see and hear how he’d perform – not as Freddie Mercury but as himself.

Secondly, whilst I’m not fantastically into every artist who comes under the umbrella of the ‘American Songbook’, I recognise the importance of this musical genre. The advertising material accompanying the gig put this into perspective noting:

“Join Harry Hamilton and his swing band as they take you on a musical journey through a century of American music. This innovative collection of popular music showcases the many “Great” Songs from the soundtrack of the 20th Century. From the classics of the Great American masters like Gershwin or Cole Porter, via the ’50’s most popular hits, to Motown and the newest chapter with songs from recent hit-makes, including Michael Bublé, Ray Charles and Billy Joel.”

The gig was in two parts (and started bang on time – surely a first for Ulster!) with the first half being slightly more formal than the second. This was subtly reflected in the way Harry Hamilton presented himself. In the first half he wore a dark suit, tuxedo shirt with wing tip collar and dickie bow and in the second half he’d changed into double denim.

I loved the way he set the scene for the whole gig by explaining that ‘The American Songbook’ (sometimes called the ‘Great American Songbook’) generally refers to a collection of the most important and influential American popular songs of the 20th century. They can be found in theatre and film and were written from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Harry Hamilton also gave a brief insight into his childhood. He noted that his father was in a Showband and that he grew up in a house full of music, all of which made a great impression. Given this background it’s probably no surprise that he also turned towards music in such a way.

This laid back approach to explaining his musical influences – and the information that he provided about each song – meant that he had the packed audience hanging on to his every word. I particularly liked the way he used humour to introduce some of the songs. I’ve found some music ‘experts’ come across as bores who look down on those who aren’t as informed about a particular song or artist as they are.

But what about the songs themselves?

To be honest, Harry Hamilton sang that many both my wife and I lost count of what we’d heard! The whole gig simply consisted of hit after hit after hit. And all were pulled off to a tee. However, we were able to agree on some of the highlights of the evening. These included Frank Sinatra’s classic Fly Me To The Moon, American Trilogy made famous by Elvis Presley (and a song that always makes us both cry – and many others judging by the sniffing and wiping of eyes from other members of the audience!)

Other highlights included Georgia On My Mind made famous by Ray Charles, I’m A Believer which was written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond but effectively ‘owned’ by the Monkees. Also in there were Superstition and Sir Duke written and performed by Stevie Wonder – the latter as a tribute to the legendary composer, pianist and bandleader, Duke Ellington.

We also loved his take on one of Don McLean’s most famous songs, American Pie. Recorded in1971, it commemorates the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson (aka ‘The Big Bopper’) in a plane crash in early 1953. Harry Hamilton’s vocal range was also given a great workout when he sang Roy Orbison’s operatic ballad, In Dreams. He explained the complexity of the Big O’s song which – according to Wikipedia – “has a unique structure in seven musical movements in which Orbison sings through two octaves, beyond the range of most rock and roll singers.”

One real stand out moment of the evening came towards the end of the first half of the gig. Here Harry Hamilton’s father joined him in a duet. As noted earlier, his father had been in a Showband and still had a great voice plus a mischevious twinkle in his eye – something that has been passed onto his son. Together they performed a brilliant version of Mac the Knife (which started life as Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, composed by Kurt Weill) made famous by Bobby Darin.

As well as talking about – and performing – the American Songbook, Harry Hamilton enjoyed some great banter with both the audience and his band. The three piece brass section – as well as being excellent musicians – seemed to be having a whale of a time. They seemed to spend half their time laughing and joking. At times they were in absolute stiches – so much so that I wondered how they would be able to stop laughing in time to play their instruments or provide backing vocals.

If you’d like a couple of hours of top notch entertainment and would like to learn a lot about music at the same time, check out Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band. They’re still on tour throughout Ulster. Catch him if you can.

O CHECK OUT this promotional video for Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjpTU-s4ZSE

O CHECK OUT Flash Harry’s Facebook page which also provides some information on Harry Hamilton’s American Songbook show

Reviewed by John Field

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CD Review: Made in Oakland

troublemakerfile004Trouble Maker

“Trouble Maker have been knocking East Bay punks flat with their aggressive hardcore punk sound and real-life lyrics. Think Fear, think Agnostic Front (pre-metal days), think that great local hardcore band you loved in 1986.”  -AlternativeTentacles-

www.makesometrouble.com

http://www.facebook.com/TroubleMakerOak

 

This is formidable hardcore brilliance.  The mix on this is great, the vocals are right up front and in your face, the drums are thundering and drive it down the highway like a GTO with all barrels blazing, the guitars sear right through the rest and into your soul.   Yes this CD is scorching.

The Made in Oakland CD is a collection of the band’s new material and includes songs from the 2009 unreleased Smash Hits with some material thrown in from 2003’s Fist Impression.  Currently, Trouble Maker are writing new material and they will be playing the Gilman in Berkley CA on October 18th with the English Dogs.

Trouble Maker were always one of my absolute favourite bands to tour and do live gigs with.  They always were intense, vociferous and great guys to boot, fun as hell.  Trouble Maker are one of the bands that to me, best represent the diversity that is West Coast hardcore.  Not a band to ever fall into the generic hardcore punk abyss, these guys are a Mack Truck barreling down the highway at full speed playing chicken in your headlights.

zpfile001Saturday Night – Saturday Night is a great fist pumping sing along with a hint of Oi.  Complain is full of crispy-crunchy goodness and surprise hooks as it burns rubber around the curves and lays out on the stretches, while I Don’t Care is tight and powerful.  Liquor Store is a sing-along drinking song perfect to start off your Friday night partay. And the hits keep coming on this one, Alcoholic is a rock powerhouse with great melody and Poser, well the intro into Poser reminds me of old 80s buttrock bands.  The beginning of this one takes me back to a time in Portland back in the early 80s, when we punks were hanging out at a rocker party, and typical little trouble maker that I was then, I walked up to the biggest poser in the place with his flowing golden locks. I grabbed and hacked off a handful of his God-like ‘Do’ thereby eliminating his Rock God spandex powers.  As we wandered out of the party a few minutes later, it broke out into an all-out bar room brawl with 2x4s… and that is what this song breaks into after the pretty intro.  Sheer Trouble Making Punk Rock madness.  Outstanding.

zpfile000Rough House – another heavyweight sing along ditty.  Jekyll & Hyde – Chunky goodness that is melodic as hell with excellent lyrics which is what Trouble Maker do best.  All Fed Up – This one reminds me a bit of early Minor Threat.  Outta Control – Tight and fast, again epic West Coast hard-core sound here.  Bad Attitude – This starts with a most excellent bass line and the vocals are riding a tight and winding curve holding on for dear life..  Then it drives straight into a wall of guitar hell that just takes you higher. Another one that you can’t help but sing along to.  This is one of my top favourites on this CD.  Sex with the Ex – another melodic ditty full of in your face hard-core.  Your Scene – More melodic brilliance from the lads, this one’s danceable for all your little Mohawk spike encrusted leather jacket poseurs..  I love the sentiments on this one and it perfectly describes my own complaints about the sad state that some punk has degenerated into.

Trouble Maker – Not one to finish on a light note, Trouble Maker is an impressive hard edged annihilating finale to this CD.  Get yours and play it. LOUD.

Reviewed by Rosdaughr

Track listing:

  1. No Regrets
    This is Oakland
    3. Saturday Night
    4. Never Quit
    5. Hit & Run
    6. Complain
    7. I Don’t Care
    8. Liquor Store
    9. Alcoholic
    10. Poser
    11. Rough House
    12. Jekyll & Hyde
    13. All Fed Up
    14. Outta Control
    15. Power Trip
    16. Dirty Cop
    17. Bad Attitude
    18. Sex with the Ex
    19. Cause for Alarm
    20. Your Scene
    21. Trouble Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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