Half way through the year and it’s the sixth instalment of exploring new music (new to me at least) and this month, I’ve taken inspiration from Alfie’s new country set from his current shows.  Glen Campbell is one of those artists who has always been around, whose music is part of our culture, but I only really know a couple of songs.  Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman were about the only songs I could name, so this month, I’ve been listening to some of his albums.  Researching this piece, I had no idea that Campbell had been a session musician before hitting the big time, working with just about everyone and was even a touring member of the Beach Boys at one point.  While recording country music, Campbell also crossed over (that term again!) into pop and some of his biggest hits were hits in the pop charts too.  His easy manner made him an ideal TV star and his own show ran for several years in the late 1970’s.

Campbell made over sixty albums so there was a lot to choose from, but taking advice, I settled for Wichita Lineman (1968), Galveston (1969), Southern Nights (1977) and Ghost on the Canvas (2011).  Of the four, I enjoyed Galveston and Ghost on the Canvas the most.

Campbell’s earliest recordings reflected the bluegrass tradition and Galveston sees a return to some of this music, If This Is Love is a notable example:

Slotted in amongst the majority country crossover tracks, this self penned beauty has a frenetic bluegrass feel and is full of energy.  Other favourite tracks are Where’s the Playground Susie and of course the title track, a song that jumped into the top five mainstream chart.  Many consider this to be Campbell’s best album and I can’t say I disagree.

Campbell had a smash hit with 1975’s Rhinestone Cowboy and 1977’s Southern Nights repeated that success, both artistically and commercially – Campbell had his second Number One pop hit with the sunny title track. Campbell also had a second Top 40 hit from this album, the catchy Sunflower, written but never recorded by Neil Diamond.

2008 saw a new album from Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell, in which, to glorious acclaim he covered artists such as Travis, Green Day and Foo Fighters.  Three years later, an album of mainly self penned originals was released, Ghost on the Canvas and is absolutely fabulous, vying for best album for me.  The opener, A Better Place is just beautiful – pared down, and perfectly complements the final track, No Me Without You.  In between, It’s Your Amazing Grace is that rare thing – a perfect song, with it’s pop-indie-country sound and In My Arms has danceability in spades.

Once again, thank you Alfie for inspiring me to explore different music – this is the best New Year’s resolution ever and certainly the one I’ve kept going the longest.

Ghost on the Canvas is available here:

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A summer evening – albeit a chilly evening – was spent in the grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, London in the company of Alfie Boe and his fabulous band, not to mention fabulous friends in the form of Linda A, Linda W, Jayne, Cecelia, Roberta, Annie, Pauline, Jean and Claire.

Alfie’s set was almost the same as at Kelvingrove and Fleetwood, with a couple of differences and at least one new addition, to the encore.  Led Zeppelin’s Going To California was a new song, and Linda W was in seventh heaven (listen carefully and you can hear her gasps of delight at the beginning):

Alfie was, as usual, in fine voice and had all the energy you might expect from a performer at the top of his game and clearly having the time of his life.  I seem to write that sentence fairly often these days, but with every new concert, he just gets better and better and to me, it seems that he never takes his good fortune for granted, which unfolds as seemingly relentless energy on stage.  Just watching the energy on stage exhausts the audience, never mind Alfie himself!

Highlights were The Way You Look Tonight from his forthcoming album, Bring Him Home (very emotional this time), The Who section, particularly Pinball Wizard and the country section.  I love all those songs and having only discovered Wagon Wheel last year, via Alfie, I especially love the joy the band bring to that song.  The songs from Together and Together Again had the crowd singing along and of course we celebrated Ball and Boe’s double BRIT win too. However, the undoubted stand out song was Bring Me Sunshine; Alfie was joined on stage by the children of the Rays of Sunshine choir and they were magnificent:

They were all wonderful and I’m pleased to say that the audience were able to help bring joy and laughter into the lives of seriously ill children by giving to the collecting buckets available.  If anyone wasn’t able to give at the concert and would like to help, click here to donate.

I’m happy to say that I saw Alfie before the show and he obligingly signed some more competition bits so make sure you’re a subscriber to get first dibs on entries – coming soon!

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The success of Alfie Boe and Michael Ball continued last night as, on a star studded evening at the Classic BRIT Awards 2018, they won two (count em!) awards!  With a one hundred percent success rate, they won in each category they were nominated for:

 

 

and

 

As we know, Album of the Year was voted for by the public and it was clear that both Alfie and Michael were thrilled to win on this basis.  However, Group of the Year was decided by a BRIT award panel and I for one, felt so pleased that Alfie and Michael’s work was recognised by their industry peers.

It was an extra special night too, for Decca Records, for as well as the two Ball and Boe awards, they also won with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Jess Gillam (Sound of Classical) and Renee Fleming, not to mention the lifetime recognition for Dame Vera Lynn.  Both Kanneh-Mason and Gillam joined Tokio Myers and Andrew Lloyd Webber in calling for greater recognition of the value that music education in schools brings to children’s lives, a subject that Alfie has also commented on in the past, through his work with Nordoff Robbins.

The musical performances throughout the evening were superb, with the stand outs being the opening West Side Story medley with Alfie and Michael, Katherine Jenkins’ Never Enough and Bryn Terfel’s two performances of If I Were A Rich Man and the Pearl Fishers duet with Andrea Bocelli.

Thank you to everyone who voted and shared the Classic FM voting site over the last few weeks – give yourselves a pat on the back because you did it!

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Just over a week ago, I had the privilege of bring in the audience at Alfie Boe’s homecoming concert in Fleetwood and it was the best concert experience of my life.  Not only the fabulous singing and music from Alfie’s band but the unique atmosphere and mutual love between Alfie and Fleetwood made it such a special experience and one that anyone who was there will never forget (photo: Annie Lloyd).

When Alfie announced this concert last year, he also announced that £2 from each ticket bought would go directly to the local Fylde Coast hospice, Trinity, of which Alfie is a proud patron.  Alfie has spearheaded many fundraising initiatives over the years, resulting in donations coming in from all four corners of the world – one of the most successful was the Alfie Boe YouTubeathon last year, something that we hope to repeat this summer.

Since the concert, it has been announced that sales from tickets have funded a full week of care at Brian House, the children’s hospice on the same site as Trinity.  With space for four children as in-patients, the service supports over eighty families in total, meeting complex needs, providing support for the family and care for children who will not be cured of their illness.  Respite care, which is provided at regular intervals, gives families the opportunity to experience times of relief and normality. When a child’s life is limited it puts enormous pressure on every member of the family as they try to cope with the emotional, practical and financial implications. It can be really hard for brothers and sisters too, so for all the family, Brian House is a support mechanism. This support continues even when the service is no longer required as each child that passes away is named on the memory tree; many families find comfort in being able to return to see their child’s name.

I was lucky enough to be given a tour by Rebecca Ferguson, External Communications Manager and I have to say that it’s an amazing place. The kitchen is a hive of activity and with its sweet shop colour theme and giant marshmallow decorations looks good enough to eat! Each of the four bedrooms has a theme, with one specially designed for teenagers. The lounge areas are spacious enough for group music therapy (beds can be accommodated), and for informal play and relaxation. The sensory room and corridor are an adventure of colour, light and sounds and the sound I could hear coming down the corridor was chat and laughter from children and adults alike.  Here is Rebecca (left)with senior fundraiser Janet Atkins, handing over a card made by Brian House users, (photo Darren Nelson).

Rebecca was also on duty at the Fleetwood concert, along with many volunteers who collected money from concert goers.  The total from these buckets (separate from the ticket sales) was £2,700 and another £3,000 was donated by two very generous local people as well.  If you would like to make a donation yourself, please click here.

Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket or has donated – every penny is used in the excellent palliative care at Trinity and Brian House.

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…the Pearl Fishers Duet with David Kempster:

Although this duet, Au Fond Du Temple Saint, is a concert staple for baritones and tenors, the song is of course from Bizet’s 1863 opera, The Pearl Fishers.  It is this opera, in the 2009/10 ENO season that gives us the memorable opening from Alfie’s autobiography: “Bizet nearly killed me.  I don’t blame him, it’s not his fault.” Alfie was talking about the chlorine poisoning he suffered whilst preparing for the show, which became, as it happens, one of his last for ENO – Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert was just around the corner.

Set in ancient times on the island of Sri Lanka, the opera tells the story of how two men’s vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess.  After the initial premiere, The Pearl Fishers was not performed again until 1886 and since the mid twentieth century has become one of the most popularly staged operas worldwide.  ENO has restaged twice more since Alfie took the role of Nadir.

Lovers of Alfie Boe’s classical repertoire will also be familiar with his South Bank Award performance of this, with Bryn Terfel in 2011.  Alfie has performed very little opera since then but as he caught us all by surprise on the Serenata tour of 2013, by singing Nessun Dorma, Recondita Armonia and Caruso, never say never to hearing it again one day.  With Alfie, you just never know what to expect.

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Wow, what a night we had in Fleetwood on Saturday! Before I’ve even started this review, I’ve run out of superlatives – Alfie was on phenomenal form, holding the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end and basking in the love shown to him by the town, love that was clearly reciprocated.

Throwing in songs that spanned Alfie’s most recent albums (Serenata, Trust, Classic Quad, Together and Together Again) and a selection of songs Alfie clearly loves, this felt like a very personal set list – there wasn’t one song that didn’t work.  Opening with Sing, Sing, Sing from his new swing album (November 2018), Alfie demonstrated a mastery of yet another musical genre:

Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead was just one of several new songs we heard, along with Ophelia, Wichita Lineman, Islands in the Stream, with backing singer Tor (loved this one), Queen’s Spread Your Wings and Pinball Wizard / See Me Feel Me medley from The Who’s Tommy.  Would have liked to hear Pinball Wizard all the way through – even better, I’d like to hear Alfie singing this with the Kaiser Chiefs, who, to my mind, do the best live cover of this. Click here to see more videos from Linda Wellington and Annie Lloyd.

As always, the band were amazing, with Murray, Dan and Tonksy being joined by Pete on guitar and Nigel on keyboards.  Backing singer Tor has also been with Alfie before, on the Together tours and the brass section were magnificent:

The addition of Pete seems to indicate that playing guitar for Alfie necessitates a lot of hair (Dan on bass needs to step into line) but both Pete and Nigel slotted right into the band whilst also bringing something new into the dynamic.  With only these few concerts lined up, let’s hope that we see more of Pete and Nigel in the future.

The song choice was weighted heavily in favour of those that could be danced to but of course Alfie found time for Bring Him Home, or Bring It Home as he said a lot of people call it (I once sat next to someone , in Blackpool of all places, who said I think he sings a song called Take Me Home – perhaps she was wishfully thinking!), preceded by the song he sang on Britain’s Got Talent, The Way You Look Tonight.  Both were outstanding, accompanied by one of the brass section and Murray, respectively; Alfie stayed in the Bring Him Home bubble a lot longer than usual and was clearly moved when he saw the audience reaction.

To the crowd’s evident delight, the second half started with Alfie and the band taking to the stage with the new Fleetwood Town FC strip, personalised in each case and as he did throughout the evening, did a shout out for Trinity Hospice, who were out in force with collection buckets.  Alfie is their patron and if you weren’t able to attend the concert itself, click here to see the excellent work they do.

When this homecoming concert was first announced it was clear that it would be a concert like no other and not to be missed.  Alfie singing in Blackpool is something special but Fleetwood is in a category of it’s own.  Throw in Jimmy watching from his upstairs window and Alfie’s Aunty Eileen almost stealing the show and you have the perfect evening.  Alfie thought so, asking “why haven’t I done this before, it’s great” and declaring that he definitely wanted to return and do it again – the roar of appreciation as he said this indicates there’ll be a ready and willing audience.  He was having such a great time, when it was finished (latest concert ever at 11.30!) he then popped into Highbury social club for a dance!  He’s come a long way from the Marine Hall.

On a personal note, it was lovely to see so many fans and special thanks to those who found time to say hello, much appreciated.  Wouldn’t have been the same without seeing so many friends, Paul and Pauline, Jennifer, Donna, Chelley, Linda Evans, Sonia, Pat and Janet, Carole, Karen, Jean, Nancy, Marj, Andrea, Carole and Eric, Jayne and Linda W (thanks for the videos).  Sue, Pauline, Roberta, Annie, Angie and Cecelia, not to mention my bestie Linda A made a fabulous night even more special with a great after party that went on into the wee small hours!

Before I go, can I ask a favour for Alfie and Michael?  They have made it to the shortlist for Album of the Year at the Classic BRITS and need your vote – please click here (UK voters only) to vote – thank you!

 

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Last night saw the first concert of Alfie Boe’s summer concerts, in Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow. Roving reporters Roberta Kappus and Annie Lloyd were there for thoughtsofjustafan:

Glasgow was simply everything anyone could have hoped for – two hours and fifteen minutes of Alfie’s musical talent, backed by an incredible band (there was no support act). There was no intermission and it was pure Alfie, covering what could be described as his greatest hits and more. It was musical heaven and as it was Alfie’s first UK solo performance since Leeds in 2015, to say it was well worth the wait would be an understatement.

Last night we were once again treated to Alfie’s amazing talent as he began with swing from his upcoming album. We then journeyed through Serenata, both Together albums and concerts, Trust and Classic Quadrophenia. He saved the best till last with a mix of country and rock and never before heard material from Alfie.  He was back on the guitar for Wagon Wheel, an amazing Glen Campbell medley and an Islands in the Stream duet with one of the female singers. Alfie has an amazing ability to sing a previously recorded song heard many times before and place his own mark on it. Once Alfie has sung it the song is never the same again.

The addition of Tommy after Quad was a fantastic surprise and a massive crowd pleaser; he really hit his stride from this point, loosening up and clearly enjoying playing the music he loves alongside fantastic musicians who out played any orchestra.

Yes he did sing Bring Him Home, to a standing ovation, but not before teasing the audience that he was going to sing from Les Mis, instead launching into You’ll Be Back from Hamilton, accompanied with stories of his time on Broadway.

A fantastic night that can only be even bigger and better in Fleetwood.

Another fabulous review from two star reporters – roll on Fleetwood!

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With just a few days until Alfie’s first summer concerts, we have finally arrived at the number one position and the song that has been chosen as your favourite Alfie Boe live song 2018!

Before we get to that though, let’s take a look at the top ten so far:

  • Buona Sera
  • Barcelona (with Laura Wright)
  • He Lives In You 
  • O Sole Mio / It’s Now or Never
  • Rank Strangers
  • The Prayer 
  • Love Reign O’er Me
  • Wagon Wheel
  • Don’t Stop Me Now

And so the song at number one is:

Of course, it’s Snow Patrol’s Run, a song that jumped straight in at number one the first time that Alfie sang it and has stayed there ever since.  Here is the original and I have to say that I love it too:

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Prior to the start of the Together Again tour at the end of 2017, the talk amongst Alfie fans was all about which songs he would choose for his solo spot – not many of us guessed that one of the songs would be a rip roaring country song, Wagon Wheel, complete with Alfie on guitar.  I know I’m not the only one who had never heard of Old Crow Medicine Show, who co-wrote the song (from a part written sing by Bob Dylan) although Wagon Wheel is by far and away their best known song. The band have been around for a long time, coming from a live show background all the way to the 2014 Grammy for best fol album for Remedy.

Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) have a distinctive old time, bluegrass sound and have been putting out new music for twenty years, characterised by storytelling (the thing I love most about country), rip roaring catchy hooks, and a supreme danceability – always a plus for me.  Of their half dozen albums, the ones I chose to listen to were the eponymous OCMS (2004), Tennessee Pusher (2008), Carry Me Back (2012) and Remedy.

Their first, self titled album was the one that launched them and their most famous song, Wagon Wheel and where I started with this band.  I sailed through this album, loving it but not really finding a stand out track apart from Wagon Wheel.  Tennessee Pusher was a different story; I LOVE this album!  Every track delivers and has something to say on a diverse range of subjects.  Motel in Memphis reflects on the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr while Methamphetamine treads the sorry tale of that particular drug.  The upbeat, catchy music cleverly juxtaposes against the lyrics detailing the downfall of drugs and how small towns can be ravaged by it.  However, my favourite track is Caroline which is just lovely:

OCMS certainly know how to write and perform great albums, packed full of catchy songs you find yourself singing days after.  Carry Me Back and Remedy both have some stand out songs amidst a feast of equally good album tracks.  From the former, I liked Carry Me Back to Virginia and Levi, both tales of war, albeit from different centuries.  If you like a bittersweet love song, you could do a lot worse than Genevieve.  Half Mile Down is incredibly catchy too.

The last of the albums I listened to is Remedy and yet again, I loved it.  Sweet Amarillo (another Dylan collaboration, from a part written song) is my favourite:

Dearly Departed Friends is another song that takes war as its subject and brings the sadness right home with the lyric “twenty one guns [salute] for twenty one years”.

If you like your country music to come with a broad streak of bluegrass, lots of danceability and thoughtful lyrics, then this band is for you.  Fiddle, banjo and harmonica fans are in for a treat with Old Crow Medicine Show.  Thanks Alfie for the introduction – I loved this one!

Remedy and other albums are available here:

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With less than two weeks until Alfie Boe’s Homecoming concert at Fleetwood, we’re down to the last two songs in our quest to find the fans favourite live song 2018!  Number two is a song that has only been sung live by Alfie, not recorded and it was a total surprise when Alfie appeared on TV on 31 December 2013:

Of course, it’s Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and it’s a real corker, showing why Alfie’s version is making it’s third appearance in the live song poll.  In three years, it’s never been lower than number three.

We know that the music of Queen is important to Alfie and he was recently performing some with the Boston Pops.  Click here to see some tracks on YouTube.

Next week we look back at the top ten and reveal the song you chose as Alfie’s best live song.

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