Angie, at Dartford:

One of my favourite songs (I still don’t know how I missed it off my list of Six Sensational Songs), I’ve yet to hear it live.  One day, or at least I can hope!

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Seven months into my quest to listen to different musicians and I’ve arrived at a band I’ve known for twenty years (!) and enjoyed but fallen out of touch with.  Travis have had huge worldwide success and have recorded many albums over those twenty years and, judging from reports and YouTube, are an awesome live band.  I’ve chosen this band because Alfie worked with them a couple of years ago, recording (down the phone from NYC) the backing vocals for Paralysed:

Shades of Opera Dude from the Clint Boon days!  Great song, performance and sheer delight from Alfie.  The track is from Travis’s 2016 album Everything At Once and for me, is the stand out track.  That might just because Alfie’s on it!  Magnificent Time is a great track to dance to and I also really enjoyed Idlewild, the band’s first recorded duet, with Josephine Oniyama – what a lovely voice.

I first became aware of Travis, around twenty years or so ago, with the release of The Man Who (1999) and their indie music, tailor made for live gigs.  Writing To Reach You is a lovely song, but Driftwood is my song of the album:

This is the closest thing to an upbeat song, at least from that album, from Travis – their songs do have somewhat of a reputation for being a little…downbeat shall we say?  Fran Healy, write and lead singer says that Driftwood is “an ode to my girlfriend at the time and now wife, Nora, who was a bit of a hippy, and just floated through life and didn’t really focus all her talents of which she has many… not exactly uptempo but the lyrics in ‘Driftwood’ are as good as it gets and I could quite happily put it up next to some of the songs by my heroes and give them a good run for their money.”

Alfie’s vocals on Paralysed aside, the album I liked best when researching this was the 2001 follow up to The Man Who, The Invisible Band.  There are many songs that I like, including Side, Pipe Dreams, Flowers in the Window and Indefinitely, but the video I’ve chosen is Sing:

If you know anything about Travis, Sing (along with Why Does it Always Rain On Me?) will more than likely be the song you know – it was a smash hit at the time and has withstood the test of time.  It’s a great song about stepping out of your comfort zone and just doing it – a life lesson I’ve embraced wholeheartedly in the last five years.  Outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.  It’s a great video too!

Everything At Once (with Paralysed) is available here:

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In fantastic news for Alfie Boe fans in Asia and Australia, I’m delighted to confirm that Alfie will play several dates in Tokyo and Osaka in May 2019.

The dates are as follows:

May 18 – Tokyo International Forum Hall C

May 19 – Tokyo International Forum Hall C

May 21 – Osaka Mielparque Hall

Click here for more information – ticketing information will be released at a later date.

So, who is making plans for the journey already?  Let me know!

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Hot on the heels of Scarborough, Alfie Boe took his short summer tour to Llangollen, opening the annual Eistedfodd.  Roberta Kappus and Annie Lloyd were there for us.

In brief, Llangollen was brilliant! It was the fifth and final summer concert and Alfie saved the best for last. We had songs from Alfie’s new album, songs from La Passione and Serenata, songs from Classic Quad, songs from the Together albums and a lot of cheering when England beat Colombia plus a few bars from We’re Coming Home.  Following the win Alfie was so elated he pronounced Llangollen the best gig ever and more than enthusiastically went into his next song, You’re The Voice, which had been interrupted by the win. Showing his ability to follow football while delivering a masterful performance Alfie did not miss one word or note,  turning on a stage monitor showing the game and then with no hesitation going right into Swing.

The set list was a partial departure from the previous four shows. Taking the audience and the ambience of the festival into consideration he enthralled all with Bring Him Home followed by seven Italian songs, primarily from La Passione and Serenata: A Vuchella featuring Pete on guitar, Parlami D’amore Mariu, Mamma, Chitarra Romana, Volare with the usual very long note, Mambo Italiano and Buona Sera. The audience was up and dancing, clapping to the music and singing along especially with Volare and Mambo Italiano. During this segment Alfie stated that he had found new ways to sing some of the songs and if we send back our old cds he would re-record them for us. Of course he got a laugh.

The second half began with the usual audience involvement in Keep Me in Your Heart. Sir Terry Waite, seated in the centre of the front row was given the honour of being singled out as the male soloist, a role he graciously accepted to cheers from all.  Tom Petty’s Wild Flowers, first sung at Scarborough remained on the list as did many of the familiar songs.  I’m One took the place of The Real Me. The show ended with a very powerful Love Reign O’er Me which received and deserved a standing ovation.  Alfie quickly followed this up by returning for the encore and asking if we wanted another Who song. The approval was thunderous with people shouting out various Who songs. Alfie went with Baba O’Riley which was greeted with massive approval. The final song was, of course, Run.

The band was outstanding. They very smoothly transitioned from New Orleans jazz as Alfie calls it to the soothing rhythms of the Italian songs to the country music to the Who. They were just brilliant. Throughout it all the audience was in complete approval of everything sung. It is interesting to note that given Llangollen’s reputation, Bring Him Home received a partial standing ovation while all were on their feet to applaud Love Reign O’er Me. There is no doubt that the audience adored Alfie right from the beginning and were with him all the way through. Alfie was obviously having a great time despite the heat. The tent was very warm and the stage even warmer. Alfie went from jacket to just shirt at the beginning of the second half to pulling his shirt out towards the end. Following the final bows Alfie appeared reluctant to leave the stage wandering around a bit before finally exiting.

Together Alfie and the Llangollen audience proved that music has no boundaries. As Alfie said “it is the same notes in different order”. An evening to be treasured and remembered.

Thank you so much Roberta and Annie – let’s hope we see this repertoire at some point in the future!

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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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For Once In My Life, with Michael Ball at Scarborough:

Looking at the weather, this was one concert I wasn’t sorry to miss – let’s hope that we don’t get a repeat performance this week!

For Once In My Life is most famous as a hit for Stevie Wonder in 1967 but was actually recorded and released by Barbara McNair, Jean DuShon, Tony Bennett, The Four Tops and the Temptations before this. Let’s take a look at Stevie Wonder:

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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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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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