Fantastic news for all those Alfie Boe and Michael Ball fans who want to get their Together Again album signed in person – the pair have just released a string of album signings.

All signings are on release day, 27 October and as this is a world record attempt, timings are expected to be strict – or we’ll end up in Oxford Street at midnight!  For the same reason, photos with Alfie and Michael might not be possible.  As with anything, it’s better to be early!

If you want to make history with Alfie and Michael, get down to Blackpool, Manchester Arndale, Sheffield Meadowhall, Nottingham or London Oxford St on 27 October – hope to see lots of you in Oxford St!

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The third song in our third Best Alfie Boe Live Song poll is a song that has featured in both previous polls, albeit it has slipped slightly further down the chart this year to number eight.  The song has consistently featured in the top ten of our annual best recorded song poll as well and has also been picked twice as part of our six sensational songs series.  I’m talking about Rank Strangers:

This was the first time that Alfie sang this song and is mostly widely requested during polls, as is Alfie singing it on the Storyteller tour:

Both these version are very different from the recorded version which was famously done in one take!

Rank Strangers was written by Albert Brumley, a musician and singer born in Oklahoma in 1905.  After studying at the Hartford Musical Institute, Arkansas,  Brumley toured with the Hartford Quartet and went on to write / copyright an astonishing 800 songs.  The most famous of these is I’ll Fly Away from 1932.  In 1970 he was inducted into the Country Song Writer’s Hall of Fame and his songs have been covered by amongst others, Bob Dylan, who I’m sure introduced Alfie to the song.

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The first night of the Australian Ball and Boe tour is over and before the show moves on to Melbourne, here is Margie McKay-Lowndes’ review.  Many of you will know that Margie has three times flown to London from down under to see Alfie in concert, so it is all the more fitting that the first review of the first show is hers:

Right from the get-go our boys held the audience in the palm of their hand. Somewhere and Tonight kicked us off with For Once in My Life rounding off the lively beginning, the audience now clapping to the rhythm and singing along. It was very clear that Michael and Alfie were happy to be here in Brisbane in our beautiful Concert Hall, which was almost filled to capacity: the stalls were booked out, and about half the balcony.

All the renditions were powerful and moving; the first of many highlights was You’re the Voice. There was an audible collective gasp of surprise and pleasure from the audience, who sang out every word of this moving, powerful, unofficial Aussie national anthem. The Ball and Boe rendition is destined to makes waves across the nation, I’m sure. Into the Elvis medley, where the audience were standing, dancing, clapping and loving every moment. The boys were having a great time as well, with all the sound on point, (at least to my ears). The orchestra was a mix of UK and Aussie musicians with Murray there as well. The back-up singers delivered particularly melodious harmonies – a very warm sound.

During all of this fabulous feast of music the fans in the front (where I was blessed to be seated about 1.5 m from where they were singing all evening) were enjoying it hugely, having not only met the stars at the Meet and Greet, but also meeting each other. Most of the fans that I met were Michael Ball fans, who were happy to have ‘discovered’ Alfie as well, although I met one elderly fan who was Team Alfie through and through, and there were certainly several Alfie fans front and centre in the hall. The Meet and Greet was well organised with about 40 people lining up. We had an opportunity to have something signed, a professional photo taken, and were welcome to mill around until the whole thing was finished. I had intended to say welcome to Brisbane etc, but ended up telling them about a whole of other things they were probably not interested in!! It was so great to see Alfie again and I must say, both of them seemed to be in glowing good health.

The second half was even better than the first, if possible. They impressed with Stairway to Paradise, Me and My Shadow (hamming it up through the ‘dancing’), Luck be a Lady and New York, New York. Onto the Bond Medley: this one impressed my friend who had kindly purchased a ticket for me before discovering I had also purchased a ticket for myself – so she brought her husband and voila! they are now confirmed Alfie Fans. They just loved it. Keep me in your heart and surprisingly, Free Falling, a tribute to Tom Petty, was a highlight, as was Michael’s Gethsemane, which again brought the crowd to its feet. The fellow sitting next to me had his dream come true when Michael sang Love Changes Everything and of course, the Les Mis medley just blew everyone away. A Standing O brought them back for You’ll Never Walk Alone. Walking out of the hall, the conversations around me were very positive. Everyone seemed to be blown away and there was long queue for the CD, which sold out!

Off to wind down with my friend and her hubby over a glass of bubbles while we kept an eye on the Stage Door to see if they would make an appearance, but alas no. However, we couldn’t fault the whole evening – as the man on my other side (as well as Michael’s tweet) said – it just doesn’t get any better than this!!

Thanks so much Margie for a wonderful review.

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It seems ages ago now but Classic Quadrophenia in the US has finished and so has our competition to win four programmes signed by Alfie – yes, you’re right in that the original post said three, but another one came back to the UK with Annie.  Thanks so much to Roberta, Cecelia and Annie for getting Alfie to sign them and to Linda A for passing the last one from A to B.

With further ado, the winners are:

Angie Pells

Kate Devaney

Diane Lilga

Jennifer Parr

Well done ladies, please send me your address via the contact page – click here.

Alfie and Michael yesterday released a video of Maria as part of the West Side Story Medley from Together Again:

Wonder if this will be their song on Strictly this year?  No idea if they will appear but it’s a great slot for autumn album releases and they already have their dancing set up!

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As Alfie and Michael head off to Australia for their whirlwind tour of five cities, it’s time to look at the second song in our 2017 poll to find Alfie Boe’s Best Live Song.  Number nine is a new entry to the top ten although it’s been on the long list since the first poll was run in 2014.  Here is Always On My Mind:

In a previous post, I said that this Elvis song was written by Willie Nelson but…it wasn’t! It was written by Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher and Mark James as a country song and first recorded by Brenda Lee:

Carson gave an interview to Jake Brown for his book, Nashville Songwriter and talk about the songwriting process

I wrote those two verses of Always On My Mind living in Springfield, Missouri, and I usually write from the melody. I’ll think of the melody or the chord structure or something … If the melody is singable, the words are not far away. It’s only a story, you know.  In this case, Always On My Mind happens to be one of those things that, universally, everybody on the planet has been there, you know. And it struck all at one time. Everybody touched base with that one. It was just magic that it was so simple and so right on the button.

I purposely didn’t write a bridge to Always On My Mind because I didn’t think it needed one. We decided to cut that dude one night in Memphis, back when I was recording for United, I guess it was—or whatever label I was recording for at that time; and so, Tips Smallman, my producer and dear, lifelong friend, said, ‘Wayne, I think this thing needs a bridge.’ And so I said, ‘Well, how do you want me to do it?’ He said, ‘Why don’t you take it upstairs to my office; I’ve got a little piano up there, or a guitar—whatever you want to use.’ I said, ‘Well, actually, I used a piano so I’ll go up there and see what I come up with.  In the meantime, Johnny Christopher comes wandering in and he said, ‘Do you need some help?’ And I said, ‘Well, it looks like I’m going to because I haven’t come up with anything as far as a bridge.’ And I said, ‘Johnny, I never thought it needed a bridge, so I never did give it a second thought.’ And we sat there and sat there and nothing happened. Then pretty soon here comes Mark James just picking up his mail at the publishing company, which was right next door to the studio. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Tips wants a bridge for this song.’ Now Mark had never heard the song at that point. And we had a version of it cut already, without the bridge. That’s why there had been some talk that Mark had wrote the song and cut me in on it at one time. So we got that dispelled real quick. Anyway, the three of us sat there and finally wrote those two lines—you know, the bridge. ‘Tell him that your sweet loving …’—that part. Hell, a hit’s a hit.

Famously, Elvis recorded the song after splitting with Priscilla and has remained, even with all his other tracks, one of his most popular songs.  Alfie sang this song on the US tour of 2012 and not to my knowledge since then.  Another song to add to my extensive ‘songs I want to hear Alfie sing live’ list!

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It’s been a while since we looked at Six Sensational Songs and with so much happening in the next few months, it might be a while until we feature the series again, so let’s go into the weekend with six fantastic songs chosen by Kathryn Richards.  Kathryn has been following Alfie since first seeing him on Parkinson in 2007.

Stranger in Paradise, was chosen because it was indeed the first time Kathryn heard or saw Alfie and the song that made her fall in love.

E Lucevan E Stelle, chosen because this was the second time Kathryn saw Alfie and as he was singing opera, she thought “wow what a voice”.

God Give Me Strength, chosen because “I love this song and the video of him at the Scottish Proms was really good.”

Marechiari, chosen by Kathryn because “it always puts a smile on my face, a very catchy tune”.

Torna A Sorriento, chosen because “it transports me to Italy, a great summer song”.

Agnus Dei, chosen after Kathryn ” bought You’ll Never Walk Alone CD and the lovely haunting sound to Alfie’s voice gives me goosebumps and tears.”

I’m still astounded that fans continue to add new songs to our Six Sensational Songs playlist; of Kathryn’s six, four have not been chosen before.

If you would like to see your six songs featured, please fill in the form:

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In times as turbulent and uncertain as those we currently live in, it seems to me that the music we listen to would go one of two ways: escapist or reflecting what’s happening around us. But, what if there was a third way? Music that reflects uncertainty while also sounding hopeful for the future of our world? In Stargazer, the new album from US musician, Jesse Terry I think we’ve found this.

I once read that during a recession, sales of red lipstick go up as we try to keep our spirits up during doom and gloom, a story that appeals to me as a fervent lover of red lipstick as pick you up, whether or not there’s any truth in it. As an escape from reality it’s pretty sure fire, albeit on a short term basis. Another escape route from reality is music, both songs that you’ve loved forever and new music that takes you to a far off, magical place. I have a pretty extensive music collection but I’m always looking for more to add and I recently came across a US artist named Jesse Terry whose new album, Stargazer really lifted me with its upbeat tone of hope and thought provoking lyrics that lead you to think about the bigger picture.  When I spoke to Terry, I asked him if was a happy person and he said that “most people see me as a happy guy…I’m happiest when making music and that’s when most people do see me.  In Stargazer, we talk about choosing your own universe and it’s the journey that’s lots of fun, it’s good to still be on that journey”.  The title track is filled with hope, compassion and empathy, demonstrated by the lines “I know how much it hurts, you’re free now to choose your universe, I know your time’s coming soon”.

Stargazer as a whole uses a lot of strings which make an emotional impact and have been thoughtfully arranged as part of the song, rather than added as an afterthought. They work so well that I would like to hear several songs as classical works as well as acoustically, particularly Woken the Wildflowers.  Terry and I bonded over the sometimes overuse of ‘extraneous strings’, my own phrase!, where it really doesn’t suit the music but in this case, Terry says that he was aided by a great arranger, Danny Mitchell and the songs were written with the strings in mind.  “Think Abbey Road without George Martin’s string arrangements” is how Terry put it.

The Abbey Road connection is apt as Terry cites The Beatles as his most overriding musical influence (he talks about them with reverence and awe in his voice) along with Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and The Travelling Wilburys.  All of these can be heard on Stargazer but as well as The Beatles, I felt that Paul McCartney’s later solo work made it’s presence felt with Terry even sounding like McCartney at times.  Listening to the rest of the album, Dangerous Times struck me as a flowing melody with lyrics that really make you think about the world around us and our place within it whereas Only A Pawn had the same effect but with a stand out intro and use of pizzicato strings.  Dance In Our Old Shoes and Runaway Town pass the had to get up and dance test parts and to me sound positively Springsteenish.

Stargazer is available here:

Jesse Terry is touring the UK in October – click here for info.

With ten weeks to go until the start of Alfie Boe and Michael Ball’s Together Again tour, it’s time to count down Alfie’s ten best live songs, as voted for by you in 2017.  There are a few new entrants to the top ten and one or two surprises but the first in our countdown is O Sole Mio / It’s Now or Never from the Diamond Jubilee concert in 2012:

For many years, O Sole Mio would have been a song extremely well known to Alfie and he was still performing it well into 2012, albeit with a bit of Elvis thrown in.  Here’s the master himself:

A different arrangement of It’s Now or Never featured on the Storyteller album but was never performed live.  This song has long been a favourite with fans and cemented this with an appearance at number nine in the 2016 Best Live Song poll.  It has also been chosen twice in our semi regular Six Sensational Songs series.

O Sole Mio was written in 1898 and has been recorded and performed by huge numbers of people, making it one of the most famous Neapolitan songs around.  Alfie himself sang it on his 2007 album La Passione although that hasn’t stopped him having to explain that it’s not about ice cream to UK audiences – for those of you outside our sunny shores, the tune of O Sole Mio was the theme of Cornetto ice cream TV adverts for a ten year period in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Sorry – I just couldn’t resist putting it in!

O Sole Mio is available on La Passione:

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It’s competition time again – this time we have three Classic Quadrophenia programmes signed by Alfie Boe to give away.  All you have to do is answer this question:

Who conducted the five performances of Classic Quadrophenia in the US?

The competition is now closed.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at Alfie in Classic Quad:

Good luck!

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Classic Quadrophenia in the USA came to a close on Saturday night at the Greek Theatre, LA.  Luckily, our roving US reporter, Roberta Kappus was on hand to review for us.

As the saying goes “Alfie never disappoints” and he certainly didn’t at The Greek Theatre.  He came bounding onto the stage to applause with the same enthusiasm and energy as his first night at Tanglewood and accelerated from there.  From the beginning Alfie tried to encourage the audience to join in singing but this audience was a little more laid back as although some joined in, most were happy to enjoy Alfie’s singing.  I hasten to add this was not indicative of any lack of appreciation of Alfie’s performance; there was more applause for Alfie throughout the show than at any other venue I attended.  The Real Me, his opening song, was interrupted by applause three or four times. In addition to noteworthy shouts and applause there were scattered standing ovations at the ends of many songs. It seemed as though Alfie was reading the audience very well and the audience seemed happy with Alfie as applause and shouts of approval came throughout the show.  The audience seemed especially appreciative of Alfie’s punctuation of songs with dramatic arm gestures along with all the legwork.  Alfie’s exertions were in no way inhibited by the warmth on the stage.  It was not a large stage and the orchestra seemed a bit cramped.  Alfie wiped his brow numerous times, finished at least one water bottle which he tossed into the crowd and during the second half stripped off his jacket, tossing that aside.

Only professional cameras were prohibited and when Billy Idol made his entrance so many phones went up you could not even see the stage.  Alfie and Billy played off each other very well in their duets, with both snarling.  Pete was greeted with a standing ovation as has been the case since the beginning of the tour.  His dancing with Alfie went up a level at The Greek with all the steps being very pronounced followed by several twirls.  His guitar playing was once again masterful.

My take on Alfie as a performer is that he puts a lot of thought into his performance and keeps on thinking about it and adjusting throughout the run. It is one of the reasons that I can see the same show multiple times.  It simply isn’t the same show even though the words and the songs are the same.  With Classic Quad this was best exemplified in Love Reign O’er Me.  Alfie fills this song with such physical and vocal intensity that there does not seem room for adjustment and yet he finds ways.  At the Met he sank to his knees and leaned back on the final “Love” in the song. At The Greek Alfie walked out onto a darkened stage during the symphonic introduction, crouched down in the very front and centre of the stage, stayed there unmoving and then began singing from that position.  After he had sung several bars he rose to a standing position and continued with what seemed like an added intensity to the final “Love”. The audience responded with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Thus ends five performances of Classic Quadrophenia in two weeks. From the first to the last Alfie gave totally outstanding performances.  His singing was superb; the emotion he poured into song after song incredible; the power of his voice at each performance remarkable.  Without a doubt Alfie owns this role.

Thank you once again to Roberta for a fabulous review, the next best thing to being there.

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