Storyteller tour

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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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As August winds to a close and Classic Quadrophenia in USA gets closer (less than a week!), it’s time for another look at your favourite Alfie Boe songs.  This week it’s the turn of Helen Linden, who first heard Alfie sing in 2010 at the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert. Helen says “I’d never even heard of Alfie Boe up to this point – it was my then sixteen year old daughter who persuaded me to go with her to see Marius as she was a massive Nick Jonas fan.  That’s when I discovered Alfie and have been a fan ever since.

These are Helen’s six sensational songs:

Caruso, chosen “because I love the tone of Alfie’s voice for this dramatic song. It’s a powerful melody and how Alfie manages to fit in all the words, I’ll never know! It was a favourite of my Dad’s when Pavarotti used to sing it but I think Alfie does it better.”

Chitarra Romana, added to Helen’s list of favourites when Alfie performed it at the MEN arena in Manchester. It was just a joy to hear Alfie singing this upbeat song on the sofa with Murray and the rest of the band.

The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, chosen because it’s one of Helen’s favourite songs and “when I heard Alfie singing the first line….followed by ‘I was sick’, I just roared with laughter. It took Alfie a while to get back ‘n the zone’ but love how he doesn’t take himself too seriously.”  I couldn’t find that particular video so I included another where he was clearly enjoying himself with a laugh.

Volare, chosen because “I just love this song and Alfie’s interaction with the audience during this one. I even brought Castanets to play during one of the shows!”

Love Reign O’er Me, from Classic Quad.  As Helen says, “not an easy song to sing but Alfie just nails it. And that last note. Well, what can I say?”  Having written about this song for to years now, I agree that there aren’t enough superlatives to do justice to Alfie’s voice on this song and indeed the whole album.

The song that started it all for Helen: “I first heard Alfie sing this back in 2010 at the O2 for the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert. I’d never even heard of Alfie Boe up to this point.  But I was hooked, just like so many others after hearing Alfie Bring Him Home. It’s my favourite favourite Alfie song and I never get tired of hearing him sing it.”

Love Reign O’er Me and Bring Him Home now tie with A Living Prayer as the most chosen songs for your choice of Alfie Boe’s Six Sensational Songs and nice to see three new songs in this series.  Thanks Helen for sharing your songs with us.  If you would like to share your six sensational songs with us, please fill in the form:

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The latest in our series of Alfie Boe sensational songs comes from Lee Kelly.  Lee first became aware of Alfie shortly after the 25th anniversary Les Mis concert and was spellbound.  She’s since been lucky enough to see him live a few times and met him in New York on 28 February last year. In her words, she was a “quivering wreck”! These are Lee’s choices:

Trust, chosen simply because Lee loves the album.

Wayfaring Stranger – love the fun Alfie’s having in this video!  Lee chose this song because of the “haunting words”.

Tell Me It’s Not True, chosen as “Blood Brothers is my husband’s favourite musical and hearing Alfie sing Tell Me It’s Not True is wonderful”,

Run – Lee chose this as she has “always liked this song and Alfie takes it to another level”.

Bring Him Home, chosen as Lee says “Alfie makes every hair stand on end every time I hear him sing this” – I think we all agree!

Rank Stranger

Thanks for sharing your favourite songs with us Lee.

If you would like to share your favourite Alfie songs with us, please fill in the form!

The summer tour is over but no need to cry because we are in the rather unusual position of having lots to look forward to!  Performances in three countries, a new album, we’re in danger of being rather spoilt in the latter half of 2017.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at six more sensational songs, this time from Karen Rogers.  I first met Karen, very briefly, at a Storyteller album signing in London’s Oxford Street and since then we have run into each other at several concerts, culminating in a memorable evening in Bournemouth last year.  Ball and Boe were the warm up act for an absolutely hilarious evening with our Boe Buddies – how many Alfie Boe fans can you get into a single hotel room was the name of the game!  Here are Karen’s six songs:

A Living Prayer, which appears in this series for the fourth time now.  Karen says “I’m not religious in any shape or form but absolutely love this song. The words, even as a non believer are so very beautiful. The video that accompanies the song is lovely too and adds to the emotion.”

Bring Him Home at the 25th anniversary concert.  Karen says that she chose it because “as Alfie’s signature song how could I not include it? However the reason I chose it was because of the memories it evokes. I never thought I would get to see Alfie, live, in Les Miserables but when he announced he would be reprising the role in New York I knew I had to get there. I went with the lovely Carole Hunt and we saw him 4 times. Each time was as special as the first. The picture in my head of him sat at the barricade with Marius at his side asleep as he sings it brings tears to my mind every time. Very special times.”  We don’t have footage of his stage appearances so I chose this video as the next best thing.

Doctor Jimmy, from Classic Quadrophenia – what a fabulous evening that was.  Karen says “I absolutely love this song for the totally shallow reason that Alfie says the f’ word!!! I know its awful to admit but I do. The raw emotion as he swears is amazing. As the wife of a Who fan who was totally bowled over by Alfie’s performance at the RAH I cannot put into words how special it all was.”

Run – Karen’s choice because “it’s a fabulous song with wonderful words but given the Alfie Boe treatment becomes an all time great anthem.”

It’s Only Love – another song that gets me up and dancing every time!  Karen chose it as she “absolutely adored Alfie on the Storyteller Tour. It is as a Rock God that I adore him the most.His performance of the song as he charged from side of the stage to the other, jumping on the speakers in those tight jeans was sublime.”

O Sole Mio / Now or Never at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  Karen says “again it shows his versatility as he goes from classic to rock and roll. The highlight for me of the Queens Jubilee. Rocking out in his tight black jeans (I do love him in tight jeans!) and lovely black shirt. Doing what no one expected him to do and bringing the house down in the process. Fantastic!”

Thanks Karen for six very different choices – I love seeing the songs people choose and the reasons why.

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Just two songs left on this year’s Best Ever Alfie Boe Song countdown which means that there’s less than two weeks until Alfie starts his Summer Together tour with Michael Ball.  If you haven’t got tickets yet, click here.  I’m once again looking for guest reviewers so make sure you read to the end!

Song number two is a song that has featured twice before, in 2014 and 2015 and is this year’s only representative from Storyteller.  Rank Strangers is an American folk song from the early twentieth century which Alfie first sang on his Bring Him Home tour of 2012 and then recorded for Storyteller that same year.  Here is Alfie’s acoustic version from the Storyteller tour:

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:

Alfie, I hope you know that this is true dedication on my part, to feature, yet again, Bob Dylan’s vocals on this blog!

Stay tuned next week for the reveal of the fans’ Favourite Song 2017!

With the summer tour so close, I’m looking for guest reviewers again – I need reviewers for all the shows except Greenwich so if you want to have a go, send a sample of a short review of either a concert or album via this form:

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...Wayfaring Stranger in New Jersey:

First heard on the Autumn 2012 US tour, Wayfaring Stranger featured on Alfie’s 2012 album Storyteller and became a set list staple of the eponymous tour.  The song went on to feature in the first two Best Ever Alfie Boe Song polls in 2014 and 2015 and signalled a clear progression towards the style of Alfie’s next album, Trust.  Here is Alfie talking about why the song was chosen:

The joy Alfie talks about here was much more in evidence on the Storyteller tour – this is the song from the Royal Albert Hall (thanks to Linda W):

The strong backing vocals from Seweuse and Lucy are the icing on the cake for me, not to mention Murray, Matt and Nick on guitar and bass and Richard on keyboard.  I defy to stay sitting in your seat and not dance around when listening to this!

Storyteller is available here:

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We’ve reached the half way point of our count down which means it’s only five weeks until the Ball and Boe Together tour starts!  The song at number five is a song that has been on the long list since the beginning but has only now made it to the top ten.  I’m talking about The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face:

Thanks to Annie for sharing this from Blackpool on the Storyteller tour.  Why has the song just now been voted into the top ten?  Not sure if I’m honest!  Perhaps that as we’re now revisiting Alfie’s repertoire for the third time, songs that have been previously overlooked are now been reappraised.  Alfie has sung this song live on countless occasions, right from the Bring Him Home tour, both American tours and Storyteller so this might be another reason as to why it has now appeared in the top ten.

The song was written by folk singer songwriter Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger before they were married although the song only became world famous when Roberta Flack’s version was used in the Clint Eastwood film, Play Misty For Me.  In the years since, there have been many, many cover versions, (all of them hated, at least those recorded before 1989, apparently by MacColl) but my favourite is George Michael’s version.  I may be biased in my choice as (before Alfie, yes there was such a thing). George Michael was my absolute favourite artist.

It’s rare that I find another artist’s version better than Alfie’s version but with this song, George’s phrasing edges it for me.  Certainly, it’s the best track on George’s album Songs from the Last Century.  Interestingly, in a long ago radio interview, Alfie picked George Michael as having a great voice and could have been even better if he’d gone down the route of vocal training.

First Time Ever I Saw Your Face is from the 2011 album, Alfie and is available here:

Alfie (alfie) album

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The fourth song of this year’s best ever Alfie Boe song poll is the first of our new entries to the top ten, even though it’s been on the long list since the beginning.  Taken from the 2012 album Storyteller, It’s Over went onto be used as the opening song of the 2013 tour:

Genius to start a set with a song called It’s Over.  The song was originally nominated by our sometime guest reviewer Roberta Kappus, who said

this song was the first song of the Storyteller concert and after travelling from the US to London I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall to hear It’s Over and that’s exactly how I felt – I hadn’t heard Alfie sing live for a while and I just thought, the wait is over

It’s Over was originally performed by Roy Orbison, who also co-wrote it, together with Bill Dees. Released in 1964 as a single (although later appearing on greatest hits albums), the song hit number 1 in the UK chart, surpassing it’s best chart position on the US billboard where it reached a high of number 9.

If you want to see Alfie’s version on DVD, the Storyteller DVD is available here:

storyteller dvd

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… one of my favourite songs, Angie, at Dartford:

I fell in love with Alfie’s interpretation of the Rolling Stones’ song the first time I heard it and was thrilled to find it on his Storyteller album.  I was less thrilled to find it was no longer part of the Storyteller repertoire by the time the tour came to its last week – but I can’t grumble, that tour was amazing from start to finish.

I’ve written before about how Alfie has introduced me to other music and Angie is another example of this.  Although I’d been listening to the Stones for years, courtesy of my elder sister, Angie had somehow passed me by and I looked it up after hearing Alfie’s version.  So glad I did, (Wild Horses knocks spots off it though:

Storyteller is available on both album and DVD:

storytellercd

storyteller dvd

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…the Storyteller tour of Spring 2013:

Thanks to the talents of (mostly) Linda W and Nikki Lewis we have a lot of videos from this tour so you can see nearly every song that appeared on the set list.  This was the first time I had ever been to multiple concerts by the same artist…all in the same week!  Those of you have done the same at various times will know that each and every concert is different; each concert has moments which belong entirely in that moment and add to the atmosphere and excitement of a tour.

Other than the concerts themselves, the memories that stand out for me are the freezing weather outside the Royal Albert Hall (typical for this tour to coincide with the coldest Spring for fifty years), the search for the stage door in Blackpool which was worth it when Alfie stopped on both nights, meeting new friends hitherto known only via social media and most of all, the laughs and sheer joy of shared experiences with fabulous friends.  I’ve been lucky enough to do this again since 2013 and thankfully we get to do it all again this year, with the added bonus of Michael Ball.  Hope to see some of you there.

Storyteller is available here:

storyteller dvd

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