US Tour

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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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Welcome to the third in thoughtsofjustafan’s occasional series, Alfie Boe’s Six Sensational Songs.  So far, you’ve seen my pick and that of Betty Valentine and now it’s the turn of Cathy Haley, an Alfie fan who has been with this blog almost since it started!  Here, Cathy tell us how she came to be Boe’d:

I started following Alfie in the spring of 2011. Like most of his North American fans, I saw him on PBS. It was a repeat broadcast of the 25th Les Mis concert and I had always been a huge Les Mis fan. We had seen the show twice with Michael Burgess and the CD with the original cast was played a lot in our house. So, I watched parts of the PBS broadcast and was taken with the fact that the JVJ was being played by someone who must be an opera singer. I looked him up the next day and was smitten. I spent a lot of time listening to radio interviews with him and watching YouTube. I laugh about it because I haven’t been a fan like that of anyone since I loved the Beatles in the early 60’s. I saw him live in Toronto 2012 which was the last stop on his North American tour during the tail end of a hurricane.
Last year, I travelled to NYC to see him on Broadway in Les Mis. As for the songs I chose, they are combinations of his power and his ability to sing softly with beauty. Most of them are very romantic.

Thanks Cathy – a lot of us start our ‘how we found Alfie’ stories with Les Mis!

Here are Cathy’s six songs:

Wheels of a Dream, chosen because “is the perfect vehicle for his voice since it really builds to a crescendo.”

Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna, chosen as “it has a lovely melody and is a folk song that has been given a classical treatment. Alfie’s voice is crystalline in the recording and not as deep as his present voice.”

Addio Sogni Di Gloria, chosen “again this has a great melody and the lows and highs that highlight his singing”.

Song to the Siren, from Alfie, and in recorded form, a duet with Robert Plant, long a musical idol for Alfie.  Cathy says ” I heard him sing it live in Toronto in 2012. He started off-stage with it and it was eerily beautiful.”

Parlami D’Amore Mariu, from La Passione.  This video shows the beauty of Alfie’s voice but also his cheeky sense of humour!

My Heart is Yours, from Serenata, chosen, in part, because ” it’s a romantic ballad and shows that he doesn’t have to always power out a song. I think that my favourites always have a melody that I am taken with. I am a huge classical fan and like any thing he sings of that genre”.

Thank you Cathy for sharing your Six Sensational Songs with us – so far, we have had only one song, Fratello Sole, Sorella Luna, chosen by two people, although Cathy did mention that were she permitted a seventh song, You Are My Heart’s Delight is pretty near perfect.

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The Thrill Is Gone at the Birchmere, Alexandria:

Alfie is clearly having the time of his life here but, as far as I’m aware, this is one song that he hasn’t performed in any tour since.  Bring it back Alfie, it’s great!

Written in 1951 by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, the version most well known is that by BB King:

As mentioned in On This Day 31 January, Alfie was experimenting with blues at the time and The Thrill is Gone fits right in with that.  Perhaps that sound for Alfie was of it’s time  but I really hope we see it return in the not too distant future – I could listen to Alfie sing Trust and Storyteller all day long.

As mentioned, the original was by Roy Hawkins and this is it – still blues but more measured, at least to me:

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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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