Wednesday 29 February 2012

*My Favourite Album Covers

DYLAN Freewheelin
Beatles Revolver
U2 Joshua Tree

Tuesday 28 February 2012

*The Early Beatles

There’s a fascination about the early Beatles Photos and Music. What gave them that ‘magic’ – was it how they bounced off each other – how much did George Harrison (the quiet one) add. In the early days all three were front men and Lennon wanted the best in the band. 

At sixteen Lennon started his skiffle band The Quarrymen in 1957. They changed their name to The Beatles and played over in Hamburg Germany in 1960. It wasn't until 1962 that the band picked up attention for their gigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. After Decca Records rejected the band in early February 1962 with the comment "Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr. Epstein", George Martin signed the group to EMI's Parlophone label in May.  

I’ve been having fun looking through early Beatles images.

At a time when mods and rockers walked the streets of London, and when British youth was fascinated by the American blues records sold in back street shops and when pop music really took off here. It was fresh and exciting times for pop art culture, Mary Quant fashion, Twiggy, mini skirts and young music. 
Then it was all about the song and the instruments before the advent of the music video. (and oddly the Beatles were the first ones to make music videos, as they were so long at the number one spot they simply couldn't be on Top of the Pops every week!) 

Recommmend Life Magazine 'George Harrison Remembered'. Here's a link you might enjoy.

Todays generation is the 'fast' generation they want everything yesterday. They want to be The Beatles 1966 right away... rather than the Beatles 1957.  It took the Beatles 5 years of graft to get anywhere....


'enLIGHTen' Edinburgh City of Literature

enLIGHTen is an exciting new project by Edinburgh City of Literature –  that will fuse words and cutting edge technology to light up the night sky during March. 
Projections of famous quotes from the Scottish Enlightenment period will illuminate buildings along George Street and Rose Street in March. The event celebrates the literary and built heritage of locations including Charlotte Square and the Melville Monument in the city’s Poetry Garden, enLIGHTen will respond to the wisdom of great Enlightenment thinkers through new fiction and poetry by Gavin Inglis, William Letford, Kirsty Logan, Ken MacLeod, James Robertson and JL Williams, specially commissioned by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust. enLIGHTen will be the first time dynamic projection mapping has been used for cultural purposes in Scotland. 

Friday 24 February 2012

Emeli Sande - My Kind Of Love - KOKO London - 25.01.12

Thursday 23 February 2012

*Music Sites Today

NEW Music Sites (digital music services) 
Hype Machine – 1m Users.  Plays on iPhone. Andorid, Windows.  
Soundcloud – 8m Users. The Flickr of Audio. Sound design.
Soundhound -  Mobile phone platform plus share features.
Mobile Roadie - Apps for Artists
Mixcloud - Radio
.MXP4 - linked to Facebook. FB has 800 Users
Spotify (2m Users) and Pandora (60m Users) - Music streaming sites. Many of the new music sites work on a sharing basis.  
The Ease of Free Access
Authors are worried where the future of book sales is heading in this age of free access. I heard an author on the radio the other day saying back in the past writers (and artists and musicians also) were given time and allowed to fail in Public but this is not the case now.  Being able to sustain popularity after a breakthrough isn’t so easy. 

In the Book World festivals matter as book experts study the world book market and carefully evaluate the best writers out there. The music business by comparison with the book world is  'over-diversified' with the ease of access and time… it takes much longer to read a book after all! 

What does a new band need to do?  Oddly with all this internet activity and more music available than ever before, it is harder than ever to get heard!  When MTV started we had ONE excellent music channel, now we have many channels that are diluted. The hard part today is finding the ‘quality’ amongst it all. That is why independent Radio, Websites, DJs, Podcasts, Blogs etc. matter a great deal.

The ‘market-driven’ approach of today's music business takes a broad ‘democratic’ look at ‘polls’ which asks the media which artists they are already supporting and inevitably some of the more innovative music gets sidelined. Marketing polls matter for the likes of Live Nation, labels and the main music festivals.

However to quote Tony Wadsworth former head of EMI Records UK.
I’d prefer to listen to the opinion of one trusted blog, magazine or DJ that I’m confident has a history of turning me on to good new artists, rather than the democratic view of the entire business.’ . In music some festivals matter – while some music festivals are mostly Label controlled.

Where Are Machines Taking Us - Does Being Online Control You?

‘Using’ the Internet can be a powerful tool for access and information and communication. I try to avoid getting ‘sucked’ into various online ‘tunnels’ – so I can stay in ‘control’. Once the powers that be controlled the Proletariat through wars and alcohol – today the Big Media Conglomerates control or ‘attempt to control’, through ‘Online Gaming’ and other Media.
These games are addictive just like other drugs, through the clever use of offering small rewards.

And Kindles? Well my son has a Kindle with a retro dark brown cloth cover and it actually looks rather cool. I also like the Kindle apps that offer access to libraries connected to our favourite topics. Yet my daughter prefers the feel of a hardback book under her hands. We are all different! 
We may ask ourselves where are machines taking us? Can a machine, no matter how sophisticated truly replicate the intricacies, interconnections and beauty of the Human Mind and mostly the emotions of the Human Heart. Can electronic sounds ever truly match the earthy realness of a beautifully crafted violin or flute, an Italian piano, a Gibson guitar, the scale of the clarinet or the ethereal beauty of the human voice…………?

After the World War a generation of young men was lost – today a generation is lost to Online Games. Who are the Winners?
I accidentally thought of this new verb for all this! – meaning we are numbed into this passive thinking… condoled. Stay in control!
 "Success is waking up in the morning and bounding out of bed because there's something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you're good at - something that's bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again."-- Whit Hobbs

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The BRITS 2012 – Some great British music while mostly mainstream and not for everyone

Coldplay, the biggest band worldwide, opened the BRITS show with their brand of colourful fun ‘Paradise’ rhythms. I am proud of British music with artists who sell well worldwide – Coldplay, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Jessie J, Laura Marling, Plan B, more.
Adele, the biggest selling British artist of the 21st century with 17m sales, just swept the American Grammies last week with her ‘coming of age’ album 21. Back home in London Adele again won the categories Best Album and Best Female. Newcomer singer songwriter Ed Sheeran won Best Male and Best Breakthrough act. Best Band; Coldplay (50m sales worldwide); Emeli Sande won Critics Choice award.
International Female; Rhianna (20m albums), International Male; Bruno Mars (500m hits youTube), International Groupl Foo Fighters; International Breakthrough; Lana Del Rey. 
The show closed with 90s band Blur. While performers Olly Murs, Bruno Mars and Rhianna, prove this show is mostly about the mainstream.

It is not all about good vibes on the ground these days, but more importantly attention in the online stratospheres – and all about that Online Buzz now via YouTube hits, Facebook friends and Twitter friends,

The Brits may not have the extravagance and glitz of the Grammies but thank goodness, music should not be all about theatricals! Florence and the Machine put on a beautifully artistic choreographed performance. The presenter James Corden, took to the floor where some audience members walked in front of him… 
Plus quite oddly he felt it was more important the show kept to its allotted time than that Adele was given time for her acceptance speech after winning best album!  I’m all for professionalism but this seemed to be carrying things a bit too far!   

PS As respected songwriter Richard Thompson puts it, 'People in large numbers don't always have the best taste!'  Also I was reading that when Adele recorded Someone Like You simply backed with piano her label wanted the song re-recorded with a full band backing, but Adele stuck to her guns and said no! mmmm It never fails to amaze me the over-production that goes on. Surely it’s about the song and voice in the end? 

Friday 17 February 2012

*Emeil Sande 'Our Version of Events' Review

 Sande has a gripping voice that engages emotionally on many levels. Her songs have powerful timeless melodies with both classical and soul influences and her album sits astride mainstream pop and something more interesting and individual. 

I've followed Emeli Sande since 2006 when I first heard her sing at her ep launch Oran Mor Glasgow and it is  very exciting to see her reap the rewards from all her songwriting work with the successes of her recent debut album which is due to be release in America in June. I met Emeli at her King Tuts gig in 2011 and she has a natural warm smile and was very earnest about her music there.    

Our Version of Events is about her powerhouse soul voice and her distinctive song writing and we hear clearly Sande’s heart on her stronger songs -  the lyrical Daddy, Next To Me, My Kind Of Love, Clown, Maybe, Breaking the Law (which changes the albums feel and has simply guitar and her voice) and on her first single release Heaven which uses the popular energy of the Amen dance drumbeat. Her album sits astride mainstream pop and something more interesting and individual. 

Refreshingly with Emeli here is someone who has made it through hard graft and not through the Guildford School of Music or by being wealthy and privately educated. My hope is that artists are given time to develop in music. We might also wonder why would Sande, a cool, musical and clearly bright singer, wish to be aligned to Simon Cowell?  While I hope the music world is about creativity, it is also about a business. She may have written for Cowell’s X Factor winners but Sande’s music has true grit and heart to it.  

Emeli Sandé is a Scottish R & B and soul artist and songwriter. Before pursuing her musical career, Sandé studied medicine at Glasgow University. Her influences are a cross between the piano songs of Nina Simone's and rock music, and she describes her sound as ‘soul with a rockier edge.’  

I prefer not to 'over analyse' music - I prefer to follow my instinct. I ask myself would I listen to this album, would I travel to hear this artist perform? The answer with Sande’s music is a very firm yes. 

This is a strong debut album mostly receiving good reviews. How many albums are perfect without a few weaker songs, not many that I can name. Emeli has a gripping voice that is both soothing and edgy and engages emotionally on many levels. She plays piano well and breaks her set with several piano slower tempo songs. It seems to me she has paid her dues and delivered a fine album.
Sande at her Old Fruitmarket Glasgow April 2012
Emeli had to change her name as in 2007 as she was known as 'Adele' her first name! There are comparisons here as both have powerful voices. Adele just swept the Grammies 2012 -  then again 21 is Adele's third album.

I first heard Sande at her CD launch gig Oran Mor Glasgow December 2006 when she had picked up attention for her strong distinctive voice at university. She has changed her hair since then also from big and brown to a peroxide quiff, which certainly makes her stand out!  I met her also at her King Tuts gigs in 2010 where she kindly signed Prints. Sande has had hit songs since then with -  Professor Green’s on "Read All About It” (number one UK singles chart), rapper Chipmunk’s, “Diamond Rings” and Wiley’s “Never Be Your Woman”. 
I first heard Sande's album songs at her Oran Mor 2011 and I was impressed with how her songwriting had developed with many catchy hooks and good variety of rhythms. 


Sunday 12 February 2012

Celtic 2012 Review

One of the joys of Celtic Connections is that there are so many top class musicians of all genres in town for the two weeks. Although for me highlights are the Scottish Ceilidh bands, unique collaborations, emerging talent, American bluegrass, traditional singers and singer songwriters, Gaelic singers, 

This year I’ve been busy with reviews and with being unwell the first week I’ve not covered as much as usual. Saying that though the Bring It All Back Home: Gerry Rafferty Remembered provided one of the best concerts I’ve been to at Celtic – I am still singing Rafferty songs 2 weeks later!

I also had a lovely trip to the Fruitmarket, the ABC and I enjoyed a few nights at the Late Sessions and the open mics at the concert hall. The Rab Noakes concert was also highly enjoyable. Celtic finished for me with the ever wonderful Transatlantic Sessions.

This year was about the craft of the Songwriter with many concerts - one for the 100 year centennial for Woody Guthrie; an outstanding concert to commemorate and celebrate one of the best songwriters Gerry Rafferty organised by Rab Noakes
the protest song with Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart and Justin Currie; The Transatlantic celebrated several gifted writers and musicians among them the extraordinary Jerry Douglas from Ohio, Shetland fiddler Aly McBaincand guitarist Russ Barenberg  Other concerts included – Scottish songwriter Rab Noakes, Irish troubadour Luke Bloom, Thea Gilmore sang songs written by iconic English folk singer Sandy Denny, Mercury nominated King Creosote and John Hopkins; and younger artists Rachel Sermani, Breabach, Manran, Madison Violet, Admiral Fallow,and James Vincent McMorrow. 
Celtic encourages new artists via several routes – the BBC Young Traditional Musician, the Danny Kyle open stage, Showcase Scotland, (with Celtic artists worldwide), and with BBC broadcasts.

I would have wished to attend more but was unable to due to my very heavy cold the first week. Even so it was a delight as usual to attend the concert hall, fruitmarket and other venues for Celtic 2012. Another successful festival and as the girl from Madison Violet put it – how lucky we are to have a festival like this in Glasgow. 
If you watch the wonderful program 'Gerry Rafferty Remembered' - you can see me taking photos on the Ron Sexsmith song! Fame at last!

Transatlantic Sessions Celtic Connections 2012

The Mainstay of Celtic with it’s Winning Formula!

Transatlantic Band. Every January my son and I take a front row seat at the 'Transatlantic Sessions' Celtic Connections Glasgow. This is a very unique concert, and is about the band firstly - live bands don't come much better than this one!  I love the way the singers are centre stage vocally surrounded by these rich warm tones of the folk music. Singers include some of the most beautiful Celtic voices -   Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Cara Dillon, Darrell Scott, Tim O'Brien, Paul Brady, Julie Fowlis.  

This concert is all about the band and backing bands don’t come better than this! - they prove that an accomplished band makes all the difference to a concert. The band were introduced on stage. 
Musical directors were Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and dobro player Jerry Douglas.
Cast. Ruth Moody, Declan O’Rourke, Raul Malo, Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Tim O’Brien, Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas, Russ Barenberg, Danny Thompson, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker, Donald Shaw, Darrell Scott, Bruce Molsky
Here’s my concert running list which I hope I’ve got mostly right!
The Concert. After the opening reels Tim O’Brien from West Virginia performed My Girls Waiting For Me and All I Want. Ruth Moody of Wailing Jenny’s sang Nest and Long Stars. Next was Scottish favourite Eddie Reader who sang Burn’s Green Grow the Rashes O. She was joined by Irish singer songwriter Declan O’Rourke and they sang his song Love Is the Way. Declan then sang Lightning Bird and Galileo. Then we had tunes with Scottish fiddler Aly Bain leading – Glass of Beer and Full Rigged Ship. Next the crystal voice of Karen Matheson as she sang the traditional song The Arka Mill. Followed by the Cuban Latino singer Raul Malo who sang Without You and Better Days. The first half was finished with a song by Woody Guthrie This Land Is Our Land led by Tim O’Brien.

The second half was started by the celebrated dobro player Jerry Douglas and he makes it looks effortless! Next was Bruce Molsky’s old time quartet style with an 80 year old tune called New Cut Road. Then Raul Malo sang an old corny song, I Have Found my World in You. Michael McGoldrick played a beautiful Irish Air. Ruth Moody sang Shine Back on Me. Guitarist Russ Barenberg played Rain on the Island. Declan O’Rourke sang Langley’s Requiem at the grand piano. John McCusker played some tunes. Eddie Raeder sang Footsteps Fall and Karen Matheson sang a Donald Shaw song Diamond Ring. Followed by Scottish reels and the encore of Raul Milo singing Hey Good Looking.  

Tip for next year. Why not let Aly Bain do something solo? He seems an unassuming musician, but I can see watching the set what a very talented player he truly is. Modest Aly Bain is one of our most accomplished ever fiddlers. I notice during the singer’s turns the way Douglas adds his countering melody and how much his playing adds to the concert. One ingredient missing this year is Aly’s side kick talented accordionist Phil Cunningham.  

This band fills the stage and they are so well led by Douglas and Aly Bain while added to the mix are the very talented singers. This is about the joy of an accomplished live band.  

Saturday 11 February 2012

*Fleetwood Mac live!

It was a thrill to see Fleetwood Mac live in 2010 at their Glasgow gig! I remember listening to their Rumours album often and I loved the edge and rock n roll in Stevie Nicks voice and songs, and the stirring voice and piano of Christine McVie. They consisted of two couples; English Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie, and Americans Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks  - which brought together British rock and Californian singer songwriter cool. The ensuing sexual tensions led to their most successful and ‘before break ups’ album – Rumours.
(This was making me think of other renowned albums that were also written as bands were breaking apart – maybe emotions were running high! Bridge Over Troubled Water with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle, the Beatle’s Abbey Road – I feel sure there are more!

They were simply such a cool band – and they are still out there touring today. Favourite Fleetwood Mac songs – Dreams, Go Your Own Way, Angels, Rhiannon, Songbird, 

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Rab Noakes and Friends at Celtic Connections Celtic 2012

The last time I saw Rab play a gig ( at the Oran Mor Glasgow, review on my blog) the venue was not so busy, so it was good to see a full house for him tonight at Celtic. 

Friends of Rab’s joined him on stage. Rod Clements of Lindisfarne sang Turn a Deaf Ear with RabJimmy McGregor who was on Scottish television music shows in the 60s, talked of the Skiffle groups and he sang Mormond Breas and Freight Train with Rab. Noakes sang some of his older songs such as Eden’s Flow, Turn a Deaf Ear and Clear Day. He also performed a selection of his newer songs. 

Noakes sang his very deep Gently Does It when he talked about all those artists he’d lost in the past year, including Gerry Rafferty. Lyrics, ‘You’ve been n the road so long, Building a highway to take you home.’ Sang Noakes in Living in the Past, ‘The past is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. Old dreams tie you down.’ Nostalgia also came up in his song Memories.

He always includes one older song and tonight it was the classic Bye Bye Blackbird with Frazer on harmonica.
In between the songs Noakes talked about the story behind his songs. Noakes lets the songs come to him and he doesn’t force anything. He understands the meaning and depth of the songs he interprets and for him it’s all about the narrative. Noakes also talked about the movies that have inspired his work, such as 'Midnight Cowboy' inspiring his song 'I'm Walking Here.'

For his encore song he sang Dylan’s Mississippi. Many of his songs have strong blue grass and Americana influences. Rab has drawn on his Scottish Fife roots and taken on board American artists that he grew up with. I thought about how our music went over to America and then bounced back here! 

Rab took to the stage at the Strathclyde Suite concert hall 31st January. I was wishing there was a ‘Best of’ album of Noakes songs!


First Half
Wait a Minute
Slippin Away
What are you doing here?
Turn a Deaf Ear
Meet me on the corner
Eden’s Flow
Seeing is Believing
Mormond Breas
Freight Train
Living in the Past
One Dog Barks

Second Half
Gently Does it
No More Time
I’m Walkin’ here
Song to the Siren
Sleepless nights
Bye Bye Blackbird
Clear day
Wrong joke
Fallen Ones
Long Dark Night
A Day Away from here
A Brighter Blue

Monday 6 February 2012

'Manran' at Celtic Connections 2012

Mànran entertained us with a fun set of tunes at the Late Sessions stage for the BBC Radio at Celtic Connections 2012 on Thursday 2nd February. Manran is a young Scottish band whose style of playing incorporates Gaelic traditions, Scottish folk music and rock  The members of the band are Norrie MacIver (guitar/vocals), Gary Innes (accordion), Ewen Henderson (fiddle/pipes), Calum Stewart (flutes/uilleann pipes), Ross Saunders (bass) and Scott Mackay (drums). The band made No 6 in the UK indie chart and in the Scottish Singles chart with their first single Latha Math.

Piper Fred Morrison performed at Celtic Connections 2012

Scottish piper Fred Morrison performed a very enjoyable set of Scottish tunes at Celtic Connections 2012, the Late Sessions stage for the BBC Radio on Tuesday 31st January with Tim O'Brien. Morrison plays the Great Highland Bagpipes, the bellows-blown reel pipes, the Irish Uileann pipes, and the low whistle. He is one of the world's leading pipers and is a renowned composer of music for the bagpipes. His father taught him through the traditional method of canntairachd, the sung vocables used to convey pipe music before notation. "I hear that singing in my head every time I play."  He has played with Clan Alba with Dick Gaughan and also with Capercaille. He co-arrange the music for the film Rob Roy.  In 2006 he formed the Fred Morrison Band with Paul Jennings, Duncan Lyall, Douglas Miller and Innes Watson. Morrison's album Outlands was released in 2009.

Friday 3 February 2012

Madison Violet at Celtic Connections 2012

Two Canadian girls took to the Late Sessions stage for the BBC Radio 3 show hosted by Mary Kennedy at Celtic Connections Glasgow 2012, on Tuesday 31st January after their sold out ABC gig. They sang their song The Ransom off their 2009 third album No Fool for Trying, which won the John Lennon Songwriting Award. They spoke of what a fabulous event Celtic was and how lucky we were to have it. I was impressed with the quality of their songs and their bright artistic sound.
Their 2011 follow-up album The Good in Goodbye has received major attention. 

Thursday 2 February 2012

*Lana Del Rey - 'Born To Die' album Review

'Hollywood sex kitten siren via a very carefully grafted persona.' 

Lana Del Rey - 'Born To Die' album released Janaury 2012 review.

.. of Lolita glasses, flowered petticoat dresses, waved Rita Hayward hair and pouty red lipstick. Her image takes me back to those soft sell fifties days of high-winged Buicks, neat furniture and men in ties....
I'm all for imagery as an artist and many of the best musicians in the past (while not all!) have created art around their music - the best examples are the Beatles album covers, Dylan's freewheelin, Queen's opera, Radiohead's videos, more I am sure... 
Her music is full of cinematic strings and her distinctive caressing voice.  

Some good moments in her album Born To Die with songs such as Diet Mountain Dew, National Anthem, and her singles Video Games and Blue Jeans. Weaker moments too with the slightly soft pop of Carmen, Radio and Dark Paradise. Also in my view the production at times can be somewhat stitled and overdone.  

She shouldn't feel the need to emulate Amy Whinehouse as on Million Dollar Man. Her music works best when she has the sexy purr of Video Games and the slow husky voice she does so well. Plus there is no doubt that she has taken such a cool name! This is a good debut and I wish her well. ‘Born To Die’ is presently at No 1 worldwide. 

"Born To Die" is the major-label debut by American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey was released on January 30, 2012 through Interscope Records and Stranger Records. Del Rey's first single from the album, “Video Games” received huge interest on Youtube, now with over 40m hits, and brought about the singer's popularity. Born to Die reached No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart and became one the fastest-selling albums of the year selling 116,745 copies, the biggest first-week sales of 2012.


My blog has reached 10,000 hits this week! I’m very grateful for all who’ve come over and enjoy reading my posts. An especially big hello to those from Russia and other far away places who also love music. I hope you enjoy Scottish music too! My passion is obviously for good music. That is what motivates me with my writing and photography. It’s the music that makes me want to travel miles and to spend hours sorting and editing photos. The Music that inspires ….

I grew up in Edinburgh and now live north of Glasgow (as well as living ten years in the States) - which I hope gives me some unique perspectives. I also play piano and my children are all musicians.
I started my Blog in 2007 with a few reviews. Last year in 2011 I started to take my Music Blog more seriously.  I’ve been a serious music photographer since late 2007 and I concentrate on portraiture. While social photography interests me, my main focus is in portraits. 

I attend Celtic Connections Glasgow each January and Edinburgh Book festival in August, as my two main events.

The rest of the year my main interest is in new artists coming up.  I’m excited that Emeli Sande, who I took photos of in 2007, is releasing her first album in February. I've taken photos at Milngavie Folk club and some wonderful artists there, while 'folk music' at times needs to shake itself up?  Still tradition and heritage matter hugely too. While the past year my main focus has been my writing work for which I hope my book (or books) may be evolving… I live with dreams and hopes…

My photography site -
And many thanks to all those who've encouraged my work and believe in me (some who are not still here with me, my friends June and Helen) - my friend Carole and to my son Ross.