Thursday 26 July 2012

Those Blues Lines of The Rolling Stones

Those strong R & B signature guitar lines were so danceable, the rhythms and weaving guitars that were the basis for their music. The Stones were the first, biggest and the 'bad boys sexually charged' rock band.
Brian Jones. It was Jones who started the band and gave it their name and more than that their 'electric blues' sound. He realised that the niche market for R & B could be taken to a mainstream audience. The lost boy, never satisfied and sadly he became the first of the '27 Club'. He was the UK's first slide guitarist and one of the best blues guitarists in London at that time. Before he left his hometown, Jones said - 'I'm gonna move to London, start a band and I'm going to become rich and famous.'    

Every time 'Brown Sugar' played at student parties, people took to the dance floor and the track never failed to get everyone on their feet. Mick Jagger is rarely still on stage - so does their music reflect his dancing or vice versa!  The French students that were in abundance In Princes street gardens Edinburgh over the summer months in the city also loved the Stones. Former school mates Jagger and Keith Richards became the main songwriting team in the band. At the start the band was led by Brian Jones, known for his mop top long blond fringe and cool demeanour( he was the hip mod), and they played mostly cover songs, that had been selected by Jones - such as Little Red Rooster. I started this blog a month ago as The Stones were another huge influence on my musical tastes. The past week I noticed coincidentally that it is The Stones 50th anniversary. I think I'm getting psychic over music now! 
Brian Jones, The Stones 1962- 69. There is a very good article on Brian Jones, founder of The Rolling Stones in Mojo - the band were initially called the 'Brian Jones Blues band.'  He started the Stones sound and then was sadly sidelined, perhaps due to his own personal difficulties - drugs, abusing women and paying himself more than the rest of the band, not always the best idea.  He brought the tunes of Robert Johnston, Elmore Jones, Muddy Waters, and leading British bluesman Cyril Davies. Jones unlocked the blues secrets for Richards, taught Jagger the first rules of showmanship and brought invention and flamboyance to the band's extraordinary run of 60s singles. Try 'Singles Collection: The London Years.' 

While Jones' main instruments were the guitar and the harmonica, he was also a talented  multi-instrumentalist. Since his school days he had a focused interest in the music of skiffle, trad jazz, modern jazz and  the blues.  He started out playing jazz with local bands and later became Britain's first slide guitarist. Jones studied American blues music and was influenced by bluesman Cyril Davies, who was himself a devotee of Leadbelly's. Davies was perhaps the best player on the British trad and folk blues scene and his playing matched the intensity of the Chicago originals. Brian was influenced by Elmore Jones open D tuning on guitar and also by bluesman at the crossorads Robert Johnston. Then the New Orleans styled jazz and blues band of Chris Barber and Alexis Korner came to Cheltenham (Barber introduced Europe to the music of Big Bill Broonzy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Muddy Waters).

Jones moved to London to continue working on his music. There the opening of the damp basement 'Ealing Club' became a defining place as the cradle of British rock, from The Stones to Led Zepplin.  
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Dick Taylor were the first recruits for the 'Brian Jones Blues band'.  When they got a BBC session Brian supplied the new name - the 'Rollin Stones' which was the title of a Muddy Waters song. They started playing at the London's Marquee club and Charlie Watts joined as the drummer. Glyn Jones, their first producer recalled, 'Brian was very much the leader, he was quite specific about what they wanted.. He had a complete grip on everything.' Another producer Eddie Kramer said, 'Brian was the most musically gifted. his sense of tone colour was magnificent, he always thought out of the box. ..the marimbas on Under My Thumb. I can still remember being amazed when he brought out the recorder for Ruby Tuesday.'  
Jones sadly was the Stone unable to gain satisfaction in life, pun intended! whether it was with drugs or fast living. The lost boy, never satisfied. Bill Wyman remembers Jones as a visionary who could not deal with the Jagger-Oldham-Richards trio and he left it too late to fight back. However there were other issues too. Jones didn't view himself as a team player, he kept to himself on tour and paid himself more than the other band members. He was asked to leave in the band in June and died a month later in July 1969. Original Stones bassist Wyman stated about Jones, "...he formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. Very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it - highly intelligent - and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away." Jones had close relationships and was respected by other well known artists of the time - Dylan, Harrison, McCartney, Townsend, Hendrix and more.  These were simpler times - no internet, or online scrutiny - simply the touring. The youth culture had exploded with the baby boomers after the war.  Basically Jones saw that mixing the new and the old brought something exciting and fresh. 
The success of the Rolling Stones led to more popularity for blues music and musicians such as Muddy Waters who wrote 'Rollin Stone' the song the band drew its name from.  While they are best known for their No 1 rock and roll dance tracks (Brown Sugar, Lets' Spend the night Together, Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Little Red Rooster, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin Jack Flash, Get Off My Cloud, Honky Tonk Woman), they also played some unforgettable slow songs (Ruby Tuesday, As Tears Go By,The Last Time, It’s All Over Now)  Top Albums – Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Aftermath.  A band for the road, The Rolling Stones have probably spent more time on stage, performed more dates, been to more cities and rocked more crowds than any other band. Ever. 
The Stones have had a prolific and long career and one of the longest of any rock band.  Also a prolific out put of recorded music and live albums - 29 studio albums, 12 live albums, and 107 singles.

Footnote :  I took a listen to my favourite Stones tracks -  Let It Bleed(69), Out Of Time (66), Under my Thumb (69), Time Is On my Side (69 ) Rugby Tuesday (66),.Play With Fire (65), The Last Time (65)
The song Rugby Tuesday, such a classic -. Marianne Faithful recalled that  Brian Jones presented an early version of this melody to the rest of the Rolling Stones. According to Victor Bockris, Richards came up with the basic track and the words and finished the song with Jones in the studio.  I began to think Jones was the inspiration but that Richards and Jagger took it on to write future songs and that much of the Stones best material was done while Jones was still playing with the band he created. 

The Rolling Stones 'endurance and relevance' ( Quote critic and musicologist Robert Palmer) is due to the band being 'rooted in traditional verities, in rhythm-and-blues and soul music' while 'more ephemeral pop fashions have come and gone.' Though R & B and blues cover songs dominated the Stones early material their repertoire has always included rock and roll.  (References from Mojo August 2012)  


Tuesday 24 July 2012

Music Photography

Broken  Records Queens Hall

Mumford  ABC Glasgow
Viking Galaxy Classic Grande
Michael Marra
Sometimes at gigs something magic happens…. the audience is really up for it, as are the musicians on the stage.  It is as if it all comes together in that one time and place. And it is at these rare gigs that I am able to  get a good position and shot unobtrusively for the entire gig – and I am not restricted to those ridiculous 3 songs (which I know matter for the bigger stages).  The trouble with restrictions is it creates a ‘manic’ grab for photographers while it can be an adrenaline rush. Also I am not sure it’s the best situation for portfolio images or a quality photoshoot. Sometimes.

I got into music photography by chance. I took some photos at a gig several years ago and realised I had a talent for capturing the right moments. While I should add I have studied art and portraiture many years, so perhaps photography is a natural progression. Also as I am a huge music fan it made sense for me and music is my motivation - from Mozart to pop.

Snowpatrol Bellahouston

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Dougie McLean Milngavie Folk Club June 30 2012

Dougie was magic. He was on good form and like a choir master he really got everyone singing in full voice.  

This event took place to an expectant and warmly enthusiastic Milngavie Town Hall audience. Some were clearly die-hard McLean fans and some had travelled long journeys for the gig.
Premier Scottish songwriter is best known for his song Caledonia which has become part of Scottish culture and is often performed at weddings and played by pipebands. He also wrote the theme The Gael for the The Last of the Mohicans (1992).

McLean performed songs from his 2012 album Resolution, as well as some of his large back catalogue. He gave us a full two entertaining sets of his warm thoughtful songs.
He began with the song Holding Back - 'a wee song about contentment' he said. (there may well have been a few more songs I didn't manage to get the title of).

First Set: Holding Back/ Don’t Look Down/ Another Time/ Loving One (She Loves me when I'm gone, She thinks about me when I'm gone)/ Some Hearts/

Second Set: Resolution/ Not Look Down/ Scythe Song/ In Darkness/ Broken Wings/ Caledonia/ For his encore he sang the song You Sing Loud (Shine on, oh shine on over me) 

He encouraged us to sing and he said that people were never passive in Scottish music - he explained that they joined in and that is why the old folk songs had so many refrains. For the song Some Hearts he conducted our singing and he suggested we sang with more harmonies.

He also spoke about how music can heal and the inspirational work of Nordoff Robbins Music therapy for terminally ill children. 
He said - I travel with my little songs. McLean has a touching compassionate voice in his songs.

His song themes appear subtle and soothing sitting alongside calming melodies but actually they carry powerful messages and emotions. McLean is something of a philosopher in his songs which offer thoughtful insights on life with a strong sincerity. He fully recognises and accepts the emotional draw of the 'song'. His songs are personal but also intimate and universal, as if speaking directly to you.

His songs have lines such as - You may fall but you must not lie down/Some hearts will fill with wonder/ Some hearts will break in two/ Some hearts will wait for summer/ Time will turn.
Price we have to pay/ Place we started from to resolution’ 
Lost in the fiddle’s sweet sound….For a moment free from one more endless day.

He said that we must make loads of mistakes in order to really ‘live’ life. He said that music wasn't always kind and it can sometimes be a heart breaking kind of thing

McLean has been a professional musician for 38 years since a chance encounter with the Tannahill Weavers.
Try Dougie McLean songs - She Will Find Me, Another Time (about his father), Broken Wings, Holding Back,

Sometimes subtle messages in song can be even more powerful

Friday 13 July 2012

The Best Male Voices

The Falsetto

Some of the best loved falsetto voices were The Beach Boys surfing California sound. There is something inspirational and heaven ward in the beauty of the high male voice – much more so than the female soprano voice.
The best known church choirs are the young male choristers. The falsetto was also often heard in the soul and Motown songs coming out of America. Are these voices taking us closer to heaven? They can be sweet and tender and they appeal greatly to women who melt and swoon over it.  For women they offer empathy and show the sensitive side of men.
Other examples of wonderful falsettos are the singers from Earth Wind and Fire; Freddy Mercury of Queen; The Bee Gees.

One of the greatest male singers ever was Jeff Buckley who blended his love of Nina Simone and Led Zeppelin to weave his wild vocal expressions that have influenced a new generation of male singers. Hybrid masculine and feminine sensibilities.
Hyden Thorpe of the Wild Beasts feels the falsetto expresses the vulnerable hurting side of yourself and pulls him out of the everyday experiences with a freer way of singing.

While I also enjoy the more rough edged male vocals given the choice I prefer the soaring high male voice.
My favourite soul singer was Otis Redding, along with pop singers John Lennon and the Bee Gees.  

some quotes from the  BBC 'Imagine' Just One Falsetto'-



Warpaint impressed the audience and they played an ethereal sound and the band describe themselves as experimental art rock. First girl band I've photographed. They were in soft-blue stage lighting which wasn't so easy to photograph!

Warpaint is an American art rock group from Los Angeles, formed in 2004. The band's members are Emily Kokal (vocals, guitar), Theresa Wayman (guitar, vocals), Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass, vocals), and Stella Mozgawa (drums, vocals). Warpaint released their debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, in 2009, followed by their full length album, The Fool, released in 2010. "Shadows" was the first single release from their debut and was playlisted by BBC Radio 1 as part of the In New Music We Trust. Warpaint toured in the United States and Europe in 2011 to promote the album. They played at Bonnaroo, Glastonbury Festival, Reading and Leeds Festivals, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Rock Werchter and Electric Picnic.

Monday 9 July 2012

Rachel Sermanni, Katie Sutherland and Laura Marling

Laura Marling

Rachel Sermanni
Katie Sutherland


Folk vs Pop? – the different routes into the business.
I first saw Rachel Sermanni at a Celtic Connections Open Mic at the Concert hall a couple of years back and noticed then her lovely voice and songs. That year she won the open mic at the festival.

Also here in Glasgow I went to gigs by Katie Sutherland in 2009, another 22 year old Scottish singer with a lovely vocals and catchy songs who also looked good. Katie, who was then calling herself ‘Pearl and the Puppets’, had put her songs up on myspace where they drew the attention of record labels. Katie has a mesmerising honey toned voice live.
I know of several other young people given major record label deals a few years back – the thing is they are little more than an advance and young people should be warned of the pitfalls here.
This year Katie has been recording an album and using Pledge Music to fund this and Rachel is playing several UK festivals this summer. I can’t help wondering comparing the two that going via the folk route can bring more ‘respect’ generally in the industry but can also mean less attention sometimes. It’s a very strange thing music. At the end of the day it should be all about the talent.  

Then there is also the very young Laura Marling – who sings slightly folk influenced songs. She has a distinctive image and sound which is also key and her father runs a studio. She is also Neil Young influenced and her voice has edge and depth in it. She has managed that valued cross over between being respected and also having commercial successes. Laura is from Hampshire and drew attention on the London folk circuit and it seems to be easier for younger artists in London to get the right label deals into the industry. Marling is playing at the London Albert Hall this weekend.

Even more worrying is the lack of many young male singer songwriters with much depth or much to say- where are they? Marling became prominent with the London folk scene, she has also toured with a number of well-known indie artists in the UK. Her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim and her second album I Speak Because I Can were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2008 and 2010 respectively. She won Best Female Solo Artist at the 2011 Brit Awards.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Scottish Bands Oran Mor final night Westend festival

Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells – whose 2011 album “Everything's Getting Older” recently won the first “Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award 2012. 

For the final night if the Glasgow Westend Festival 2012 The Oran Mor staged an event featuring several new bands and artists across their 3 venues.
The event featured headliners We Were Promised Jetpacks and more…in the Auditorium. Also in this Auditorium were – Monoganon (surely shades of the Low Anthem here), Miaoux Miaoux (one man electronic band recently album of the week on Radio Scotland’s Tom Morton show), Three Blind Wolves and Remember Remember.
Performing in the Whisky Bar were The Dirty Beggars, a bluegrass band who performed also at Celtic this year; plus Apples of Energy and Wounded Knee.
In the basement Venue were Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells whose 2011 album “Everything's Getting Older” recently won the “Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award 2012". Moffat’s sound has a rough edged voice with a deep oak timbre and he surely is a fan of Dundee’s treasure - humorous and quirky singer songwriter Michael Marra!  While Well’s piano provided the perfect backdrop. Also in the Venue - Gav Prentice, Olympic Swimmers, John Knox Sex Club, guitarist R M Hubbert and singer songwriter Withered Hand.

There were strong folk and singer songwriter elements to the event with many of the artists on the line-up and with WWPJ providing more of a rock band finale to the evening. 

Worth checking out Withered Hand, Dirty Beggars, Monoganon and Aiden Moffat and Bill Wells. Sorry no photos for this event. I have covered many events at the Oran Mor over the past years with the venue being my closest and probably my favourite Glasgow music venue.  I always thoroughly review the musicians I shoot and take a lot of care over the reviews I post. 
Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat's “Everything's Getting Older” has been named the “Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award 2012. The duo won £20,000 for their work, which was eight years in the making, beating acts such as Mogwai and Conquering Animal Sound. The Scottish Album of the Year (Say) prize is a new award billed as the equivalent of the Mercury Music Prize. The winning album was awarded by the Scottish Music Industry Association at a ceremony in Glasgow Film City.