Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Unplugged ... and Unequivocal


Found this version of Macca's Unplugged show on youtube recently - suspect it won't be up for too long so don't blame me if it's already disappeared by the time you click on the embedded link below.

More songs (and repeats) than the CD or the original televised MTV programme, and while there is nothing spectacular in the material which appears here for the first time the whole is very enjoyable. The performance comes from 1991, so is already more than twenty years old, and what I mostly remember from the CD is a reworked And I Love Her (47.12) slowed down and effective in a different way, and a beautiful instrumental performance of Junk (1.15.02) which is better than the studio original.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Brighten the Corner ...


Had a small but pleasing moment today which I want to share.

After I had lunch at the local shopping centre (ooh, classy) in the area of North London where I work I had a few minutes before I had to return to business. "What's it to be?" I thought to myself. "A mooch in HMV?"  But as I a) couldn't remember whether it was still open, and b) couldn't imagine finding much of interest there anyway, I went instead into the shop known as Tiger, really just to waste some time.

If you don't know about this chain, Tiger is full of lots of little things which contain the promise of creativity, though in my case it's rarely followed through, as though on some level I've tricked myself into believing the act of acquisition is enough in itself: sad to report my flat is full of such empty promises.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

They Write the Songs: Dietz and Schwartz


 Not too much to say about the latest episode of Barry Manilow's They Write the Songs (available on BBC iplayer here until Thursday) except that I enjoyed it. Felt that the langurous, melismatic version Something to Remember You By (Etta Jones this time, not James) did a disservice to the song - it's a plea, not a seduction - but then I have Turner Layton's more modest version firmly lodged in my head (not available on youtube or Sp*tify, so you will have to search it out for yourself).

But the main thing is that after several episodes I'm more keenly aware of, and warming to, Barry's particular skills: he's chatting casually about something he loves, so you're not going to get the precision or detail of a Russell Davies or Robert Cushman, but that's the wrong thing to be looking for. As easy, friendly introductions to these songwriters these are well done - provided you accept Barry's personality.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

When Barry bigged up Harry


Spare those keyboards, embittered Manilovians contemplating a pre-emptive strike, for I am happy to report that the most recent episode of Barry Manilow's BBC Radio 2 series They Write the Songs, available on iplayer until Thursday, is a wall-to-wall good 'un, and warmly recommended. This week's subject is Harry Warren, whose songs  - particularly those penned with lyricist Al Dubin - featured frequently in Benny Green's Sunday radio show.

But despite a remarkable output over several decades it's fair to say Warren's name is not generally known, for all the enduring popularity of his songs. He is, as Barry puts it, "the most non-famous songwriter I know" - a form of words which seems precisely right on this occasion, suggesting a difference of kind, not degree.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The question Round Britain Quiz (possibly) dared not use ...


 ... or, as is equally likely, I didn't send it in - can't remember now. Or maybe it just wasn't good enough. You'll have to ask Paul Bajoria.

Look, let's not keep going on about it. The point is I found an old attempt at a Round Britain Quiz question and decided to share it with the nation - or that small but significant proportion of same whose eyes habitually slide over these musings.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Barry - this week's deliberate mistake


Have just listened to the second episode of They Write the Songs, on Cole Porter, currently on BBC iplayer here.

As with last week's programme about Jerome Kern, you get to hear most of the composer's best known songs (usually in the most Radio 2-friendly versions), some basic information (in Porter's case: lots of hit songs but fewer hit shows), and at the end Barry sings snatches of some Porter songs he didn't have room to include, so there's no doubt he owns the material he's presenting, and if the effect of the programme might be to turn more listeners on to Porter, that can only be a good thing.

So what have I found to complain about this week?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

I Didn't Write the Song, Not Really ...


As AA Milne would have phrased it, I am become obsessed with the music of Jerome Kern. This might have manifested itself in some form on this blog at a later date, but something has forced my hand. I speak of a programme devoted to Kern which was broadcast last night as part of Barry Manilow's They Write the Songs on BBC Radio 2 (listen to the 7/7/14 repeat here for one week).

This is a series in which that much-loved entertainer aims, in a chummy kind of way, to enlighten those of us who know nothing, or who seek to know a little more than the little they already know, about major contributors to the great American songbook (you know, that thing which was around before rock'n'roll).

This is the start of a second run, and the shows have been decently done: you don't need to be a Manilow fan to feel buoyed up by his good humour and enthusiasm for his subjects. As an entry level guide it's well pitched, and there isn't the sense of a celebrity name fronting a show in which he has nothing invested.

But there was something which annoyed me a great deal in last night's show and, as I couldn't find details of a producer on the BBC's site, I'm venting here. You don't have to read it but I have to write it (hey, that could be my slogan).

Thursday, 3 January 2013

From Matthew Street to Abbey Road (Beatles radio documentary)


 No time to trick this out with lots of pics and clips but I want to alert readers, before it's too late, to Spencer Leigh's very enjoyable three part radio documentary From Matthew Street to Abbey Road, chronicling the Fabs' gravitation from Liverpool to London via Hamburg in 1962. Sadly, the first programme, recently repeated on BBC Radio Merseyside, has already outlived its one week span on BBC iplayer, but you can catch the remaining two programmes for the next four and five days respectively by going here (part two) and here (three). Don't bother clicking the image above as it's only a screengrab.

The story will be known, at least in outline, to most people reading this, but the beauty of this series is that with a narrowness of focus and three whole hours to play with Leigh can dig a little deeper than other docs and uncover all manner of fascinating details, many of which will be unknown even to the most ardent of Beatle People.

For example you may well know, as I did, that at George Martin's insistence the Beatles recorded Mitch Murray's How Do You Do It? And you may have heard it: not unpleasant, a competent job even though their hearts clearly weren't in it. Ah, but have you also heard the demo which Martin gave them to work from? And have you heard Murray's thoughts on the job the Beatles did on what he considered to be his finest song to date?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Those Bad Cabaret Medleys in full ...


Thanks to audacity (the software, I mean) those of you wondering how those mooted clubland medleys in the Christmas quiz might sound can hear for yourselves, as they have been uploaded to soundcloud - links below.