Bat Out Of Hell musical

The musical Bat Out Of Hell follows Strat, the forever young leader of The Lost who has fallen for Raven, daughter of Falco, the tyrannical ruler of Obsidian (basically a private tower block to keep the riff raff out!). It is written by Jim Steinman and of course features many of his songs sung by Meat Loaf on the legendary ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ album and ‘Bat Out Of Hell 2’. The stage set is very inventive and impressive – I won’t give any spoilers! You don’t go to musicals like this for a plot, more to see the spectacle and hear the classic songs sung by a very talented cast. Being a Jim Steinman production you know it will be OTT and there are motorbikes, flames – all manner of audio and visual effects.

At times the show reminded me a little of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ (and of course Meat Loaf appeared and sang in the film) with some camp humour and various cast members in a state of undress. Songs like ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ and ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’ worked particularly well on stage, plus of course the show’s title song was a literally show stopper. Simple really, go see the show as it has it all – the songs, the cast and the spectacle. One of the few shows I have come away from and immediately wished I could see it again.

Go see it before it closes its limited run on 22 August and then it is off to Canada.

Review: An Evening at the Bandstand

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After an afternoon seeing the excellent Meat Loaf/Jim Steinman musical ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ the evening was an entirely different yet still very enjoyable musical evening provided by the Didcot Choral Society and the Blewbury Brass Band.

The choral society started the evening off with a selection of mostly folk songs which sounded excellent in a choral setting, with ‘Alton Water’ and the Tyneside folk song ‘The Keel Row’. The remainder of the first half was taken up by the Blewsbury Brass Band and they opened the second part of the show. The band encouragingly included a lot of youngsters in their ranks, a couple of who did solos including a young lady on trombone on ‘The Acrobat’ in the second half. Very impressed by the soloists and indeed the band overall.

They chose a good mix of well know tunes including ‘Cruella de Vil’, a piece from ‘Carmen’ and ended their main set with ‘The Floral Dance’ (a song that made the singles chart twice – in 1977 with the Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band and then in 1978 with Sir Terry Wogan).

The choral society came back for an ‘Oklahoma!’ medley which the choir seemed to have great fun performing. They were joined by the brass band for the evening’s finale of a Beach Boys medley. It sounds like it shouldn’t work but as the old adage says a good song can be performed in any style and so it proved with the four Beach Boys songs – ‘I Get Around’, ‘In My Room’, ‘California Girls’ and ‘Fun. Fun, Fun’. The choir and band worked well together and a great end to a very enjoyable evening’s music. You can’t beat live music, even more so when you have musicians gathered together showing their skills and love of music, impressive it certainly was and support live music folks!

Gig review: BOOTLEG BEATLES – Royal Albert Hall, 1 June 2017

The Bootleg Beatles were performing tonight with the Liverpool Philharmonic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic albums of all time, ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’. The sold out Royal Albert Hall provides a suitably grandiose setting for the evening.

The poet Roger McGough started the evening off with a potted history of the Beatles and their musical influences which led up to the making of the album. Of course Roger McGough is no stranger himself to the pop charts having been a member of the Scaffold (who also featured Paul McCartney’s brother Mike in their ranks). He had an easy storytelling style adding in a few one liners and some of his poetry.

The Bootleg Beatles have been touring since 1980 and feature none of the original members – perhaps that makes them a tribute act of themselves?!

Having a full orchestra was a master stroke as they played a series of snippets from songs that influenced the Beatles. After this the Bootleg Beatles took to the stage, each one dressed as the Beatles appeared on the album cover. Strange to think that for such a classic album the original band never performed it live.

Read the full review here

CAMBRIDGE ROCK FESTIVAL 2017 3rd-4th-5th-6th August 2017

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The Cambridge Rock Festival 2017 will be held at Horseheath Lodge, Linton, Cambs. CB21 4PT. This is following a new sponsorship arrangement with Cambridge’s Black Barn Records. The owner of the site, won the jackpot in the Euro-millions lottery, and is an avid music lover. This is a stunning location in 90 acres of rolling parkland, Festival director Dave Roberts said “This will be our 13th full festival and we aim for it to be the start of a new chapter in the life of the CRF”.

There will be the usual 3 undercover stages, Main Stage, Blues Stage and Acoustic Stage. There will be bars within the Main Stage and the Blues Stage. There is also a disabled seating area in the main stage.

Amongst the bands confirmed for 2017 are: FM, Tygers of Pan Tang, Chantel McGregor, Eddie & The Hotrods, Son of Man, John Otway Big Band, Atomic Rooster, Magenta, Deborah Bonham, Mostly Autumn, and exciting young band, Bad Touch.

More bands include, Space Elevator, Buster James, Laurence Jones Band, Ben Poole, Pearl Handled Revolver, The Mentulls, and Roadhouse. Lots of other great bands and solo artists can be found on the Cambridge Rock Festival website. http://cambridgerockfestival.co.uk/

The Thursday night, as usual will have its fair share of Tribute Bands, which is always a crowd pleaser to the local music lover.

The CRF is known for its great selection of Beers, Real Ales, Lagers and Ciders, some from local breweries, including 50 from Micro-Breweries, all at affordable prices.

There is camping for tents, caravans and motor homes, in close proximity to the stages. Free parking for day visitors.

Dogs are welcome, but please bring poo bags.

Access to the site, is mainly by vehicle. It is close to the M11 and A11.

For Those About To Blog…We Salute You: TONY HILL

Tony Hill pens the excellent ‘Mumbling About’ blog that combines music and books and he has a wide taste in both. Well worth a visit.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging about music and books?

I’ve been blogging in one way or another for about ten years now. I gave up on the personal stuff some time ago – too much navel-gazing. Music has been a huge love for as long as I can remember and a lot of my blogging had been geared toward is anyway so deciding to focus purely on that was a no-brainer. It also gives me an outlet for the rants / thoughts I have and saves me chewing my wife’s ear off over, say, whether Vs. is a better album than Ten…

The books element was added when I saw a publisher on twitter offering review copies of a novel called See You Tomorrow by Tore Renburg. I’ve always loved reading, I studied literature at Uni and so it seemed like a natural extension of the blog – especially when the publisher, Karen, started her own publishing house (Orenda) and was kind enough to send me more books to review.

What do you think makes for a good read for a music/book review?

Honesty. I like to read honest opinions – it doesn’t matter if it’s well written or if I agree, I just like to see passion for the subject be it positive or negative. If I want a formulaic or predictable review I’ll go the press as it were. Blogs are a more personal / peer-to-peer community sort of thing and I want to see the person in the review. Often that person’s passion has proven the catalyst for my checking out both new bands and artists that I’d previously thought “nah, not for me”

What has been the most popular post on your blog to date?

Looking at the stats… it’s a really close call between an older book review for Paul E Hardisty’s The Abrupt Physics of Dying and a more recent post on Wrecking Ball, part of a Least to Most favourite series I did on Bruce Springsteen albums which seems an odd one but there you go.

What were your musical and reading highlights of 2016 and why?

Well the best thing I read last year was Gunnar Staalesen’s ‘Where Roses Never Die’ and I read it over a couple of quick afternoon sessions while we were on a mid-week break at CenterParcs, overlooking a lake and armed with a good cup of coffee with no distractions while everybody else was having a nap. A simple pleasure, really, but certainly a reading highlight.

2016, I’m pretty sure, was the first CD-free year for me – if I bought a new album it was on vinyl. I love the warmth and experience of the format and there were some great releases last year.. I did a ‘best of the year’ on my blog… Explosions In The Sky’s ‘The Wilderness’ was gorgeous both sonically and in terms of packaging. But I’m gonna say the highlight – because it’s all about the overall experience – was the reissue of the Twin Peaks soundtrack. My wife gave it to me for my birthday but as we were getting to move at the time everything was in boxes so it wasn’t until we moved into our new home (our first) that I could put my stereo back in place and I made sure it was the first thing I dropped the needle on.

You have a wide taste in music, however what band(s) or album(s) do you keep coming back to?

Thanks, I do try to listen to a fairly wide range. Well, I try…  but there are always bands I come back to and I seem to be ‘stuck’ in that alternative/rock and 90’s arena. I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan so there’s usually a couple of their albums in the car at any time along with other bands from the Seattle scene. Buffalo Tom are a big favourite as are Sonic Youth, Mogwai and, of course, Springsteen. In terms of individual albums… My Morning Jacket’s Z is probably among one of my most played and I think Jeff Buckley’s Grace is faultless.  

Who are you musical heroes and why?

I think I’m gonna be a bit obvious with this one and say Eddie Vedder. From a musical point of view he’s just getting better and live I don’t think I’ve seen anyone (Springsteen aside) that performs with such intensity and honesty who can captivate crowds both large and small. On a personal level he’s a very generous guy when it comes to charity and championing the causes he believes in and while a lot of the angst of the early years has mellowed with age the intensity is still there – he also seems to be a very doting dad and family man too.

You are doing a blog tour based on crime books. What exactly does this entail and how do you find the time to read so much?!

The blog tours are an interesting thing – it’s a way of focusing / generating a lot of reviews and discussion about a book around its launch date. I’ll get an email from Karen at Orenda (or a member of the team) asking if I’d like to take part and they let me have a date to post and share my review. In terms of finding the time… it’s the one thing nobody has enough of, isn’t it? I can usually average a book every week / week and a half and am always staggered when I see people in the online community clearing more than that. I squeeze mine in at night or at weekends when my young son takes his nap.

Heard any good music lately?

Earlier this year I found a really cool record shop that hadn’t long opened in Canterbury called Vinylstore Jr (gotta love that name) and the owner was spinning a record that I had to buy – it’s a post-rock band from South Korea called Jambinai and their album Differance is great; a real heady, powerful thing that mixes Korean folk elements with rock instruments. It has this dirty, fuzzy opening riff played on a geomungo (I had to look it up) and then everything kicks in and rattles the fillings from your teeth.

My wife and I have just been watching some anime films and we’ve been listening to the soundtrack for (the original) Ghost In The Shell but then there’s a new film called Your Name and the soundtrack to that is great too, though totally different – it’s by a Japanese rock band called Radwimps and the songs were written to sort of supplement the dialogue, it’s got this great energy.

Anything else to add…

Not really – just thanks for reading my blog and inviting me to be on yours – I always enjoy your posts. The community and discoveries that come from blogging is the best part of it.

Oh and one I always encourage; listen to  (they’ve got a Pledge Music thing going for their next album too which is something I always love as it makes the whole fan-band thing so much more personal).

A beginner’s guide to Queen…

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Queen, along with ELO, are my two favourite bands out of the many bands and artists I enjoy listening to. I have been a fan of Queen since first seeing their classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ video on ‘Top Of The Pops’ back in 1975 at the tender age of seven! It would be a few more years until I got my hands on some vinyl by the band and this came in the shape of 1980’s ‘The Game’ which I eagerly opened on Christmas Day and have played regularly ever since. For me this is my favourite Queen album and the band’s first to use synths, something they were always proud of stating they didn’t use on pervious albums. There are the obvious hits ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ and ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ but for me tracks like ‘Save Me’, ‘Play The Game’, ‘Rock It (Prime Jive)’ and ‘Dragon Attack’ (with a great Roger Taylor drum solo) that make this album classic to these ears.

Of course Queen started way earlier than 1980 and after the pre-Queen band Smile folded (click here for an interview with Smile member TIM STAFFELL) the band unleashed their self-titled debut album in 1973. Some cracking hard rockers on here like ‘Liar’ (again some neat drumming form Roger Taylor on this one) and ‘Keep Yourself Alive’. By ‘Queen II’ with its White and Black side the band start to hit their stride – listen to ‘March Of The Black Queen’ or ‘Ogre Battle’, big guitar riffs and some of the heaviest songs the band have recorded. There is some light relief though in the beautiful ‘Father To Son’.

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‘Sheer Heart Attack’ is after ‘The Game’ my next fave Queen album. Check out Brian May’s guitar orchestra on ‘Now I’m Here’ or the pomptastic ‘Lap Of The Gods’ (both parts). As ever Queen will tackle any genre they fancy and ‘Bring Back Leroy Brown’ recalls the 1930’s in the US. ‘A Night At The Opera’ followed and features the classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But again the delights lie in Queen’s ability to cross genres with the blissful ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ and ‘Good Company’ with Brian May on ukulele. ‘A Day At The Races’ (like its predecessor ‘ANATO’ getting its title from a Marx Brothers film) is a mixed bag – ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and ‘Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy’ are classics and listening again to ‘Drowse’ it has grown on me over the years – never liked it much when I first heard it.

‘News Of The World’ has the two crowd anthems ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’ plus the almost punk like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’. ‘Jazz’ sees a slight dip although ‘Bicycle Race’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ make it worth getting. ‘The Game’ and a soundtrack to ‘Flash Gordon’ came next, the latter is for fans only bar the hit single ‘Flash’ and ‘The Battle’ just to hear Brian Blessed’s voice! One to avoid is ‘Hot Space’, an ill advised attempt at funk although ‘Put Out The Fire’ and ‘Action This Day’ are good but ‘Cool Cat’ is frankly shit.

1984 saw ‘The Works’ with the band back in the top 10 singles thanks to ‘Radio Ga-Ga’. ‘Keep On Passing The Open Windows’ and ‘Hammer To Fall’ are classics – lots of guitar, the band’s layered harmonies – superb stuff! ‘A Kind Of Magic’ was part soundtrack to the excellent fantasy film ‘Highlander’ but ‘Pain Is So Close To Pleasure’ is quite possibly the worst thing the band have ever recorded – imagine Freddie Mercury fronting the Supremes! ‘The Miracle’ has its moments with the title track, ‘I Want It All’ and ‘Invisible Man’. But a few too many fillers on here like ‘Scandal’ and ‘My Baby Does Me’. ‘Innuendo’ the final studio album released before Freddie Mercury’s death saw the band return to their epic, pomp rock in the title track which along with ‘Headlong’ and ‘Days Of Our Lives’ (which always brings a tear to my eyes, a very heartfelt goodbye from Freddie) see Queen back on top of their game. ‘Made In Heaven’ saw the band complete songs Freddie had started including ‘Heaven For Everyone’ and ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’. A very mellow and reflective album and a fitting end to the Freddie Mercury years.

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Brain May and Roger Taylor have continued with Paul Rodgers (FREE/BAD COMPANY) on vocals. Some Queen fans don’t like this especially as Paul Rodgers sings some Free and Bad Company songs  when the band play live. Now they have US singer Adam Lambert fronting them, a much more flamboyant character and certainly matches Freddie in the showmanship stakes. Roger’s son Rufus (also a member of the Darkness) joins him on drums when they play live. No new material has been released with Lambert, although never say never…

Quick mention to their live releases – buy any with confidence bar ‘Live Magic’ which is edited and not worth getting unless you are a completist. ‘Live Killers’ is the one for me though – I still remember school lunch hours spent air guitaring to this one along with two fellow Queen nutters, one of whom loved to launch himself off a desk during the heavy bit in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’…

A beginner’s guide to Blue Oyster Cult

Posted this one back in 2008 on the Rock ‘N’ Roll Oatcake. Thought I would re-visit it as the band play UK dates next month, including their first dates outside of London for nearly five years. Still no likelihood of a new album, the band say there is no market for new material from them. However, I’d say there is even as they could use a crowdfunding source to pay for the recording and even an EP would be welcome. Even Styx have managed to record their first new album of all new songs, ‘The Journey’ in sixteen years and Cheap Trick are hitting a real purple patch releasing another new album in June, ‘We’re All Alright!’ hot on the heels of last year’s excellent album ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello’.

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Formed from the late 60’s band Soft White Underbelly BOC are often dubbed ‘the thinking man’s heavy metal band’. But for me they are much more hard rock and even melodic rock than metal! I have never quite twigged with their earlier albums bar the excellent ‘Secret Treaties’ album, their first ‘must have’ in my book. Although the ‘Agents Of Fortune’ album had ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ on it, overall it is a 6/10.

What you need instead is ‘Spectres’ with ‘Golden Age Of Leather’, the 60’s pop rocker ‘Fireworks’ and the awesome ‘Godzilla’. ‘Fire Of Unknown Origin'(1981) is another must have with ‘Joan Crawford’ and ‘In Thee’. Also grab ‘Cultosarus Erectus'(1980) with the wicked ‘Lips In Hills’ and ‘Black Blade’.

But their finest albums for me are ‘Revolution By Night’ (1983) and ‘Imaginos’ (1988). The latter is more Albert Bouchard, then BOC drummer joined by BOC and many session players including Joe Satrianni.

Eric Bloom & Buck Dharma keep the flame alive playing biker bars and hog roasts in the US plus regular UK & European tours.  Sadly keys/guitarist Allen Lanier passed away in 2013. 

On a side note if you ever see an album by Deadringer called ‘Electrocution Of The Heart’ grab it as it features BOC’s Buck Dharma plus ex-BOC bassist Joe Bouchard & ex-Alice Cooper Band members with Charlie Huhn on vocals. Cracking 80’s hard rock album!

…and they tour the UK in June…

17/06 Indigo, London
25/06 MANCHESTER Academy Oxford Road
26/06 NEWCASTLE Northumbria University
28/06 NOTTINGHAM Rock City
29/06 GLASGOW O2 ABC