EE FR om CD fr The te na Fortu INSANITY STUDENT RADIO • MUSIC SPONSORSHIP
What’s Next After The Diamond Jubilee Over 16 million people watched the Diamond Jubilee concert on terrestrial TV on 4 June. Then add those who watched it on BBC’s iPlayer; those who the BBC have sold the programme to around the world plus let’s not forget those who were at the concert or down the Mall or in Hyde Park. Millions and millions of people ‘experienced’ Gary Barlow’s vision of a ‘global English speaking music night’ demonstrating the best in modern day pop. So what is next for this type of event? Danny Boyle and his team will be having their go in the East End of London with their creation for the opening and closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. Will it get as many viewers? Possibly. Will it be as well received? Again possibly but as Danny has already said it is an impossible task. The Olympics appears to bring out the best and worst in people. Is it a ‘celebration of what we are’? Can you be patriotic about the Olympics? I’m not sure on the face of it as it’s just some ‘huge juggernaut that takes over the winning city and packages it into something that you want it to be’? For the next big ‘concert’ – that builds on the best of these shows - we need something the nation is unequivocally devoted to. How about the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta in Runnymede on 15 June 2015? A momentous occasion that clarifies the constitutional freedom of half the world. I think we could even get Morrisey on the bill. Then after that the 70th anniversary of the formation of the NHS on 5 July 2018. Glastonbury will have ceased to exist by then which is Michael Eavis’ own prediction. Imagine NHS bunting everywhere and on the main stage speaker scrims. Everybody in the UK has or will have a ‘relationship’ with the NHS, and surely this should be celebrated in some ‘popular’ way. Some years ago George Michael did a free show at the Camden Roundhouse for all the doctors, nurses and their families who were involved in looking after his mother while she was in hospital. Can we not have something bigger!!!!
Insanity Radio Insanity Radio was conceived as the Radio Society at Royal Holloway, University of London in 1997. The station is named after the Holloway Sanatorium, founded by Thomas Holloway, who also founded the university Insanity is based out of. It began broadcasting in 1998 when the licence at that time only enabled 28 days of broadcast twice a year. Now the station transmits 24 hours a day and has grown to include over 200 volunteers, with live broadcasts from 8am to 2am, seven days a week. Over the last five years Insanity’s members have worked hard to secure FM licensing and this year celebrated a successful launch onto 103.2FM. The transition to FM provides the station with a greater listenership potential, reaching as far as Sunningdale and Windsor, and the opportunity for both Insanity and the university to play a much greater role in the wider community. The station holds frequent workshops with schools and youth groups, with the studio doors also open to local residents during ‘Access All Areas’ days. These involve tours of the studio and offer training that assists anyone with an interest in broadcasting or the media. Student radio is recognised by national broadcasters as a way of developing the producers, technicians and presenters of the future. Insanity is always looking to achieve this, led by their new Station Manager, Phil Nutter and Assistant Manager, Angus Wyatt. Insanity prides itself on bringing listeners the best music available, without limiting itself to just one particular era or genre. The constantly updated playlist ensures that every single day there will always be fantastic new music playing, with the freshest upcoming bands and current chart toppers. Backed up by a vast array of specialist shows in the evenings, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone, whether it’s the indie hits of tomorrow or the classics from years gone by. For more information and to listen live visit www.insanityradio.com
Best Album Of The Last Six Months Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver This time Justin Vernon has swapped the cabin for the studio and the result is just the same… epic. Their selftitled second album portrays a completely new listening experience and direction. The sound and texture as a whole is a lot larger. The music is ambitious to say the least in comparison to the acoustic simplicity of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. Saying that, it still maintains emotive, mournful qualities that Vernon is so good at creating and maintaining throughout all of his music. The album kicks off with the military style drummings of ‘Perth’ and immediately you can hear that the record is a different ball game from the first album. There is volume, quirky rhythms, electric guitars, brass and yet it still holds a hazy, care free, dreamlike feeling which was common in the first record. One of the stand out tracks on the album, ‘Holocene’, offers a wonderful solo section and it harks back to his earlier material. There is always a personal, up close nature to his singing that gives his music a brutal honesty. ‘Towers’ follows and opens with a catchy guitar riff and once again his flawless falsetto. The song builds with sax and synths with the helping hand of Greg Leisz - legendary pedal steel guitar player. ‘Calgary’ the first track to appear off the album is another standout song even though it’s not really telling of Bon Iver’s new sound. It rises and builds to its climax and almost has a rocky edge with heavy drums and strummed guitars. The last track on the record ‘Beth/Rest’ is surprising, combining haunts of 80s nostalgia and vocoders with a gentle jazz even some may say a ‘crooning’ vibe. Bon Iver have gone from acoustic to ambient and they’ve done it with style. Justin Vernon never fails to create amazing music whether it be solo or collaborative work, there is something that no one can quite put a finger on, a sense of mystery to his voice that makes his music and indeed this album world class. Another stunning record.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble Marcus Miller recently gave an interview in the Financial Times where he made a number of observations: the younger pop/jazz musicians, i.e. the under 25s know no rules, are not set in their ways, that you can’t fool the public when it comes to great pop songs and you can always identify the time/song with a piece of fashion. Orlando Higginbottom is the real name of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, known for short as TEED. This 26 year old English dance DJ producer, songwriter and performer has just released his debut album ‘Trouble’. He is the son of Professor Edward Higginbottom who is conductor of the choir at New College at the University of Oxford. Having ‘consumed’ the record in its entirety, the subtleties and pop themes nod in an early Thomas Dolby direction and maybe a bit of Bill Nelson’s Red Noise. There is a crossover hit in there somewhere. Is Jack Wills ‘old fashioned’ for the winter of 2012 now that the Diamond Jubilee has gone? What about Burberry? A tad acoustic and trying to do their own thing. We see that he performed with Deadmau5 on top of Millbank Tower for the launch of the Nokia Lumia last November but think he may be ahead of the game. And he gets away with autotune unlike some other well known pop acts. Let’s see when ‘American Dream Part I’ comes out in Christmas 2012.
Miike Snow – Happy To You What have Daft Punk been up to other than the official soundtrack to the Disney movie ‘Tron 2’ over the last few years? The fans are getting restless for the next release and while we wait, arguably Miike Snow could fill the void. Their debut album released in 2009, which included the tracks ‘Animal’, ‘Silvia’ and ‘Black & Blue’ caught the attention of a particularly euro hip crowd. With great expectation the band have delivered their follow up ‘Happy To You’. Oh and what a joy the potential dance floor classic ‘Paddling Out’ is. The band are a Swedish/American trio, i.e. legendary pop songwriters Pontus Winnberg and Christian Karlsson aided by the ‘artist in his own right’ Andrew Wyatt on lead vocals. Yes you can hear the likes of fellow Swede ‘popsters’ Peter, Bjorn and John plus Lykke Li in the construction and arrangement of their songs but it is only when you play the record loud and on the dancefloor or experience them live that you get the full effect. But having said that ‘Devil’s Work’ and ‘The Wave’ are also a success when enjoyed via your mp3 player or portable radio as typical pop fodder but with clever, witty words and phrasing. Euro 2012 dance pop in all its glory.
Fun – Some Nights You are driving across America in the summer of 2012 and you set the car radio to automatically tune in to radio stations. The first FM station that it ‘encounters’ is playing Fun’s ‘We Are Young’. If this was the summer of 1993, the record would be Spin Doctors’ ‘Two Princes’ or in 1999 Sugar Ray’s ‘Every Morning’ or in 2005 Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ or in 2011 Foster The People’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, i.e. songs that signify commercial pop rock for the perfect summer. But whether the acts ever go on to become genuine artists in their own right is another thing. Having said that this record contains a number of great pop songs. ‘Some Nights’ is another cracking track and could be the next ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ for the reality TV crowd. The opener is Queen and Freddie Mercury in full flow. For some reason we keep hearing traces of David Gray in the vocals; could he be a guest on the record? ‘Carry On’ is another pop classic as is ‘It Gets Better’. The band were formed in 2008 and their first demo ‘Benson Hedges’ was a track on a promo disc in US rock magazine Spin. Their debut record came out in 2009 and they supported Paramore in the UK in 2010 with ‘Walking The Dog’ being taken up as the soundbed for an Expedia ad. Since then respect should be paid to the record label and publisher for getting the record in all commercial avenues ensuring maximum exposure outside the traditional music channels. The future is bright for Fun.
Birdy – Birdy What is most impressive about Birdy’s self-titled and classy debut album is that she is only 15 years old. Yet she delivers an enjoyable 11-song set with haunting maturity, liberally coating the eclectic selection of mostly cover versions (by people probably twice her age) with a dewdrop pure voice that is not to be underestimated. It’s a powerful instrument – particularly reminiscent at times of Florence Welch - that has been religiously pushed to the fore in every instance on the album by an equally eclectic set of producer luminaries, backed by her own keyboards work and just a few production embellishments, including interwoven strings and vocal overdubs, to enhance the otherwise minimalist approach. It’s the second track, a stunning and stripped back version of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’, which brought Birdy to public attention via over seven million hits on YouTube and which reveals her strong and emotionally charged vocal to best effect. The Phoenix song, ‘1901’, kicks this strong album off in her inimitable style and the measured treatment of Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal’ demonstrates how diverse the track selection is. Other notable inclusions are Cherry Ghost’s ‘People Help The People’, The XX song ‘Shelter’ and from The National, ‘Terrible Love’, all of which Birdy uses to demonstrate her versatile phrasing. She even includes her own composition ‘Without A Word’, which demonstrates an underlying song writing talent as well. But perhaps the biggest shock of all is kept for the surprise James Taylor cover – ‘Fire And Rain’.
Marina And The Diamonds – Electra Heart ‘Electra Heart’ is the follow up record to Marina’s 2010 debut ‘The Family Jewels’ and when released earlier in the year, went straight into the chart at number one. For those not familiar with Marina, she is a 26 year old singer/songwriter of Greek and Welsh descent. The Diamonds are not her backing band but is the term she uses for “her fans”. ‘The Family Jewels’ was a critically acclaimed pop record which displayed great potential even though some ‘critics’ had described her vocal performance as reminiscent of Lene Lovich – for those old enough to remember. This release apparently is a concept record and unlike the first has the likes of Chris Gayle (Rick Nowels) and Shane Warne (Greg Kurstin) being rolled out to bolster the batting and bowling, i.e. to possibly give her songs/arrangements a more international pop appeal. Just check out ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ and ‘Starring Role’ to notice the slight change. And like when modern day cricketers ‘finally get the money call ‘ to join the IPL, their appearance even gets a bit of a makeover – MS Dhoni lost the mullet, and Marina has changed from a brunette to a blonde. ‘Valley Of The Dolls’ could be Annie Lennox singing about the Welsh valleys, and for some reason one pictures Katherine Jenkins coming over the hill to join the ensemble. I’m not sure the ‘definitive’ Marina and the Diamonds song has yet emerged, but live she is an even better proposition and is currently supporting Coldplay on their global tour.
Ren Harvieu – Through The Night What is a ‘trademark’ Radio 2 record? That is the question we keep asking in the office. Obviously it depends on what time of the day you listen to the station and if you exclude their record of the week, and suggest from last year Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’. Hang on isn’t that a Radio 1 record? Ok what about Matt Cardle’s ‘Starlight’? No reality TV here but the Military Wives were everywhere which was a novelty but worthy record. No it would be more like Rumer’s ‘Aretha’. Radio 2 launched in 1967 and it would be great to find out what the likes of Pete Murray consider as a ‘record’ that represents them – Lulu’s ‘To Sir With Love’ or the Bee Gees’ ‘Massachusetts’ or even Bobby Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billie Jo’? This leads us nicely into Salford’s new ‘MOR’ female singer/songwriter Ren Harvieu with her debut release ‘Through The Night’. The Dave McCabe written ‘Open Up Your Arms’ starter track has been all over Radio 2 however it is not representative of the record. Yes the debut release suffers from a bit of the Rumer/Peggy Lee/Shirley Bassey about it; please don’t be deceived though and as the John Cooper Clarke album intro notes there is a greater and original talent lurking within. ‘Forever In Blue’ is a real find and a treasure. If the now based in Salford BBC get behind her for the rest of the year, we may have found somebody to challenge Adele.
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die It would be virtually impossible today not to have heard of Lana Del Rey, such has been the level of hype around her these past months. Whether it’s the reports of an allegedly disastrous ‘live’ TV appearance in the US, her apparent ongoing nervousness on stage, the global modelling contract that has rewarded her undoubted beauty or her music, no-one can tell. But she has laid herself bare with ‘Born To Die’ - her debut album - which stormed straight to the top of the charts either side of the Atlantic either because of, or in spite of, the huge hype. And of course she further divided opinion with this self-written collection of very personal and largely mournful songs. So, is she a brilliant young discovery or just a lucky and indulged rich kid? The album doesn’t answer that question, but it does provide evidence of talent. Title track ‘Born to Die’ sets a fascinating scene of melancholy, teenage soul-searching and young female angst, that runs throughout this collection. Her deeply toned voice re-emerges frequently and nowhere more so than on ‘Video Games’, the stand-out track, the YouTube video for which was a prime reason for much of that hype. This is one of those special ‘pop’ moments, but it is unequalled by the rest of the set. Yet there are enough classy moments here to help shape this into a solid and worthwhile first effort. And there is contrast too. ‘Off to The Races’ is straight and bouncy girl pop, with that voice rising from its husky depths to a Kate Bush high. The mixes include a rich strings theme and Lana uses them to great effect to stretch her tonal range, so you get the very tender ‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’ one moment and sweeping all-American girl ‘National Anthem’ the next. On the basis of this first effort we will likely hear more of Lana Del Rey.
Regina Spektor – What We Saw From The Cheap Seats This is her sixth record release and her first album of new material since 2009’s ‘Far’. ‘What We Saw From The Cheap Seats’ was recorded over an eight week period in Los Angeles and featured Regina performing predominantly live on piano and vocals, with additional instruments ‘layered’ where necessary. The first single from the record was ‘All The Rowboats’ but it is ‘Don’t Leave Me’ that is trademark Regina Spektor, i.e. whimsy melodic pop folk music. She was born in Russia and was introduced to the likes of The Beatles and Queen by her father before leaving for New York when she was nine. She then studied classical piano and graduated to a genuine ‘female singer/songwriter’ talent. Her breakthrough record ‘Soviet Kitsch’ was released in 2004, followed by ‘Begin To Hope’ in 2006 which featured the hits ‘Fidelity’, ‘Samson’ and ‘On The Radio’. By the time this article is published she will have completed a sell out Royal Albert Hall show. Rich from The Fortunate was the one who bought this release to our attention, and we thank him for it as has opened our ears to this fine record. We thank him.
Lianne La Havas – Is Your Love Big Enough? The 2012 Olympics ‘descends’ upon London in the last week of July and the first week of August during which time millions of tourists will enjoy the sights and sounds of a very vibrant city. The question we keep asking ourselves is what ‘current popular music souvenir’ will they be taking away with them? Surely not Paul McCartney or The Who or Take That? Please no more Adele ‘Rolling In Deep’ – yes it is an amazing record but enough because we need to move forward. And so we would like to nominate 22 year old Lianne La Havas and her debut release ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’. She was born in London, grew up in Streatham/Tooting and went to school in Croydon (not the BRIT School which is refreshing). She was signed by Warners a couple of years ago, issued a debut EP ‘No Room For Doubt’ in October 2011 (also featuring Willy Mason), then appeared on Jools Holland, supported Bon Iver on his North American tour in November 2011, and supported Bombay Bicycle Club on their UK tour earlier this year. She is a unique female soul singer/songwriter. ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’ is a fine single but it is not until you listen to ‘Gone’ that you realise how truly gifted she is – dare we say she’s the UK’s answer to Alicia Keys. Expect nominations and possible wins at this year’s MOBOs and next year’s BRITs. We would be delighted if this record becomes the sound of this summer.
Music Sponsorship When Neil Young released in 1987 ‘This Note’s For You’, his somewhat experimental foray into blues and R&B, the songs were largely dismissed as being well below his usual high standard, and the album itself as something of an uncommercial detour. It was the title track that garnered most of the attention at the time, and is the only one that might feature today in a commentary of his career, more because of its subject matter - a vitriolic critique of commercial sponsorship in popular music - than for the strength of the actual song. For good reason, the release of ‘This Note’s For You’ coincided with MTV’s peak period of influence, with the station itself being increasingly criticised for its role in the commercialisation of mainstream pop music. A Rolling Stone article had accused it of coaxing “rock & roll into the video arena where you can’t distinguish between entertainment and the sales pitch”. Soon after the release of the video for ‘This Note’s For You’, Young engaged in a public spat with MTV, which at first had refused to show the video because it parodied both some of the most popular artists featured on the station and their commercial sponsors. When MTV, in a classic about-face, later awarded ‘This Note’s For You’ its Best Video Of The Year accolade, Young’s moral victory seemed complete. Young continued to rail against the sponsors he indicted in his song. “I want people to know it’s not me making the deal with Budweiser and Miller....they bought all the places where I play”. The marketing folks at Budweiser seemingly redoubled their earlier efforts to win Young (and his fanbase) over. They reportedly sent him a customised Bud guitar, which he allegedly kept, playing it only in private. This episode came 21 years after Young had achieved sudden fame as a member of that supergroup prototype Buffalo Springfield, whose ‘For What It’s Worth’ became one of the seminal anthems of the Summer Of Love. The idealism of that period now seems so far away, but it was genuine. When Young’s future collaborator wrote, in his protest song Chicago, “We can change the world...”, we really believed that we could. However, it may seem that the only change now is the absence of protest songs in a period still characterised by issues of poverty, ecology and war. Young and his contemporaries have been understandably keen to maintain their counter-culture credentials over the years, despite the accumulation of wealth and years. From that perspective, the commercialisation of pop music in general, and the sponsorship of artists (or the venues in which they play) in particular, seem in principle to be Bad Things....but is that necessarily so? No. Not necessarily.
This Note’s For You Don’t want no cash Don’t need no money Ain’t got no stash This note’s for you.
It is a truism in the world of marketing that, if you have to tell people that you are Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi cool, then you almost certainly are not cool. Sponsors are commonly searching for a kind Ain’t singin’ for Coke of ‘coolness by association’ when they pursue deals with popular musicians, and in many ways the principles are the same with sports sponsorship. Many expressed outrage when I don’t sing for nobody the sponsor’s name for the first time appeared on the ribbons adorning the trophy at May’s Makes me look like a joke FA Cup Final, but I would argue that the sensitivities are even greater when it comes to This note’s for you. music sponsorship, partly for the reasons already touched on. For genuine music lovers, their favourite songs, composers, and artists are so close to their hearts as to seem almost a part of them. It turns some of us into intellectual snobs too. A close friend once owned a record shop in Glasgow and, though the business was not thriving, he had no qualms about turning away customers, including an elderly woman who asked if he had the ‘music fromthe Hovis advert’ (he knew full-well that she meant Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony). Judgement then in this area is inevitably tainted by one’s own musical prejudices, and almost doomed to subjectivity. Nevertheless, it may be possible to suggest some useful guidelines for potential sponsors, perhaps even for artists themselves. One principle is that there should be a balance between parties, more obviously in terms of the potential benefits, but also the risks and possible disbenefits. Put simply, it has to work for everybody. If a concert tour is being branded by a commercial sponsor, I would suggest that most of the audience does not want to be assaulted visually by massive hoardings (especially inside the venue) proclaiming corporate logos and/or messages. On the other hand, if the corporate presence is so subtle as to be hardly noticeable, then what is the point of the sponsorship? Last year, I attended the last European event in U2’s 360 global tour, in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, and a great time was had by all. During a lull, I noticed BlackBerry’s logo on the side of the lighting and mixing structure, a good 30 metres away from the stage. I wondered how many (how few?) others in the audience had noticed this and, further, how many of those who had noticed would feel better disposed towards BlackBerry as a result of their fleeting association there. I was in the stadium myself because one of my colleagues had had the foresight to work with the organisers and buy some hospitality packages, and I felt that this was possibly a smarter way of being involved commercially, in a concentrated way with a small group of people. I may have been wrong, but the example serves to illustrate that there are many possible ways for companies to be involved, some more visible than others. Earlier in my Ford career, I took a call out of the blue from someone claiming to represent Paul McCartney, asking if I would be interested to sponsor his forthcoming European tour. Looking back, that conversation was actually my introduction to the sponsorship world, and the problem of maintaining one’s objectivity was immediately apparent. As one who grew up as a Beatles fan, my immediate problem
was to keep a cool head, and not to be seduced by the hitherto very unlikely prospect of actually meeting the man. We were about to launch a new version of one of Ford’s biggest-selling cars and, as we talked, it was clear that there was significant common ground. It still surprises me a little that I was the one who broke off the discussions. I could not countenance the thought of a Ford logo behind Macca on stage, not the idea of his tour being publicised with the addendum ‘brought to you by Ford Fiesta’. For such a collaboration to work, both parties would have to believe in it sincerely, and to act accordingly in public. Even then, those are necessary but not sufficient conditions for success. Some years later, we did sponsor Kylie Minogue’s tour, and she appeared on our stand on press day at the Paris Auto Show to unveil the Ford StreetKa. Key to this was Kylie’s amenability, and the genuine support of her manager, and she was charming to work with at every stage. In retrospect, it was at best a partial success for Ford, as most commentators saw this as a large company trying desperately to achieve more street credibility with a demographic where its popularity was historically weak. The association improved the economics of the tour, form the perspective of her management, and probably had no effect on her image either way. In this case, both parties benefited to some degree, and neither suffered any image disbenefits in the process. Few would argue, then, that a company or one of its product lines can become cool overnight by slapping its message on a tour bus, or by projecting its corporate logo behind the performer. Whatever the scale of the sponsorship, it needs clear objectives from the outset, and an approach that is in genuine harmony with the musicians concerned. Ain’t singin’ for Miller Don’t sing for Bud I won’t sing for politicians Ain’t singin’ for Spuds This note’s for you. Don’t need no cash Don’t want no money Ain’t got no stash This note’s for you. I’ve got the real thing I got the real thing, baby
I began to think more deeply about how Ford might become involved in music sponsorship in genuine, non-gratuitous ways, and a couple of thoughts began to take hold. As a music lover, I have always championed among my friends the causes of undiscovered but talented artists. The intellectual snob in me still likes to entertain the foolish notion that I was the first to discover the likes of John Martyn, Michael Chapman and Nick Drake, and I remain a John Peel wannabe to this day. So I began to muse over the possibility of Ford helping to bring struggling yet brilliant artists to a wider audience. The other thought process was around which, if any, Ford products could work credibly in a music sponsorship context. If the idea of the Paul McCartney Fiesta seemed vulgar and inappropriate, was there anything that would work much better? The American music catalogue is full of favourable Ford references (even Neil Young wrote about his Econoline van), so much so that I was surprised to find out that the Mercury brand was not entirely cool, despite Steve Miller’s praises. In Europe, as Borat might say, not so much. And the Ford Cortina, mentioned in song by both Ian Dury and the aforesaid Michael Chapman was long ago retired.
The possible exception was the Ford Transit van. Ford’s first genuinely pan-European product in 1968, the Transit is still hugely successful, and remains one of those rare generic terms, like Hoover once was for vacuum cleaner. Part of one of my early responsibilities in © Neil Young the PR function was for the photographic library, a remarkable archive of over half a million prints, and I used to love browsing through it, especially when I would happen upon (say) a picture of the legendary Artwoods, with Ronnie and his brother in front of their Transit. In fact, there hardly seemed to be any British band of note that had not once relied on a Transit, or thought they had! I got the real thing Yeah, alright.
So the idea came of lending a Transit van to a young and relatively obscure band, in return for some (hopefully) complementary tour-blog references and the occasional private gig for our fortunate guests. For example, we enjoyed a very positive association with The Coral when they were breaking through to popular acclaim. They even played a live acoustic set for us at the Paris Auto Show in a press conference that was genuinely original. It was good to see, just last month, that the Guardian has now developed the idea further with its Bands In Transit feature, which you can find in the Culture section of its excellent website. Like it or not, corporate sponsorship is now part of the music business that is here to stay, and it’s probably a good thing that bands don’t get accused of ‘selling out’ artistically quite so often these days. Most would agree that corporate sponsorship of talented artists or bands is a good thing if it helps bring excellent music to public attention, if this would not have happened otherwise, and provided there is no dumbing-down effect. I could always relate to John Peel’s professed great fear, that he might somehow never get to hear a wonderful piece of music that was out there, undiscovered by him. On the other hand, I always preferred the charts programme when it was not brought to us by soft drinks companies! Ian Slater lives in Cologne, Germany, but is a native of Perth, Scotland, where he grew up listening to the players who would form The Average White Band through his bedroom wall. He spent most of his working life in the car industry in England, the USA and Germany, mostly as a PR for Ford of Europe, where he became Vice President and Board Member. He now works as a writer and consultant, and is able to spend more time dipping into the darker recesses of his substantial record collection, and pretending to play his guitars.
The Black Keys – El Camino Celebrate ‘El Camino’ as a feat of survival. How the brutal sound of Akron, Ohio based The Black Keys has endured an incredible 10 years and seven albums is remarkable. That ‘El Camino’ follows the strongest of those albums by far – ‘Brothers’ – and doesn’t hide in its shadow is amazing. And that, no, it doesn’t exceed this career peak, but it does build on the achievements of a modern classic, is fantastic. What’s not to celebrate! Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney have never failed to deliver their own simple and effective, yet clever, retro sound, mining a rich seam of blues, soul and rock, tinged with more left field influences like country and western and even gospel. The themes are traditional but with a unique Black Keys slant and ‘El Camino’ delivers in bucketloads, thanks in no small part to returning producer Danger Mouse. It’s great for in the car, even if you don’t admire the aged people carriers that adorn every inch of cover space, and gets into gear from the get-go. ‘Lonely Boy’ is first up and serves a delicious cocktail of pretty much all their influences, hooks and riffs, but still somehow invigorates afresh. ‘Dead and Gone’ digs deep into the grunge with its grating guitar counterpointing the melody and then the boys switch to glam rock for ‘Gold on the Ceiling’. That’s the pastiche you can expect. As ‘Little Black Submarine’ opens, you’d swear blind you were listening to the opening elements of the Zeps ‘Stairway To Heaven’, but you realise quickly this is something else again. Strongest track for me is the (admittedly traditional) blues rock ‘Money Maker’ but there is a moment of tasty soulfulness with ‘Sister’ ahead of the soaring poppy ‘Nova Baby’. Yes, there is a lot to listen to here, but if nothing else, ‘El Camino’ serves to remind us that The Black Keys remain a true force de rigueur in expertly delivered rock.
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls This release came burdened with a massive weight of expectation (bordering on hype), an ecstatic reaction to a few small UK gigs having followed American acclaim and celebrity endorsement on an unusual scale. The former Shakes had already established a formidable reputation as a live act, and naturally became heralded as rock’s “next big thing”. Could this foursome even be the saviours of an apparently doomed genre? Perhaps they are just that. The impact is immediate, the opener ‘Hold On’ starting with an assured guitar lick, before the extraordinary, once-in-a-generation voice of Ms Brittany Howard knocks the wind from you, the listener. Genuine soul cannot be faked in a singer, and Ms Howard is the definite article, her passionate delivery communicating a young life familiar with hardship, loss and pain, evoking both trailer parks and the backwoods. It’s immediately evident that she grew up steeped in her home state’s Muscle Shoals heritage, for this is the sound of another Athens, of Alabama and not its better-known Georgia namesake (home to REM). And more akin to the legendary Mississippi Sheiks from the other side. Thanks to the likes of the Kings Of Leon, Southern Rock never really went away, faded though it may be, whereas Southern rock ‘n soul seems to have somehow skipped a generation. Until now, where were the inheritors of the likes of Bobby Charles? Indeed, not since the passing of Janis Joplin have we heard such a voice backed by a tight, efficient band. The production on this album sounds refreshingly analogue and direct, demanding attention, with much space rightly given to the power vocals, complemented by a pleasing blend of crisp guitars and surging Hammond. This is no silver-spoon band, thankfully. The huge anticipation is for once fulfilled and, faith restored, one hopes that the Shakes overcome the huge pressure brought by such breakthrough success, and that this release is followed by several others of such quality.
John Mayer – Born And Raised Effortless and reliable. Sounds a bit like a BMW diesel engine. John Mayer has just released his fifth solo record since 2001, called ‘Born and Raised’ which is produced by Don Was. He is alleged to have called this his ‘most honest record’ and there are songs from the heart that ‘whisper and slide away into thin air’. We have always believed that he is a ‘professor’ of modern day American rock music, and no doubt his education at Berklee College of Music has something to do with this. He always has a great band around him, and on this record Chuck Leavell is on organ, and Jim Keltner makes an appearance on ‘Something Like Olivia’. A point to note about Chuck Leavell, yes all the Allman Brothers stuff is great, but he did also have an amazing band called Sea Level (on Capricorn Records for those ‘trainspotters’). Will it be nominated for a Grammy in 2013? Definitely yes, but we’re not sure there is a song as good as ‘Daughter’ but ‘Shadow Days’ may come close. Another point to note is that – if his current ‘throat’ medical condition clears up – he is always better live than on record and his ‘solo’ performance at Michael Jackson’s funeral was just amazing. As to what to say about the rest of the record, it’s what it says on the cover.
Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge Richard Hawley is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Sheffield and ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge’ is his seventh release. He started his pop music career in the 1990s with the band Longpigs and in 2000 did a stint with Pulp (Jarvis Cocker being a life long friend). 2004 saw the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Coles Corner’ and arguably ‘trademarked’ the Richard Hawley sound. One critic remarked that he was a ‘singing’ John Cooper Clarke, i.e. tales/songs with a conscience and message. Fast forward to 2012 and this release has moved him more to the mainstream; his song writing and performance hasn’t changed but more likely his music is crossing over to the middle ground. And hence there is greater success by volume. Question – will he become the next Chris Rea? Chris Rea’s seventh record release was ‘On The Beach’ in 1986, but it was ‘Dancing With Strangers’ that topped the album chart in 1988 when the view was that he had made it. ‘On The Beach’ was re-released again shortly after and became the hit it is today. In Chris’ early years his Middlesbrough ‘roots’ were always to the fore similar to Richard’s Sheffield upbringing. Is the single ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun’ going to be the next driving anthem for the hybrid/electric car generation?
Ben Howard – Every Kingdom The world is full of rustic, melodic, folk singer/songwriters. Or rather that should be the UK is currently full of young, male, folk, singer/ songwriters. Judging by the album’s success and extensive media coverage over the last year, Ed Sheeran’s ‘+’ is the record we should be examining. Or Newton Faulkner’s new release ‘Write It On Your Skin’ deserves a thorough critique. But our ‘student community’ has said no; Ben Howard and his debut release ‘Every Kingdom’ is the one from this genre to receive the ‘attention and recognition’ for a very talented artist. This man – originally from London – spent his early life and teens in Devon and signed with Island Records in early 2011. He said he signed to them because of their heritage with the likes of Nick Drake and John Martyn. The record was released in October 2011, and after extensive university gigs up and down the country, this body of work is gathering momentum. ‘Only Love’ is heavily playlisted on the satellite TV channels and BBC Radio 1 and 2. He has also managed to obtain major performance slots in the big festivals of 2012 including T In The Park. He has also performed on Jools Holland’s ‘Later’. For some reason, you can hear ‘early’ Lindsey Buckingham in his performance particularly in ‘Diamonds’. Our ‘student community’ say that live he currently clinches it against Ed and Newton. One for next year’s BRITs?
Alex Clare – The Lateness Of The Hour Record labels issue press releases to accompany their new artists records. Over the years the team have read many and indeed some have been works of art when communicating the associated record making process. But over the last year or so, a worrying trend has been appearing. In the past they would describe their artist as the next John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc and would major on their artists upbringing and creativity. Now the ‘clamour’ of the commercial world and global advertising has invaded, i.e. this ‘amazing song’ has just been picked up by so and so corporation on their respective ad, and was then ‘shazamed’ by over xxx,xxx people. When did songs become ‘bar codes’ or ‘coupons’ – not a good sign for the future. Alex Clare alas is one such case. The record was originally released last year and went its merry way. Then Microsoft ‘picked up’ the song ‘Too Close’ and ‘bingo’ he is a superstar in the making. One bit we did like from the press release was as well being the ‘ever tortured aspiring artist’ building his craft in ‘basements, backrooms and bedrooms’ he had a brief career as a chef, ‘too many long hours and too many sliced fingers’ – what a cracking description. Expect him to be on either ‘Celebrity Masterchef’ or ‘Sunday Kitchen’ on Channel 4 in the near future. A ‘paella’ of dance, synthesisers and pop.
Daryl Hall – Laughing Down Crying Daryl Hall is 65 but it seems like only yesterday that he and John Oates released the infamous ‘Abandoned Luncheonette’ and ‘She’s Gone’ was in the UK chart in October 1976. So fast forwarding some thirty five years, many Hall and Oates records and four solo albums later (1980 ‘Sacred Songs’, 1986 ‘Three Hearts In The Happy Ending Machine’, 1993 ‘Soul Alone’ and 1996 ‘Can’t Stop Dreaming’), Daryl has just released ‘Laughing Down Crying’. So what can you expect if you download the entire album or order the CD from the likes of Amazon? Well... quality song writing, amazing soulful vocals (without a hint of autotune – must be that generation), traditional adult orientated rock radio fodder and a continuation of his Daryl Hall ‘trademark sound’. ‘Talking To You’ is a great rock song and arguably could be a Bryan Adams track. ‘Lifetime Of Love’ is a heartfelt up tempo ballad and a real groove/deep down soul reminiscent of ‘I Can’t Go For That’ called ‘Eyes For You’. Existing Hall and Oates fans will not be disappointed and like most of his records it will be even better live. And you don’t need to leave your home to experience him live, please check out his TV internet show ‘Live From Daryl’s House’ to see and hear these tunes. A master singer/songwriter in full flow.
Mayer Hawthorne – How Do You Do Neo or nu soul what is that you ask? Marvin Gaye as ‘updated’ by Dizzee Rascal – no. Mark Ronson in full flight with the likes of Katy B – no. Instead may we introduce you to Ann Arbour’s (Michigan, USA) to Mayer Hawthorne. His real name is Andrew Mayer Cohen and his ‘stage’ name is a combination of his middle name and the street where he grew up, but less of the frivolous. He released his debut album in 2009 on the indie label Stones Throw Records, and now he has just released ‘How Do You Do’ as the follow up on a major. He cities his influences as Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Barry White, Smokey Robinson and Holland-Dozier-Holland which you can hear in much evidence on the first track ‘Strange Arrangement’ on his debut album. But the new record is definitely forward looking – maybe with a nod to Cee Lo Green – with instant pop classics like ‘A Long Time’. Other numbers on the record hint at traditional mainstream sophisticated pop icons like ELO and Steely Dan. ‘The Walk’ has even been remixed by Rizzle Kicks. Artists such as Maxwell, John Legend and Alicia Keys can be identified as ‘noughties’ neo soul warriors and of late hip hop references have become more endemic in the music. Snoop Dogg turns up on ‘Can’t Stop’ but it is not as memorable as Justin Timberlake’s cameo with the Dogg on ‘Signs’. But the closing track ‘No Strings’ could be a contender for a future neo or nu soul classic of this era.
Neil Young – Americana Many a heart skipped a beat at the first intimation of this reunion album, old Shakey recording once more with the band which had contributed greatly to not only some of his finest records, but to some of the most visceral and exhilarating in the whole rock ‘n roll canon. Then came news of the album’s content: an assemblage of some of the most well-known, and arguably exhausted, American songs of age, hence the title. This was not nearly such an inviting prospect. In fact, the first play was approached with some dread. How far would the Neil Young & Crazy Horse coinage be debased by the realisation of an idea that might have been hatched in the proverbial pub. Would the brew be Sam Adams, or ersatz Bud? Thankfully the outcome is broadly successful, and much better than feared. The legendary band deliver exactly where you would expect them to, in terms of searing guitars, thumping rhythm, and boyish backing vocals. This must on no account be played as background music, but benefits greatly from boosted volume, the recording feeling sharp and live. Perhaps inevitably, the results are inconsistent. ‘Clementine’, ‘Travel On’, and ‘Oh Susannah’ work best, with a sinister edge that overcomes the risk of familiar contempt. However, ‘Gallows Pole’ cannot avoid comparison with Led Zeppelin’s definitive 40-y-o version, and ‘Get A Job’ was surely more fun for the band, while ‘God Save The Queen’ remains a dirge when performed by anyone but The Sex Pistols. The former lofty NYCH heights of ‘Like A Hurricane’ and ‘Cortez The Killer’ unsurprisingly are realised, but the album offers hope that these titans now will make new music together again.
The Fortunate The Fortunate are Natalie Woodward on vocals and keyboards, Rich Willatts on bass, Sam Page on guitar and Simon Nash on drums. They have had a busy 2012 so far including signing a publishing deal with EMI, numerous gigs and two of their songs are now available on iTunes. We took some time to catch up and ask them some questions as well as including a complimentary CD of ‘Silhouette’ with this edition. How did you come up with your band name? Sam: The name came out of the blue whilst sat on a public bus, it just popped into my head!
debut EP and playing as many shows as possible. It is so hard to pick one highlight, I love every minute from sitting in our practise shed writing a new track to performing our set to 3,000 people!
Natalie: Simon and Sam used to catch the bus to and from college. During one bus journey home, Simon had typed something onto his phone and showed it to Sam. It read ‘The Fortunate’. They instantly thought it had a ring to it, so ‘The Fortunate’ stayed.
What’s your favourite song of 2012 so far?
How has 2012 been for you so far?
Rich: The Killers are the first current band to come to mind, along with Coldplay- although I don’t think I’d be keen to ‘follow’ them at this stage, maybe we’d be better off letting them go after us!
Rich: We ended 2011 on such a high, with the EMI publishing deal, that we literally had no idea what to expect this year. However we have kept our heads down writing new songs, finishing off our
Natalie, Sam and Rich: Gotye with ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ You are performing at a number of festivals this year, who would you like to perform with?
For more info and dates visit www.thefortunate.co.uk
Hot New Acts
Josh Osho Nina Nesbitt All The Young Jake Bugg Lucy Rose
Lawson Willy Moon B Traits Lady North Savages
Clement Marfo & the Frontline Zulu Winter Haim Mikill Pane Alt-J
Current Playlist Marcus Miller – ‘Detroit’ Jessie J – ‘Domino’ Rufus Wainwright – ‘Barbara’ Hue and Cry – ‘I Can Have It All’ Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Leave It’ B.O.B. – ‘Hard To Breathe’ Scissor Sisters – ‘Only The Horses’ Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Call Me Maybe’ Paloma Faith – ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ Rumer – ‘Be Nice To Me’ Janelle Monae – ‘Tightrope’ Polica – ‘Dark Star’
Pat Metheny – ‘Unity Band’ Sex Pistols – ‘Anarchy In The UK’ Donna Summer – ‘State Of Independence’ Knife Party – ‘Bonfire’ The Maccabees – ‘Given To The Wild’ The Bird and The Bee – ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ Joe Bonamassa – ‘Driving Towards The Daylight’ Ed Sheeran – ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ Ry Cooder – ‘Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down’ Daniel Bedingfield – ‘Gotta Get Through This’ Dry The River – ‘Shallow Bed’ Grimes – ‘Visions’
Photo Credits The Fortunate (cover and inside Josh Thomas Powell), Bon Iver (4AD), Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (Family Ltd), Miike Snow (Columbia Records), Fun (Daniel Silbert), Birdy (Atlantic Records), Marina and the Diamonds (Warner Bros), Ren Harvieu (Island Records), Lana Del Rey (Purple PR), Regina Spektor (Warner Bros), Lianne La Havas (Anorak London), The Black Keys (Danny Clinch), Alabama Shakes (Rough Trade Records), John Mayer (Columbia Records), Richard Hawley (Steve Gullick), Ben Howard (Roddy Bow), Alex Clare (Island Records), Daryl Hall (EMMS Publicity), Mayer Hawthorne (Island Records), Neil Young (Warner Bros), Josh Osho (Island Records), Lawson (Magnus Hastings), Clement Marfo & the Frontline (Warner Bros), Lucy Rose (Six 07 Press), Savages (Steve Gullick) and Alt-J (Inside/Out).
Credits Many thanks to Ian Slater for the feature article and sorry we never made time to include the new Wilco/Billy Bragg and to Emma and Alex at Insanity Radio. The David Beckham debate will continue. Don and Dom – the new ‘double act’ – thanks again. And we again say thanks to Susie, Nick, Nick (not Jim Davidson) and Bryce. One last point we would like to ‘salute’ the following people who have recently left us: Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, Abram Wilson and Kate Linnell. Revue will miss you. Revue is edited by Teresa Albertsen with a bit of hindrance from the man in the corner. Errors and omissions are excepted.
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