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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas! Sexy Santa Shahira Barry eyes single release


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

And thanks for visiting Still Got The Fever so often since we opened for business in July.

By way of appreciation, here’s supermodel Shahira Barry.

The 21-year-old beauty from Ireland has just appeared in a new video by chart-topper Akon.

And now she has her eye on making a single of her own.

Shahira, whose mum and gran both come from Birmingham UK jetted out to the Playboy mansion recently after a personal invitation from magazine millionaire Hugh Hefner.

But although she stripped down to a skimpy bikini for one of Hef’s infamous pool parties, she has refused to go topless.

“If all I wanted to do was model, then I would jump at the chance to do Playboy,” she says.

“But I don’t want to close any doors. I love singing, acting and dancing, and I’m afraid that posing for Playboy would close doors.”

Next up for Shahira is a  TV series called Darker Days, which cashes in on the current craze for vampire stories, fuelled by the success of Twilight.

Filmed in Ireland, Shahira plays the girlfriend of actor Mark Hutchinson. Football Factory star Danny Dyer is also in the show.

For an interview with Shahira and more photos head here.

Monday, 24 December 2012

1. Richard Hawley : Standing At The Sky's Edge

We’ve been counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Here’s our No 1.


Richard Hawley. Safe as houses. You know exactly what you’re going to get when you buy an album by the former Pulp guitarist.

A warm, reverb-drenched baritone vocal; subtle guitar licks wrapped in the lush strings of a 38-piece orchestra; the feeling of unabashed luxury; music that caresses and cocoons.

Think again.

Because the Sheffield songwriter is mightily miffed at the state of the country. In fact, he’s so angry that he’s made a bristling, spitting rock and roll album. Yes, really.

“I needed to get away from the whole orchestra thing,” he says. “I wanted to make a record with just two guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and rocket noises.

“I felt I’d neglected my guitars for a long time. I just wanted to get them out and dust them down. Guitar is my first love and, hell, I just wanted to have some fun!

“I didn’t want to make a record that was treading water. It would have been easy to do that. There are a lot of artists who serially make the same record. It ends up cheapening the ones before, and that’s a shame.

“I didn’t want to put the pedal to the metal all the way though. It would be boring and I might be guilty of secretly wanting to be a 40 year-old guy in Spandex. Melody has to be king.

“There have always been guitar solos on my stuff before. They just weren’t quite this loud!” He’s not joking. Standing At The Sky’s Edge is angry both lyrically and musically, its songs peopled by victims of a society failed by politicians.

The title track sounds like Jim Morrison fronting Neil Young’s Crazy Horse with its overdriven grunge guitar, while Down In The Woods uses a harum scarum riff Led Zeppelin and The Who used to unleash.

She Brings The Sunlight has Eastern overtones and boasts not one, but two, incendiary guitar solos. We’d all forgotten just how good a player Hawley is, and now he reminds us.

Leave Your Body Behind You, chosen as the single, is wall of sound rock and roll riding a descending riff and ending in chaotic deconstruction.

There are mellow moments. Seek It is a lazy summer’s day of a song, and Don’t Stare At The Sun starts subtly then builds to a crescendo.

Finalé Before works the same trick, a power chord wolf in silky sheep’s clothing. Whisper it quietly, but Richard Hawley has just made the best rock album of the year.

Who could have dreamed that?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

2. Emperors Of Wyoming : Emperors Of Wyoming

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s No 1 in our shopping list.

He has produced some of rock’s greatest albums; he has drummed up a storm on iconic hits.

He produced Nirvana’s gamechanging Nevermind, Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream, Sonic Youth’s Dirty and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown.

And he is, of course, the drummer on Garbage hallmark hits such as Stupid Girl, Only Happy When It Rains, Special and #1 Crush.

Now Butch Vig has gone country. Not in any yee-hah yodel sense, you understand, but in a gritty roots rock and roll sort of way.

He has teamed up with old pals Pete and Frank Anderson from Call Me Bwana and Fire Town’s Phil Davis in new band Emperors Of Wyoming.

Together, they’ve made one of the best albums of the year, a set which will appeal to anyone who ever owned a Tom Petty or Steve Earle CD.

Add Neil Young and Jack White to that list, perhaps. Yes, it’s that good.

“We wanted to mix up bluegrass, country and acoustic folk using cutting edge technology and ancient instruments,” says Vig. “Then we added rock guitar, bass and drums.

“People I’ve played it to are kind of surprised. When I say we’ve got a ‘country’ record they’re not quite sure what to expect.

“There are two schools of Nashville. There’s the old school - pedal steel guitar and twangy vocals.

“Then there’s the new school, which is more pop and can sometimes crossover to commercial radio.

“Take Taylor Swift for example. “To me she’s not country at all. She’s a pop artist, pure and simple.”

The Emperors’ eponymous debut album is anything but pop, offering credible crunch and indie appeal.

Petty-style rocker Avalanche Girl is bright rock and roll, Never Got Over You a throwback to the days when Steve Earle was “new country”.

Cornfield Palace is more direct, but in a jangly lyrical way, while Brand New Heart Of Stone is hewn from Creedence choogle. Both I’m Your Man (no, not the Wham hit) and Sweep Away smack of Exile-era Stones.

A double-header finalé rocks up 19th century Wisconsin river ballad The Pinery Boy, followed by a brooding, stormy cover version of John Martyn’s Bless The Weather.

The emperor’s new clothes never looked finer.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

3. The Civil Wars : Barton Hollow

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next ...

You’ve seen it before on reality TV. Struggling solo acts are paired with each other for surprising success.

It could only happen on X Factor.

Well, no actually. That’s not strictly the case. And the result doesn’t have to be mainstream manufactured Cowell clone chart pop.

Pair two credible artists and you may just end up with incredible results.

Put singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White together and you get the hottest contender yet for album of the year. Because The Civil Wars’ debut set Barton Hollow isn’t just good, it’s spine-tingling drop dead gorgeous.

Both Williams and White were battle-worn troubadours winning rave reviews but going nowhere until they separately enrolled on a songwriting camp course.

“The courses are like blind dates,” says Williams. “They are 20 or so writers. You pick straws, they pair you up, and off you go to see if you can write songs together.”

The Californian choirgirl with a love of The Beach Boys and The Carpenters found herself in a room with the Alabama rocker who liked nothing more than to holler his favourite AC/DC rock anthems. “Let’s be honest,” admits White. “Neither of us wanted to do this, but we did. We drew straws and they put us in a room. It didn’t look promising - chalk and cheese.”

But some things are meant to be.

“The very first day we started singing together, it was like we’d been doing it all our lives, “ says Williams. “When we harmonised, we each knew instinctively where the other was going. It was magical.”

So is the Americana-fuelled album, which more than matches the magic worked by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand.

From respectfully retro 20 Years to folk-flavoured Birds Of A Feather, the gentle harmonies are seamless. The likes of Girl With The Red Balloon and Falling will subtly seduce your senses.

When they step up the pace, the title track nods to post-Zeppelin Page & Plant, and a bunch of bonus covers include Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love.

Built from blues, country and folk, you may not hear a better album this year.

Since writing this review, of course, Civil Wars have put everything on hold, citing “internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition”.

Let’s hope they resolve those differences soon.

Friday, 21 December 2012

4. Jay James Picton : Play It By Heart

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next ...

I first stumbled upon Jay James Picton midway through a charity album called Songs To Save A Life, designed to raise funds for The Samaritans.

The young Welshman had contributed a soul take on Carole King’s You’ve Got A Friend so impassioned that it raised the hairs on the back of your neck.

Since then, he’s hunkered down in the studio and recorded a debut album of his own songs, winning big name fans such as The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Booker T Jones, John Legend and Hal David (he of Bacharach & David fame).

All of which is remarkable when you consider that five years ago, he hadn’t sung a note.

He was a PE teacher with the Royal Navy until an injury sustained in a rugby match left him on the sidelines.

One drunken New Year’s Eve he spotted a cheap five-string guitar in a shop window, bought it on impulse and taught himself to play. “I didn’t really listen to music when I was growing up,” he admits. “I wasn’t into music at all, up until five years ago.
“I messed my knee up, got drunk on a night out with the lads and bought this guitar, which I promptly consigned to a cupboard.

“But I’d played sport everyday of my life so it was a massive thing not to be able to work out or take part. I was a bit lost and needed something to focus on, and that’s why I decided to learn to play the guitar.

“I started humming along and then singing along as I was just trying to keep the rhythm. It all happened really quickly and out of the blue, to be honest. Suddenly I realised that I could sing.

“Writing came a little later because I’ve not been very good at expressing myself. Generally I don’t read books and I’m not very good at English so writing is not something I’d ever done, to be honest with you.”

All the more remarkable, then, that Play It By Heart isn’t just a good album.

It's almost the best album of the year.

With a soulful vocal that somehow blends old school class with indie credibility, he’s the male Amy Winehouse.

It’s an album of contrasts, too.

Opening with a spluttering rock guitar chord and the sparse soundscape of Another Man, it ends in The Boy That Wants To Fly, which is surely a Bond movie theme in the waiting.

The title track will delight both Stax soul collectors and the urban R&B crowd, a companion perhaps to Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, while the gossamer Spiders would sit comfortably with anything by Chris Martin or Damien Rice.

Best is Gravity, an utterly gorgeous love song which boasts an irresistible hook. You won’t hear much better.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

5. Andy Flannagan : Drowning In The Shallow

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next ...


Visit the Houses of Parliament and odds are you’ll spot Andy Flannagan.

The former NHS hospital doctor is a political protest campaigner with a knack of getting himself heard.

No surprise, then, that he’s also a storyteller and a songwriter.

But who would have thought he’d record an album that may just be the best you’re likely to hear all year?

Drowning In The Shallow is a gorgeous set of songs drawn both from personal loss and the ills of society.

But where the likes of Billy Bragg tend to be strident, Flannagan’s musical mood is mellow, the bite hidden in the lyrics to catch you unawares.

“There are themes of broken places, things and people, including me,” he says. “The thread that runs through the songs is inspiring people doing inspiring things in difficult places.

“You’ll hear about folks who have given of their lives in the toughest parts of this planet, from Chennai in India to an orphanage in Uganda.

“One person who truly inspired me is Mick Duncan. He gave up a life in New Zealand to go and live amongst slum dwellers in the Philippines.

“I remember something his daughter said when they came back.

“‘What’s it like being in the middle of all that poverty?’ she was asked. ‘I never saw any poverty. I just saw my friends,’ she replied.

“Could we be the generation that doesn’t have to start lots of projects to connect with and help the poor, needy and marginalised among us, but we help them simply because they’re our neighbours?”

Flannagan’s use of acoustic guitar and cello has prompted Damien Rice comparisons, but they’re wide of the mark. His gentle vocal sets him alongside
the likes of Martyn Joseph.

The title track is drop dead gorgeous, while Addictions is a wry look at a dysfunctional society where we’d rather watch TV than talk.

But it’s two tales of tragedy that inspire the highlights here.

Fragile, remembering friends killed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, is deeply moving. And I Will Not Be Leaving, about Joseph, a baby boy left alone for days at birth, has a desperate beauty to it.

Flannagan is setting out on his ‘Invisible Tour’, playing hospices, prisons and homeless shelters for free, bringing hope where it’s in short supply.

It’s typical of the man. Like the album, just what the doctor ordered.



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

6. Luke White : Outside In

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next ...

Used to be you couldn’t find enough half-decent singer-songwriters to fill up the Brit Awards shortlist.

Now they’re a ten-a-penny and the problem is more sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

For every moment of rare wonder, there are hours of wellmeaning but weary navel-gazing.

Tom Baxter, Duke Special, Scott Matthews and David Ford have all been essential. Ed Sheeran has grabbed the genre by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into the charts.

Now step forward Luke White, who combines singer-songwriter sensibilities with widescreen pop, and somehow makes the mainstream deeper.

Musically, think Turin Brakes meets ABC. And, indeed, the young British singer’s voice recalls that of Brakes’ Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, which, of course, is no bad thing.

And then, there’s the fact that each and every track – bar a couple of brief instrumental links – boasts a barbed hook that lodges in the back of your consciousness and refuses to let go.

Typical is Black Market Red Roses, a song about the lengths to which lovers will go, which opens like U2 with a gently insistent beat, building to a credible indie pop romance.

Made Of Love, chosen as the debut single – last year’s EP The Performing Man was just a taster – and already winning fans on youtube, is a song Chris Martin would kill for.

Opening with 80s retro synth and reverb guitar, it’s lush pop with a seductive chorus and the chance for White to dust off his guitar.

Waiting To Say Goodbye takes it back to piano-vocal basics, as does Don’t Be Worried (Light Will Find You), the latter currently being championed by Coldplay’s hypnofeed. Stay Young boasts gorgeous guitar licks, and Stupid Kind Of Love is the sort of thing that Crowded House’s Neil Finn used to do so capably.

The album title comes from the lyric of Maybe She Is Magic, a song that’s more mainstream than most, and may well put you in mind of Jocasta cult classic Inside Out.

If there are weaknesses, they show up in Goodbye Skin, which tends toward blandness before saving itself at the close.

Best of the bunch is She’s A Dancer which nods to Turin Brakes circa Ether Song, but may just be better even than that...

All white, indeed.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

7. The Gaslight Anthem : Handwritten

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next!


It’s been awhile since Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon broke news of the band’s new album. It was November 16, 2010 to be precise, shortly after soundchecking at Nottingham’s Rock City.

It’s taken awhile, too, thanks to the Stateside band’s workaholic touring schedule, and the desire to follow up big-selling American Slang with something that wasn’t just a by the numbers soundalike sequel.

After coming off the road, Fallon unplugged his internet modem, sequestered himself in his New Jersey home, read the poetry of T.S. Eliot and put pen to paper, writing lyrics in a dog-eared notebook.

It’s no bad thing being compared with Springsteen, of course, and the band were happy to play dates with The Boss. Fallon regularly used to get up and duet on his superstar pal’s Glory Days.

But you can have too much of a good thing. Fallon was getting a little weary of reviews which routinely name-checked Bruce. He wanted to move the band on to pastures that weren’t lined with dusty roads.

“This is the record I would want next, if I were a fan,” he says. “American Slang was cool, but this sounds like a band that’s plugged back into the electric socket again.

“For the first time, I’m not scared that people aren’t going to like this record. I don’t care what Bruce Springsteen or Eddie Vedder or any of my friends think of it.

“I don’t care. If you want to hang with us, you’ve got to grow with us. That’s the deal.”

The Springsteen nods may continue on the likes of Mulholland Drive and driving stadium rock and roller 45, but Handwritten and Keepsake have more of a Tom Petty feel to them.

Here Comes My Man, with its singalong sha-la-la chorus, suggests Fallon has at least one Counting Crows album in his collection.

But Too Much Blood, whose classic rock riff recalls either Free or Soundgarden, depending how old you are, is the heaviest track the Anthem have recorded.

Howl is a razor-sharp rocker, short, sharp and sweet; Biloxi Parish boasts another anthemic chorus; Desire’s guitar chugs like Foo Fighters.

The album closes with gentle Mae and the poignant acoustic National Anthem, a bare bones tale of heartache.

You have to hand it to ‘em.

Monday, 17 December 2012

8. Diana Krall : Glad Rag Doll

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Come back tomorrow to see what’s next!


Phew! What a scorcher. Demure Diana Krall has turned Roaring 20s torch singer, complete with basque, suspenders and stockings.

And it’s not just the controversial cover shot that will send temperatures soaring. Because this is the fabulous 47-year-old jazz chanteuse as you’ve never heard her before.

Forget the usual lush orchestrations, the shimmering strings, the minimalist piano ballads. Diana has stripped down for some retro rock and roll rooted in songs caught out of time.

“As a little girl, I fell in love with the songs of the 1920s,” she reveals. “Two years ago I recorded some of them in the studio by myself. But then I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the next couple of years doing solo shows.

“I decided I’d like to try something different, sing those songs without making a nostalgia record, or a traditional jazz record. I wanted to treat them as if they were new.

“So I called T-Bone.”

That’s as in T-Bone Burnett, the maverick guitarist, songwriter and producer whose retro roster most recently included the heavenly union of unlikely bedfellows Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

In turn, he brought guitar genius Marc Ribot to the table, pulled together a stellar band and sent Diana in directions she’d never dreamed of.

“I knew T-Bone would bring something unique to it with the artists that he chose,” says Diana.

“I’m not saying the original recordings weren’t good, but there was definitely more creative imagining involved in this than with the songs from the Great American Songbook that I’ve done.”

So There Ain’t No Sweet Man That’s Worth The Salt Of My Tears acquires sputtering electric guitar, I’m A Little Mixed Up steps to rock and stroll and the title track is informed by Ribot’s razor-sharp stainless steel licks.

Ev’ry Thing’s Made For Love is playful pastiche straight off Boardwalk Empire – you expect Nucky Thompson to join in – and We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye will delight everyone who bought Hugh Laurie’s Let Them Talk blues roots album.

Best is Lonely Avenue on which Krall’s croon, as silky as those stockings, soothes underlying fractured feedback guitar grumble.

Diana never looked, or sounded, better. This will blow your socks off.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

9. Stone Sour : House Of Gold & Bone Part 1

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Visit tomorrow to see what the next one will be.


Never been sure about Stone Sour, the part-time plaything of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor.

And when Taylor announced that the band’s new outing, House Of Gold And Bones, would be a concept piece spread across two consecutive albums, alarm bells began ringing.

When he added that the exercise would be something “like Pink Floyd’s The Wall meets Alice in Chains’s Dirt” it was time to start digging the escape tunnel.

All of which proves just how wrong you can be.

Because Part 1, released this week, may just be the best metal album since Metallica took a shine to the colour black.

Like James Hetfield & Co did on the ‘black’ album, fed up that their thrash metal wasn’t selling by the shedload, Taylor’s moshpit marauders have dipped a sizeable toe in the mainstream.

And the result is startling. Startingly, jaw-droppingly good.

Sure, the Slipknot purists will hate it. You can already hear the sound of knives being sharpened.

Because, although the requisite riffs are here, shouty, growly and gruesome this is not.

Some of it turns out to be so radio-friendly that it’ll leap off your iPod and give you a hug.

It’s a balancing act to rival Nik Wallenda’s walk earlier this year along that tightrope across Niagara Falls.

The album opens with the double whammy of Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero – already familiar to the faithful as singles released this year – both of which are reminiscent of Metallica at their best.

They ride precision rock riffs tooled by Josh Rand and James Root, with David Bottrill’s production bringing out buttock-clenching bass and bombshell drums. Taylor’s vocal is surprisingly melodic, even when he offers token gruff grumble.

A Rumor Of Skin is brutally efficient, sparsely simple. Then The Travelers Pt 1 offers pause to get your breath back, its acoustic strum and sweeping strings suggesting that it may well turn out a solo spot in concert.

It leads into Tired, a track made for rock radio, and one which has already come in for criticism from metalhead diehards. Okay, so it’s a bit Nickelback in places, but you can’t have everything.

The following RU486 will do much to restore tunnel vision faith. It’s a ferocious sonic shockwave, with a machine gun riff, Rachel Bolan’s burly bass and some of the most brutal drumming you’ll hear this side of a steel foundry, courtesy of Roy Mayorga.

My Name Is Allen is more by the numbers, more effective filler than anything you’ll find at B&Q, then Taciturn is a huge rock ballad, opening solo and unplugged but building to a crescendo with satisfying guitar crunch.

Influence Of A Drowsy God flirts with prog-rock before The Travelers Pt 2 beefs up its earlier namesake, and the album ends with Last Of The Real – another steroidal stomp to please the purists.

But there’s more to Taylor’s latest brainchild than that. The album comes complete with a short story, in which the plot thickens, and a four-part comicbook series with Dark Horse is planned.

Then there’s the album sleeve itself, which opens out as if it wants to be a 3D cardboard sculpture but with tabs that don’t connect. Odds are that when Part 2 arrives in 2013 it’ll all, quite literally, come together.


Friday, 14 December 2012

10. Bruce Springsteen : Wrecking Ball

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Visit tomorrow to see what the next one will be.

Bruce Springsteen is back and he’s madder than hell.

His 17th album is the angriest he’s ever recorded.

After the Obama optimism that permeated feelgood Working On A Dream, he feels bitterly betrayed. Springsteen lambasts the politicians, the businessmen and the bankers who have left working men struggling to survive the recession.

And although there’s no E Street explosion, no Seeger Sessions smiles, musically little new, it’s a potent brew.

Inevitably, the shadow of the late Clarence Clemons stretches across the album, which is dedicated to the Big Man of the E Street Band.

He appears on two songs: the title track, which recalls Springsteen’s Born To Run era, and Land Of Hope And Dreams - a live set staple since 2000 but laid down in the studio just last year.

Opener We Take Care Of Our Own sounds like a flagwaving anthem until a twist of the knife changes everything, demanding answers.

Where’s the work, the spirit, the promise, Springsteen demands?

What the hell went wrong? Just like Born In The USA fooled Reagan into adopting the anti-war song, it’s a clever conceit.

The theme runs through Easy Money, in which he gets a gun, and album standout Jack Of All Trades, where he wants to shoot the bastards.

It’s not all successful. You’ve Got It is makeweight retro rock and roll, and the jury’s out on the rap in gospel-grown Rocky Ground.

Folk-fuelled finalé We Are Alive brings all the elements together, Springsteen the storyteller, the blue collar Boss, even a hint of Johnny Cash classic Ring Of Fire.

The latter opens in Woody Guthrie-style Americana before adding rock and roll guitar, and was huge in Hyde Park this Summer.

Wrecking Ball doesn’t have immediate impact but repeat plays reap rewards, always the sign of a great album.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Paul McCartney and Nirvana at the Sandy gig - video

There was a lot of hype – the astonishment, the shock, the outrage.

Courtney Love said it might have been OK if John Lennon had still been alive and fronted the reunion.

But Paul McCartney?

Take a look and see what you think. We reckon it could have been far worse.

They might have done Hey Jude, for a start ...


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

11. The Unthanks : Diversions Vol. 3 - Songs From The Shipyards

We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Visit tomorrow to see what the next one will be.


Northumberland folkies The Unthanks launch the soundtrack to a documentary about the lost shipyards of the North East, and it’s spine-tingling.

Rachel and Beverly Unthank’s ethereal vocals are like ghosts haunting the graveyard of a once great trade, set against the rhythms and sounds of the past.

 Often with bare piano backing, songs such as Black Trade and Rudyard Kipling’s Big Steamers transcend folk and sail into contemporary waters, with a cover of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding successfully moored alongside.

An unexpected delight.

12. The Getaway Plan : Requiem

Starting today we’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the 12 best albums of the year. There’ll be one each day until December 24.

Sometimes the best laid plans go awry. One moment The Getaway Plan was Australia’s most exciting band, ready to outstrip the likes of INXS and AC/DC.

Four years ago they jetted to Florida to make a debut album which won rave reviews, shot into the charts, and won them stadium support slots with My Chemical Romance.

Then they abruptly split, and went their separate ways with a clutch of so-so solo efforts. End of story.

Until now, that is.

Spurred by the plight of young fans in the recession, the band reformed for a charity gig and an under-age festival in 2010, expecting them to be one-offs.

But they enjoyed it so much that they decided to put their differences aside, and do it all over again.

Cue Requiem, The Getaway Plan’s sophomore set – four years late.

“It’s pretty rare for a band to vanish for a couple of years and then come back and take off where they were,” says drummer Aaron Barnett.

“And it feels great man, it’s really good. It’s been a long time coming for us.

“You’re a bit sceptical – you don’t know how any album is going to go really – and coming back was nerve-racking. You never know if your old fans are going to be around, or if new ones are going to take to the new material.

“But we knew we had a solid record. We think it’s the best stuff we’ve written. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Musically, Requiem suggests that the band can give the likes of Muse and Thirty Seconds To Mars a run for their megabucks.

It’s melodic but with a hard rock foundation. Frontman Matthew Wright has an infectious voice and his keyboards inform most tracks before Clint Ellis’ edgy guitar starts building metal muscle.

It’s radio-friendly stadium rock.

But most importantly it has big songs. Two of them, in fact.

While the rest of the album is good, both Move Along and Coming Home are great.

US TV producers will be queuing up to use the former in the hottest network shows. It has that sort of appeal.

The song ticks all the boxes – pop dressed as metal, a soaring chorus, FM radio guitars and mobiles in the air anthemic appeal.

The latter, with its string soundwash, just needs to be paired with video of troops coming home from the front line (although it’s not about that, as such) and it will do the same job that The Cars’ Drive did for Live Aid.

Driving opener the Reckoning has been chosen as the initial UK single and has a harder edge, suggesting it will be one to reckon with live.

It will be boosted by a disturbing and controversial video featuring Lord Of The Flies-style feral children making a sacrifice of one of their own in the woods – and burning down a church.

Although it hardly reflects the band’s personality, it’s a compelling view.

But it’s surely only a matter of time before record label bosses move along to that worldwide hit in the waiting.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Led Zeppelin : Celebration Day review

It seems a lifetime ago that the clock on the Led Zeppelin website started counting down to the big announcement. Now, a worldwide cinema screening later, Celebration Day has hit the high street.

The band’s sensational 2007 reunion for the Ahmet Ertegun memorial concert at London’s 02 Arena (that’s the Millennium Dome in old money) has been captured on two CDs and a DVD – and it’s a barnstormer.

It sits comfortably alongside the previous landmark live sets, The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won, bringing the Zeppelin story to what many still believe is a premature conclusion.

Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham – son of late, lamented John – are on fine form as they power through a setlist of classic Zeppelin anthems, and the odd surprise.

As befits a great gig, it’s a memorable movie, too. Director Dick Carruthers keeps camera trickery to a minimum, allowing the music to do the talking, only occasionally inserting mobile phone fan footage.

So how can they possibly still cut it? After all, the original Zeppelin high-fliers are spring chickens no longer.

Plant’s vocal isn’t what it once was, hence his more melodious work of late with Alison Krauss and Band Of Joy, and some of the songs have been lowered in key to make things just the right side of comfortable. Page’s fingers aren’t as nimble as they used to be either.

Sure, some of the guitar solos are sloppy – he admits as much himself – but they emerge gloriously messy in very best live rock and roll tradition.

Jones, however, is the constant. Solid, sure-footed, the glue that binds his bandmates to the revelatory powerhouse drumming of Bonham Junior, whose Rock And Roll concert closer is a man-made thunderstorm.

Opening with Good Times Bad Times – you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face – Zeppelin serve up Ramble On before letting the song ramble on into the opening of Black Dog, rock’s most impossible guitar riff.

There’s a spine-tingling In My Time Of Dying, during which Plant and Page excel, then the first curiosity of the night: a live debut of For Your Life, unprepossessing in the Presence studio but better onstage.

Trampled Under Foot, with Jones’ keyboard funk, ups the game again. After the bluesy Nobody’s Fault But Mine, he’s back with No Quarter, shimmering soundscapes slowly unveiling the underlying riff.

Since I’ve Been Loving You is nostalgia incarnate, Dazed And Confused gives Page the opportunity to bring back the violin bow, and Stairway To Heaven, well, Stairway To Heaven brings the house down.

The Song Remains The Same races along like a runaway train before Misty Mountain Hop boasts a surprise vocal duet between Plant and Bonham, Plant explaining how John loved to sing.

They save the best ‘til almost last. Kashmir proves an epic performance, Led Zeppelin after all checks completed, surely ready for take-off again. The gig closes with a playful Whole Lotta Love and that Rock And Roll thunder.

Don’t let this be their swansong.

* There are all manner of versions of Celebration Day, by the way, ranging from a basic double-CD to the deluxe edition which boasts a bluray, DVD, two CDs and a bonus DVD tracing rehearsals at Shepperton Studios.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Paul McCartney finds Diana Krall in his Christmas stockings

Beatle Paul McCartney has teamed up with jazz songbird Diana Krall for a Christmas cracker.

The 70-year-old pop legend has recorded an old chestnut with dishy Diana, 47, who is already a firm favourite with Still Got The Fever fans.

Quite literally, too.

The unlikely duo have revised The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) for the first big seasonal selection of the year.

They’re joined on Decca’s Christmas Rules set by the likes of Rufus Wainwright, The Civil Wars, The Shins, Calexico and many more.

The album, out on November 26, offers 17 all-new recordings from across the musical spectrum.

Chart favourites fun deliver an upbeat Sleigh Ride, The Shins take on Macca’s Wonderful Christmastime, Wainwight and Sharon Van Elten tease on Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Other highlights include The Civil Wars (come on, guys, bury your differences and get back together) serving up a sublime I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.

Soul icon Irma Thomas leads The Preservation Hall Jazz Band through May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas; alt.folkie Holly Golightly tells us That’s What I Want For Christmas; Fiery Furnaces alumna Eleanor Friedberger wanders all over Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me.

There are also tracks from Black Prairie, Heartless Bastards, Fruit Bats, Y La Bamba, Punch Brothers, Andrew Bird, The Head and The Heart, and Ages and Ages.

But it’s the McCartney-Krall duet that will grab the headlines, a late-night jazz smooch simply played and simply sung mostly by Macca, with Krall’s piano and harmonies.

The Big Mac, of course, appeared at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, while Lady Di recenty released Glad Rag Doll, with its sexy cover photoshoot.

For more photos from Diana’s Glad Rag Doll photoshoot, click here.

That’s What I Call Christmas, it ain’t.

Thank goodness.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Beth Hart : Bang Bang Boom Boom, the blues just got sexy again

IF anyone has the right to sing the blues, it’s Beth Hart.

At the age of 40 she’s had a tough life. You name it, she’s done it.

But the LA songbird has risen from the ashes to become a high-flier.

“My Dad was sent to prison for drug offences when I was five,” she says. “I went off the rails, turning to alcohol and drugs at the age of 11. My sister did too, but she died from the effects of drugs when I was still a teenager.

“I was eventually diagnosed with a form of Bipolar, and I’ve had my battles with drugs and alcohol addiction.”

Hart says her life was saved by the roadie who went on to become her husband, Scott Guetzkow.

“It was thanks to Scott that I decided enough was enough,” she says. “I started out on the long road to recovery. I still have my bad days, like everyone else, but I’m stronger these days. I’ve learned how to deal with them a bit better than I used to.

“It helps me to write songs that reflect these feelings – it’s a kind of exorcism for me.”

No surprise, then, that Hart’s new album Bang Bang Boom Boom isn’t a set of upbeat poppy songs. But while it’s rooted in the blues, it’s certainly not a blues album. This is her most mainstream set yet.

“I grew up with a lot of different music,” she says. “I like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, James Taylor and Carole King, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. Then there’s the music my mother turned me on to: Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday.”

Opener Baddest Blues opens with almost absent-minded piano before exploding in blues guitar drama. With You Everyday is another blues – but the rest of the album is an enticingly eclectic exercise.

Spirit Of God boasts brassy gospel punch; Swing My Thing Around is big band swing; There In Your Heart wears singer-songwriter chic; the title track is almost playful.

The semi-biographical Ugliest House On The Block could sit in either the Alanis Morissette or Sheryl Crow catalogue, Thru The Window Of My Mind gives Adele a run for her money, and the bawdy Better Man explores Hart’s remarkable range.

Best, however, is the seven-minute Caught Out In The Rain which finds her one moment in a passionate rage and the next reduced to a vulnerable whisper, all set in trademark Kevin Shirley production which puts you right in the heart of the studio, as only he can.

It’s Bang Bang Boom Boom time for Beth Hart.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Download 2013 : Queens Of The Stone Age, 30 Seconds To Mars, Gaslight Anthem, Motorhead join the bill

Download 2013 just got bigger.

Queens Of The Stone Age have just confirmed their Download debut.
 
Other additions just announced are 30 Seconds to Mars, Gaslight Anthem, Motorhead, HIM, Alice In Chains and A Day To Remember 
 
They’ll join headliners Iron Maiden, Rammstein and Slipknot at Donington Park from June 14-16 next year
 
Organisers are pleased to announce that Queens of the Stone Age are confirmed to make their Download Festival debut, marking the band’s first UK date to be announced for 2013.

30 Seconds to Mars are back for the third time to treat audiences to hits such as ‘Kings and Queens’, ‘This Is War’, ‘Closer To The Edge’ and ‘The Kill (Bury Me)’, and Gaslight Anthem, who played in 2011 and recently sold out Brixton Academy, establishing themselves as one of the foremost contemporary rock bands, are also confirmed.
 
Returning to thrash out for the fourth time at Download Festival are Motorhead. In 2010 Lemmy and the gang were joined on stage by Slash creating a mosh of thousands to punk-fused metal classics ‘Stay Clean’, ‘Killed By Death’, ‘Overkill’ and ‘Ace of Spades’.

Finnish rockers HIM are also  confirmed playing hits spanning their 20-year career. The band have just released celebratory compilation Two Decades of Love Metal which includes all of their greatest hits and brand new track ‘Strange World’.

Seattle alt-rockers Alice in Chains will be performing for the second time in Donington Park, while US rockers A Day To Remember will make their third appearance.
 
Weekend tickets with camping are on sale now at www.downloadfestival.co.uk. Download RIP ticket packages can be purchased via www.livenationexperience.co.uk or by phoning 0207 009 3484.
 
Tickets for Download Festival Weekend Arena and five-night camping can now be purchased using a new Deposit Ticket Scheme, which allows eligible customers to pay for tickets over three instalments. DTS is available to customers who purchase tickets before Monday 31 December 2012. For further information visit www.downloadfestival.co.uk.
 
Download celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with a sell-out event headlined by The Prodigy, Metallica and Black Sabbath.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Robbie Williams : Take The Crown review

He says that he’s ready to take on the world again,  to take on the pop star persona that could so easily have been the death of him.

But this time out Robbie Williams is also a 38-year-old dad; he’s eaten humble pie with his old Take That team-mates, and he doesn’t have a desperate need to prove himself.

Cue a comfortably upbeat album with just the right amount of rock and roll edge to temper the occasional outbreak of pop nostalgia.

Here’s the track by track verdict:

Be A Boy: Smooth sax ushers in an unassuming song underlaid with a sneaky stadium singalong chant for subliminal success. 3/5

Gospel: Handclap pop rides retro rock-a-boogie guitar, then rolls out the red carpet for a cinematic widescreen chorus. 3/5

Candy: You've already heard the single, written with Gary Barlow. It's soda pop, finger-clicking, summer pop with 1950s flavour. 2/5

Different: The first ballad. "This time I'll be different, I promise you," he sings. "This time I'll be special – you know I will." Huge hit. 5/5

Shit On The Radio: Not going to get much airplay! Pop playing at rock, complete with cheesy synth straight out of Europe's Final Countdown. 2/5

All That I Want: Robbie’s been listening to U2 again. Thriller-style beat adds scuzzy guitar, a suggestive lyric and Bono vocal curve. 4/5

Hunting For You: Oddly familiar, perhaps borrowing from an earlier incarnation, it's more U2-lite complete with Edge informed Coca-Cola bubble guitar. Good song. 4/5

Into The Silence: Musically the most accomplished track on the album, again with a hint of U2 before building to a Coldplay clone crescendo. 3/5

Hey Wow Yeah Yeah: You've got to love this punchy post-punk pop, which recalls Plastic Bertrand's classic Ca Plane Pour Moi. 4/5

Not Like The Others: Cheeky upbeat pop rooted in rock and roll. With the hook 'You and me are not like the others' it'll be a huge hit. 4/5

Losers: Robbie saves the best till last, a jangly semi-plugged duet with alt.folkie Lissie. Lyrically it's the confession that fame isn't everything. Musically, it's proof that an old Rob can learn new tricks. 5/5          

Overall a good album, more mainstream than Rudebox and Reality Killed The Video Star. Just don't expect another Let Me Entertain You or Angels.

That was then, this is now.

Status Quo : original line-up back rocking all over the world

It was bound to happen eventually. The only surprise is how long it’s taken for the wounds to heal.

Rock veterans Status Quo are to reunite their classic original line-up for a series of shows next year.

They’ll play a short five-date tour and see how it goes. Hopefully they’ll manage that without falling out again.

But don’t hold your breath.

Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan will play live together for the first time in three decades.

Rossi and Parfitt have carried on under the name, of course, but Lancaster and Coghlan left in acrimonious circumstances.

Coghlan left the band late in 1981 after rowing with Parfitt and Rossi, who publicly claimed that they wanted a better drummer.

Bassist Lancaster was next to go, ousted after sessions for the 1983 album Back To Back, and later sued his former bandmates in a bid to stop them using the Status Quo brand name.

He accepted an out of court settlement which enabled the Quo to record and tour again, but now with a poppier sound.

The reunion is being staged because 2013 marks marks 50 years since Rossi and Lancaster first formed the group.

The band became known for hits such as Rocking All Over The World – actually written by Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty – Down Down and Caroline.

Quo manager Simon Porter says: “People have wanted this announcement to be made for years, and here it is.

“This is a real moment in the chequered history of Status Quo and it comes after almost 30 years of acrimony, and 10 years of lawsuits and court battles.

“Just two years ago the thought of the Frantic Four performing again was unthinkable.

“Now, 50 years on from when Francis and Alan first performed together as schoolboys, it is fitting that everything has come full circle for these unique one-off shows.”

Tickets for the shows, taking place in Glasgow 02 Academy (March 10) , Manchester 02 Apollo (March 12), Wolverhampton Civic Hall (March 13) and London Hammersmith Apollo (March 15 and 16) will go on sale on November 16.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Neil Young : Psychedelic Pill review

You either love Neil Young or you loathe him. And, as he approaches his 67th birthday next month, he doesn’t give a toss.

No surprise, then, that his new album – the second he has recorded with Crazy Horse this year – is typically uncompromising.

Psychedelic Pill opens with Driftin’ Back, a by now typical 27-minute grunge guitar grumble, seemingly served up just to prove the point.

“The songs the Horse likes to consume are always heartfelt and do not need to have anything fancy associated with them,” he says in his new biography. “The Horse is very suspicious of tricks...”

With a couple of the other songs weighing in at over 16 minutes, Warners have had to release the nine-song set over two CDs. It’s Young’s longest album to date.

But, and here’s the rub, it’s also one of his best, both musically and lyrically, too. Because Neil Young is an angry man.

Driftin’ Back is an indictment of the failure of the 1960s, a topic revisited in Walk Like A Giant, the latter a rock classic in the waiting.

“Me and some of our friends, we were going to save the world,” he growls. “Breaks my heart to think about how close we came.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum, For The Love Of Man is a tender strum dedicated to Young’s quadriplegic son, Ben.

“Who could understand what goes on,” the doting dad asks, “when a child is born to live, but not like you or I?”

Musically, Twisted Road opens like CSNY hallmark Ohio before paying tribute to Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead and others who influenced a younger Young.

The nostalgic Ramada Inn is all about later life love; two versions of the title track boast gloriously shambolic rock and roll. She’s Always Dancing has a deceptive grace, and only the rootsy, cornball Born In Ontario disappoints.

This Psychedelic Pill should be made available on the NHS.