Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DVD & CD Review: Rory Gallagher - 'Ghost Blues (The Story of Rory Gallagher)' & 'The Beat Club Sessions' - Release Date: 20 September 2010

A two-disc DVD titled Ghost Blues and The Beat Club Sessions was released on 20 September 2010 to celebrate the life and work of Rory Gallagher. While Rory was a consummate, charismatic, passionate musician and performer, I disagree with those who believe Rory never made a 'definitive' studio album. I still have fond memories of his first solo album Rory Gallagher (1971), his second album Deuce (1971), and Against the Grain (1975). Quite outstanding albums: full of diverse, remarkable songs; proof that Rory was a guitarist and songwriter of the first order.

Disc One: 'Ghost Blues'
The Story Of Rory Gallagher

The interviews with The Edge and Bill Wyman are interesting and engaging. Most of the concert footage will be known to Rory's many fans. The documentary contains little of Rory's early childhood, his favourite novels, films, how he relaxed, etc. It is sad that Rory is no longer alive to write an autobiography covering his life, personal vision, ambitions and music. Hearing it second-hand from some individuals who barely knew Rory, is, to say the least, disappointing.

Disc Two: 'The Beat Club Sessions'

I remember first hearing 'For The Last Time' on the radio one night in 1971. It was the initial track I heard of Rory's first 'solo' album. The track had an atmospheric pulse, wonderful bass sound and patterns. However, it was Rory's singing, guitar tone and potent soloing which held my attention. He seemed to be pushing himself to the limit with each passionate phrase and revealing fresh depths to his playing and song writing.

The level of inspiration, songwriting and musicianship throughout the album is exceptional. Five songs: 'I Fall Apart', Hands Up', 'For The Last Time', 'Can't Believe It's True', and 'Laundromat' are extraordinary songs: strong melodies and superb soloing on guitar and saxophone.

The early seventies, without doubt, opened up a new phase of creative songwriting and guitar playing for Rory. I just wish that 'live' versions of 'I Fall Apart', 'For The Last Time', Can't Believe It's True', and 'There's A Light' had been included in this package.

Another session during this period may have delivered these songs. Anyhow, there are many highlights to enjoy, and the version of 'Messin’ With The Kid' is a remarkable climax to the recordings. Rory's music still glows with unflagging integrity, spirit and passion. Not all professional musicians can say that and be taken seriously.

Track List
  1. Laundromat
  2. Hands Up
  3. Sinnerboy
  4. Just The Smile
  5. Used To Be
  6. In Your Town
  7. Should’ve Learned My Lesson
  8. Crest Of A Wave
  9. Tore Down
  10. Pistol Slapper Blues
  11. I Don’t Know Where I’m Going
  12. Going To My Hometown
  13. I Could’ve Had Religion
  14. McAvoy Boogie (?!)
  15. Hoodoo Man
  16. Messin’ With The Kid

A package worth it just for the 'live' footage of Rory from The Beat Club. An outstanding tribute to a gifted musical artist. Difficult to watch without tears of admiration for a genuine musician who played with so much heart, warmth and intensity.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Concert Review: Robin Trower - The Caves, Edinburgh - 25 September 2011

Some artists sound much the same from one gig to the next; playing songs 'note for note' as per the recorded versions. With Robin (as with Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher, whom I both still idolise) no two concerts are the same regarding the length of songs and instrumentals, or the level of colour or mood they radiate to the audience. Robin's playing remains fluid, improvisational, and each concert represents a concert without precedent.

Tonight Robin is playing The Caves: a venue hard to find, but once you do, is truly an amazing place. The fact it is underground, a windowless cave with low lighting, brick walls, make for an intimate atmosphere, ideal for music, live or otherwise. The low stage, however, can make it difficult for some fans to see the group properly during the performance. Robin is joined on stage tonight by Richard Watts (bass and vocals) and Chris Taggart (drums).

 Richard Watts

From the opening number "Confessin' Midnight" I'm pleased to see how each musician commands the stage, and unify to deliver powerful, emotionally expressive, fresh versions of some of Robin's greatest songs. Robin seems genuinely delighted to be performing with this line-up, occasionally lighting his face with a warm smile. As Robin feeds of the response and affection of the audience I'm sure there are moments tonight when he feels overwhelmed.

On "Lady Love" Richard's vocals confirm he has progressed to be a strong, dynamic singer. He sang the lyric with total conviction; a blend of passion and freshness, while delivering a deep, strong bass line. Some of the audience - including myself - felt, at times, Richard's bass was too low in the mix. The energy level of the band, however, was high and they delivered expressive, inspirational versions of "Somebody Calling" and "For Earth Below." Richard and Chris creating deep, rich grooves for Robin to play his guitar with freedom, imagination, and in his own phenomenal style. The band played a song I haven't heard before: "When I Heard Your Name" which confirms Robin remains a prolific, creative musician.   

Chris Taggart

Chris Taggart is a revelation on drums, adding colour, texture and driving rhythm grooves which weave into phrases that create a rich, colourful backcloth that Robin can solo over with intense creativity. His cymbal work is an integral part of his fine and subtle performance. The musicianship of Richard and Chris combine to provide a new dimension and sound to Robin's music; creating an hypnotic, spellbinding atmosphere.

Some fans are perturbed and mystified to find that Robin is playing tonight with a new rhythm section. Personnel changes - especially in a trio - can blend to create a change in musical colours, expressions, patterns, and make it sound completely fresh. The overall impression is that this rhythm section are perfect for Robin at this time, and he is clearly inspired by the new combinations of sound. Meanwhile, only Robin knows what the future holds regarding his musical direction, and the musicians he will use to bring his creative ideas to life.

Robin's set list tonight confirms he prefers to play the old songs, but in the studio he continues to record an extensive range of fresh material. During the last three years he has released three CDs: Seven Moons (2008), What Lies Beneath (2009), and The Playful Heart (2010). Of the three recordings I believe What Lies Beneath is a true "Classic". Each fan has their favorite Robin Trower albums and tracks. I would like to see Robin revolutionize his set list by including songs such as: 'Into Dust', 'Blue For Soul', 'This Old World' (great riffs & vibe), 'Living Out of Time' (a classic track), 'I Can't Wait Much Longer' and tracks from What Lies Beneath.

Robin, Richard and Chris play a rousing version of "Day of the Eagle" which flows softly into "Bridge of Sighs". At times, I close my eyes to listen to the music flowing from the stage. Whether mid-tempo, or slow, it sounds unified, fresh, spiritual, mood altering. As if time has slowed down. Richard's vocals ring out throughout the venue, and the sound of the guitar, bass and drums pulsate, weave patterns, and make that vital connection with the crowd. While I believe "The Turning" is a good song the change to a slower tempo at the coda doesn't enrich the composition. In fact, it negates the intensive flow and driving rhythm the song generates in the first place. The song still goes down well with the crowd.


Someone asks me tonight why Robin's music affects me the way it does? Simple words can't describe the feelings one gets when one finds music that really matters to you, whether it is recorded or live. Robin's music and guitar playing remain embedded in my mind to be accessed when needed; still touching and moving me today as much as yesterday. Long may Robin continue to compose songs and music of substance, record, tour, and reach people with his musical talent.

Robin's guitar pick & set list

There's definitely a strong case for Robin to tour the UK/Europe & US in 2012 with this line-up (other commitments permitting). They are engaging, lively, superb musicians. In conversation with fans (post concert) most agreed tonight's concert had been a revelation; that Robin and his band looked and sounded energized, driven, and give a high octane performance. In essence, the stage pulsated with talent tonight, and credit is due to Robin, Richard and Chris for their contributions.

After the concert it was a pleasure to meet "long-time" Robin Trower fan Davy Smith again; Laurie Brace (Road Manager/Sound Engineer for Robin Trower), Chris Taggart, Robin Trower's drummer, and other Trower fans whose names I unfortunately forget. The conversation was memorable as was the concert. The talents of the late Jimmy Dewar, Davey Pattison, Pete Thompson, Dave Bronze, Glenn Letsch, the late Rory Gallagher (and other musicians) brought forth fond memories of gigs in Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Also, favourite songs and albums. A wondrous night, indeed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

1970 Isle of Wight Music Festival Exhibition (40th Anniversary) - Swansea Museum (17/09/11 - 31/12/12) - Jimi Hendrix & Rory Gallagher (Taste)

An exhibition of circa 100 rarely seen photographs of the 1970 Isle of Wight Music Festival are on display at Swansea Museum from 17 September until 31 December 2011. The images include Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Rory Gallagher (Taste), Jethro Tull, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, et al. The photographs were taken by Charles Everest.

At the Festival Charles Everest was in charge of press liaison which give him the opportunity to take photographs of the performers - not only on stage - but behind the scenes, giving him a unique perspective of the event. I was fortunate to be at this amazing festival with my brother. It is heartbreaking to reflect on the number of remarkable musicians who played at the event and have since died.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Robin Trower: UK/European Tour - August/October 2011 - "The Playful Heart Tour"

Robin Trower is currently undertaking a UK & European tour during August - October 2011. Some dates and venues remain to be confirmed. It will be interesting to see the full list of venues and the songs that comprise the set list. A revamped set would be invigorating for Robin and his legion of loyal fans. It would be great to hear live: 'Into Dust', 'Blue For Soul', 'This Old World' (great riffs and vibe), Living Out Of Time (classic song).

Personally I'm glad to see Robin tour as a power rock/blues "trio" again. While Livingston Brown is not on bass guitar and vocals, I'm pleased "the duties" are undertaken by Richard Watts; another fine musician, great vocalist and bass player, who has previously collaborated and toured with Robin. The trio is completed by the exceptional, flamboyant drummer, Chris Taggart, who played on two tracks of Go My Way & on three tracks of What Lies Beneath. Catch Robin while you can; a truly amazing musician, songwriter and guitar player.

A couple of dates in Ireland would have been great. I suggest The Spring & Airbrake in Belfast and Whelan's in Dublin. Both venues have hosted Michael Schenker, Peter Green and Jan Akkerman, and the crowds have been warm and appreciative. Maybe this tour will be extended, or Robin plans to tour in 2012? There is definitely a strong case for Robin to tour the UK/Europe & the US in 2012 with this line-up.

I'm attending the Edinburgh concert on 25 September and hope to post a review.

Tour Dates

28 Aug - The Stables, Milton Keynes
29 Aug - Festival, Colne
03 Sep - Weyfest Music Festival, Tilford, Surrey 
15 Sep - Assembly Rooms, Derby
16 Sep - O2 Academy Sheffield
17 Sep - Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
22 Sep - Band On The Wall, Manchester
23 Sep - ABC Glasgow
24 Sep - The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
25 Sep - The Caves, Edinburgh 
05 Oct - Robin 2, Wolverhampton 
06 Oct - The Brook, Southampton
07 Oct - Cheese & Grain, Frome
08 Oct - Princess Pavilion, Falmouth (Blues in the Bay from 3.00 p.m.)
12 Oct - The Spirit of 66, Verviers, Belgium
13 OctMezz, Breda, NL
14 Oct - The Boerderij, Zoetermeer, NL
15 OctLaki, Helmond, NL
16 OctGigant, Apeldoorn, NL


Friday, May 20, 2011

CD Review: "Robin Trower - At the BBC 1973 -1975" - [2 CD Set] - Release Date: 7 February 2011

This 'Double CD' collection contains most of Robin Trower's BBC sessions from 1973-1975 recorded for John Peel, Bob Harris, and the 'BBC In Concert' series. The tracks highlight the genesis of a group destined to create memorable music both in the studio and in live performance. Illustrious music destined to help mark out the lives of people fortunate to hear it. In fact, it has become an essential part of some of the lives of Robin's fans throughout the world.

The recordings emphasize the importance of having outstanding songs: a 'collective gift' to built on their foundation with sensitive, soulful singing; melodic, emotional guitar playing; and excellent, illuminating, drumming to produce music of power, soul and passion that words alone fail to portray. The music, itself, engenders a mixture of feeling and recall - not unlike poetry - where each melody is remembered by those who love them.

The BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert  CD released by Windsong International in 1992 was a disappointment due to falsified crowd noise and the absence of "Two Rolling Stoned" which was included in the original broadcast. The inclusion, however, of a full version of "Rock Me Baby" made purchase of the CD irresistible. I'm fortunate my brother taped the original broadcast of the radio. It remains one of my favourite recordings of the Robin Trower Band in concert. A true classic.

The collection is a must for any fan of Robin Trower, Jimmy Dewar, Reg Isidore, Bill Lordan, or any affectionate of classic rock and blues at its finest: soulful, passionate, emotional, sincere, moving.  Robin Trower remains one of the greatest exponents of blues and rock guitar on this planet. Jimmy Dewar was an outstanding vocalist both in the studio and live. All the tracks are testament to Jimmy's beautiful, soulful voice, and Robin's fluid, melodic, dreamy guitar playing. 

I believe the overdubbing of guitars on the John Peel Sessions, especially on "In This Place" (CD1) and the four songs on (CD2), was unnecessary given the profound depth and emotion each song already embodies. It would have been magical to hear "In This Place" played live without guitar overdubs.

Bugbears: Did anyone proofread the CD liner notes? The misspelling of 'Alethea' and other typos' ... It's not too much to ask, is it? The absence of a photograph of the late Reg Isadore - a genuine oversight, or not - is shameful.

The music still sounds haunting, magnificent, with a magic heart at its core. Enjoy.

  1. Twice Removed From Yesterday (John Peel Session)
  2. Man Of The World (John Peel Session)
  3. Daydream (John Peel Session)
  4. Sinner's Song (John Peel Session)
  5. Day Of The Eagle (Bob Harris Session)
  6. Little Bit Of Sympathy (Bob Harris Session)
  7. Lady Love (Bob Harris Session)
  8. Daydream (Bob Harris Session)
  9. The Fool And Me (Bob Harris Session)
  10. Alethea (Bob Harris Session)
  11. Too Rolling Stoned (Bob Harris Session)
  12. I Can't Wait Much Longer (Bob Harris Session)
  13. Bridge Of Sighs (John Peel Session)
  14. In This Place (John Peel Session)
  15. Alethea (John Peel Session)
  16. Little Bit Of Sympathy (John Peel Session)
  1. Fine Day (John Peel Session)
  2. Confessing Midnight (John Peel Session)
  3. It's Only Money (John Peel Session)
  4. Gonna Be More Suspicious (John Peel Session)
  5. Day Of The Eagle (BBC In Concert)
  6. Bridge Of Sighs (BBC In Concert)
  7. Gonna Be More Suspicious (BBC In Concert)
  8. Fine Day (BBC In Concert)
  9. Lady Love (BBC In Concert)
  10. Daydream (BBC In Concert)
  11. Too Rolling Stoned (BBC In Concert)
  12. I Can't Wait Much Longer (BBC In Concert)
  13. Alethea (BBC In Concert)
  14. A Little Bit Of Sympathy (BBC In Concert)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

DVD Review: Michael Schenker Group 'Live In Tokyo - 30th Anniversary Tour' [2010]

This performance was recorded on 13 January 2010 at the Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo during the band's 30th anniversary tour of Japan. Michael is joined by Gary Barden (vocals), Simon Phillips (drums), Wayne Findlay (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and Neil Murray (bass). While the audio and visuals are great, the lighting and fast alternating camera shots are disappointing, at times. The overall performance of the group, however, is astounding given that the tempo barely slackens during the entire 1 hour & 35 minute concert.

Gary's vocals are gritty, smoky, and one tends to wonder if his voice will hold out until the end of the show. I'm not a fan of hearing an audience sing the chorus of a song(s) while the vocalist temporarily takes a back seat, holding his microphone in their direction. It can be great for those attending the concert but frustrating for those watching & listening to the performance on DVD. Gary does make it to the end of the concert and he is refreshingly unpretentious. It's not an easy task for a rock vocalist to sing with such passion, vitality and feeling while seeking to be heard above the extensive volume produced by a band on stage.

The DVD is worth it alone for the renditions of 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' (Michael's soloing and the ending are outstanding, melodic and mind-blowing), "Cry For The Nations", and "Lost Horizons". Some of the tracks and guitar playing (aka "On and On") may be slightly superior on the Japan DVD released in 1995. Nonetheless, this quality DVD provides further proof that Michael is an excellent guitar player and musician who remains greatly underrated and widely imitated. 

Simon Phillips is a revelation on drums. His diverse and refined rhythm patterns accompanied by Neil Murray's superb bass playing and sound create strong pulses that give the overall music extreme energy and passion. Michael's soloing throughout the concert highlights that his unique guitar tone and playing remain a joy to behold. It's good to see Michael back on top where he belongs. Wayne Findlay, whether he is playing guitar or keyboards, is an excellent musician in his own right. His input is essential to the sound and music of the MSG. His imaginative playing and feel are integral to the charm and brilliance of this exceptional concert.

The extras include an interview with each band member, a group rehearsal, and backstage shots which include Michael adjusting his amp & pedal settings, and meeting a crowd of exhilarated fans. This DVD is a must for fans of heavy rock and virtuoso rock guitar playing as displayed throughout the concert by Michael Schenker.

Hard, heavy, metal rock - call it what you will - is a genre that doesn't just belong to the '80s as some musical commentators espouse. It continues to attract a large enthusiastic following world-wide (young & old) which ensures it is as relevant today as it was yesterday. Diverse music forms, for example, blues, jazz, R&B, rockabilly, country, classical, are still played with passion and relevance. As an art form, metal, hard, heavy, rock has the right to be treated with as much respect and value as other types of music. And it should be played loud. Listen to it before it's too late.

Track List

Monday, February 07, 2011

Tribute to Gary Moore - A Great Guitarist, Musician and Songwriter (1952-2011)

The sudden death of Gary Moore on 6 February 2011 will shock and hurt his family, friends and fans worldwide for a long time. Gary was a musician, songwriter, and guitar player who truly deserves the accolade of "rock and blues great". He was one of the "few" guitar players in the world who combined a beautiful guitar tone with creative, melodic licks, beautiful vibratos, and lightening fast leads where each note of the melody could still be heard.

When I first saw Gary with Skid Row at the Ulster Hall, Belfast in the late 1960s I was surprised he was only seventeen. His virtuosity and gift were on clear display. It left many aspiring guitar players in the audience wondering if they should forget about trying to play the instrument. Of course, his guitar playing skills evolved through the years to a level few musicians attain.

The following video shows Gary at his finest: playing fluid guitar with genuine emotion, alternating between slow, melodic licks and lightening-fast runs. This 'live' version of "Parisienne Walkways" speaks for itself. A tenderness and brooding sorrow hangs over the song. The guitar sound and phrasing are beyond imitation. Many guitarists endeavour to copy Gary's unique style and sadly fail.

Gary played two nights at the Ulster Hall in 1984. The balcony area was closed to fans to house extra filming and lighting equipment for recording purposes. Segments of each show - including Gary's Dublin gig - were included on the Emerald Isles - Live in Ireland 1984 Video/DVD. I attended the first show in Belfast with my wife who was three months pregnant with twins.

During "Shapes Of Things" the floor of the Ulster Hall began to vibrate with such energy my wife felt nauseous. However, after some fresh air, a glass of water, we were kindly shown to seats in the balcony beside Gary's relatives who we were introduced to and talked with. It made the concert extra special. Gary was in top form, as were his band. When I heard Phil Lynott joined Gary on stage at the second gig in Belfast I felt disappointed to miss such an event.

Looking back I'm glad my wife and I attended the first night. The music went off like a flashbulb and Gary's variety of tone colours and playing made you gaze in wonder. While the music was loud, the overall sound made you feel warm, invigorated and confirmed you were in the presence of a guitar genius delivering limitless inspired guitar licks, riffs and melodies.

Gary will remain a guitar legend who belongs in the rock & blues hall of fame. May he rest in peace.

Monday, January 10, 2011

'Concert for Killing Cancer' - Hammersmith Apollo, London - 13 January 2011

A charity fund-raising concert will be held at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, on 13 January 2011. The current line-up includes The Who, Jeff Beck, Richard Ashcroft, Debbie Harry, and Bryan Adams.

The event is being organized by promoter Harvey Goldsmith and Bill Curbishley, manager of The Who and Robert Plant. The concert will raise funds to benefit the Killing Cancer charity, specifically, to raise awareness of Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). 

The inspiring commitment and generosity of those involved in making the event feasible - Harvey G. and Bill C., the artists, the Hammersmith Apollo, and others - are to be warmly applauded. Their vision and passion will ensure valuable funds are raised for cancer research.

I am attending the concert and hope to write a review.

Harvey Goldsmith - News & Press Release 15/11/10