Sunday, 12 March 2017

Live In 2017: Down By The River #8 - featuring Hannah Rose Platt, Christopher Rees & Blind River Scare at Barnabas Arts House on Saturday 4th March 2017

Tim Manning aka Blind River Scare is quietly building an extremely beautiful portfolio of gigs down at the Barnabas Arts House in Newport, South Wales. He calls them Down By The River. Now on gig number 8, his Down By The River presentations continue to bring quality singer songwriters from the UK and USA to the cosy basement of Barnabas Arts House.
It's a 'bring your own drinks' (and nibbles) evening and for the price of admission, is an absolute steal to hear almost 3 hours of quality music.

Tonight, Tim welcomed Welsh Singer Songwriter Christopher Rees and Liverpool Singer Songwriter Hannah Rose Platt.

The Down By The River evenings always kick off with Tim playing a small selection of his songs. An excellent songwriter himself, Tim picks up his Gibson acoustic and launches into Pastures New.

Tim is currently putting the finishing touches to his latest album - this time on his own. 

But Tim would rather give the stage time to his guests on these evenings so we are only treated to another three songs - Restless Soul, Straight & true and No Remorse, Guilt & Shame.

Here is The Straight and True from tonight's performance.

Remorse, Guilt & Shame

It was my first time to see Christopher Rees live. And I must say I was mightily impressed.
Christopher has been ploughing the musical furrow since his first trip to the USA in 1994. Now a seasoned performer of  quality Americana, Country & Country/Soul he dipped into his 6 released albums and his imminent No7 album for tonight's performance.

Christopher, who also plays with a band, is solo this evening and takes to the stage armed with a gorgeous Chet Atkins Signature Gretsch Country Genleman electric guitar and launches into a spirited performance of What Walks Outside My Window? - you'll find this opening performance on the video below.

Christopher accompanies his songs tonight with engaging stories of how they came to be and the songwriters who have had an influence on his songwriting and career to date.

Christopher has spent time in Nashville both playing and writing and this can be seen in his songs tonight.

Christopher's set tonight included A Place For My Face and Dance With Desire.

Christopher also took the opportunity tonight to showcase a selection of his new songs from his as yet untitled forthcoming album  including A Familiar Road and Don't Fail Me Now.

Chris also uses a Gretsch acoustic and a selection of harmonicas tonight - not forgetting his splendid banjo playing

Chris performed many excellent songs in his set tonight proving what a particularly gifted songwriter he is - and the fact that he's homegrown makes it all the more pleasing. I'd like to see him with a full band although it's always nice to see how songs are actually written using the one instrument.

It's always a good bet when a musician tells you to check out another Musician. So it was at the beginning of 2006, Fin Kenny, the drummer from the band Society and occasionally The Dreaming Spires sent me a message and stated that I just HAD to check out this female singer/songwriter he had just seen called Hannah Rose Platt. Well, the first stop was Youtube to see if anyone had uploaded any videos. I clicked on one of a few called 1954. And I was just blown away.

I immediately sent off to Hannah for her debut album Portraits. And what a beautiful thing it is. 12 Beautiful little vignettes of life and love. So it was with eager anticipation that I awaited tonight to get my first taste of Hannah live. And she was certainly worth the wait. 

Her voice reminds me of the Country great Emmylou Harris in that high, clear register with a delicate vulnerability but a certain steeliness that provides the sour to the spice in her excellent songs.

Joining her tonight for a portion of her set was Multi-instrumentalist Tom Collinson, who has recently worked with The Dreaming Spires and American singer/songwriter Don Gallardo. Tom provides electric guitar, Steel guitar and keyboards to Hannah's acoustic six string.

Hannah is currently working on album number 2 which is due out later in the year and took the opportunity tonight of performing some of the new songs in the intimate atmosphere of The Barnabas.

Hannah starts her set alone by performing Dancer from her debut album - it's about one of her favourite cafes in London, where this Liverpool girl now lives. It's a lovely observational tale of the waitress.

Stripped of it's additional instrumentation from the album it still sounds passionate and dances around your ears.

Next, we have two new songs, the excellent Josephine, which it turns out is about Josephine Baker (don't be lazy - look it up) and Checkmate. 
The quality of her new songs is immediately recognisable and bodes well for album number 2.

Between these songs, Hannah slips in the opening tracks from Portraits, another observational track called Little Screws.

Another new song follows - this one is called Brooklyn and has been inspired by the film of the same name released last year (I think). I really can't get over how good the new songs are. I thought Portraits was a cracking record but the new one is REALLY going to something special.

And just to put the icing on the cake, Hannah plays another two new songs straight after - Chanel & Cigarettes, which really is a peach of a song and Sculptor.

Tom then comes to the stage and the duo play another new song Audrey.
With Tom on stage, the sound is given another dimension and it's amazing how by only adding another instrument to Hannah's guitar the songs sound different yet again.

Yellow Roses from Portraits comes next then another new song Your Way before the glorious final song called 1954.

1954 is a truly special song - I won't spoil the song by explaining it to you - just watch the video below which Hannah recorded for Bob Harris and listen to the words. If you don't get it's heartbreaking message - well, you haven't got a heart.

There was always going to be an encore and tonight it came in the form of Hello Central, Give Me Heaven, a very old song brought back to life by Hannah & Tom tonight.

Hannah is a very special artist indeed. You should seek her out and catch her before she goes stellar and you won't be able to get a seat!!!!

It was a privilege to be here for another very special evening and another successful Down By The River gig. If you haven't been there, you really need to get to the next one - sometime in June I believe. You won't be disappointed. Trust me.






Chris Rees can be found via his Facebook Page

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Live in 2017: Genesis Visible Touch at The Globe, Cardiff on Friday 17th February 2017

It was back onto the gigging horse tonight as we returned to The Globe in Cardiff.
After last year's excellent Genesish gig (the band now sadly disbanded)

 it was the chance to see another of the current Genesis tribute acts currently playing the circuit - this time Genesis Visible Touch.
Now, when I see a Genesis tribute band with two drum kits set up on the stage it always sends a little shiver of anticipation down my spine. Tonight was one such night.

Genesis Visible Touch are currently comprised of

Chris O'Connell - Lead Vocals & Drums, Tony Turrell - Keyboards & Vocals
Martin Gordon - Bass, Guitar, Bass pedals & Vocals, Stuart Norman - Guitar, Bass, Bass Pedals & Vocals and Windsor Gilvray - Drums & Percussion

Basing their performance around the Phil Collins era Genesis is probably a great idea as there are some excellent Gabriel Era tribute acts out there at the moment including Canadians -The Musical Box and the UK's Re-Genesis.

It also gives the band a chance to reel out an almost Greatest Hits Show - that's all the Radio hits by the way.
The band are obviously fans of the Three Sides Live album and it gets a mention several times tonight.

They open the show with a great three song attack of the scene setting Behind The Lines which puts Chris behind the drum kit, and as the album (Duke) it morphed into a sensational performance of Duchess, complete with the drum machine pattern and then dropped into a lovely version of Guide Vocal. What a great way to start a show - they had the crowd on their side straight away with the, let's call them, Album Fans and Hits Fans singing away from the get go.

I'm glad to report that the band did NOT try to be a carbon copy of Genesis. They recreated as far a possile the authentic sounds and feel of the music. And in Liverpudlian Chris O'Connell they have a front man with enough charisma and humour to pull off the Phil Collins links, which he does with panache. It's interesting looking around the crowd tonight and see their reaction as phrases and actions of Collins are introduced into the set.

The Hits such as Misunderstanding and That's All are warmly received and the Cardiff crowd are not letting the side down in the vocal department as they're singing away with nearly every song. Warmly encouraged by the band.

We are treated to a lovely version of Ripples, from the A Trick Of The Tail album, among the tracks tonight.

Gabriel-Era Genesis makes an appearance with the mighty In The Cage and morphs beautifully into the stunning Afterglow. Always a highlight in any Genesis show.

All of the band played their part tonight and are obviously fine musicians in their own right and managed to play the most complex passages with ease.

It is a show split into two halves and the first half ends with a spirited version of Mama with Chris giving it the full suspense and menace with his vocal growls and sneers.

Part tow opens up with crowd pleaser and singalong Oh Oh Ohs, Land Of Confusion.

Highlights in Part Two also include an excellent Jesus He Knows Me with even more crowd interaction.
It must be some task just to pick songs from such a wealth of great material.

Squonk will always go down well in any Genesis gig and the band use this to lead into the finale of Los Endos which once again puts Chris behind the drum kit to recreate that great moment of Phil Collins and Chester Thompson having a drumming duel.

The band come back on stage after rapturous applause and give us the one song that finally ties up the evening. I Know What I Like.
This is Chris' chance to shine as he recreates the Phil Collins tambourine bash from the initial Trick Of The Tail Tour back in the 70s. And he did a great job too.

All in all a fine performance from a band who clearly love the source material and are adept at playing it. Hopefully they'll come back again as I'll never tire of hearing these songs live and judging by the crowd's reaction I think they'd like them back too.

Twitter - @genesis_vt

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Thank You For The Music: John Wetton

I never thought I'd be writing another Thank You For The Music so soon into 2017. I keep these pages for musicians who have passed that have had an influence in MY musical adventures over the years.

I met John Wetton. Only the once. It was after one of his solo gigs in the 90s. In Ebbw Vale of all places. But more of that later.

He was, and always will be, a musical giant. His influence has been widespread and his legacy is varied and interesting, which I hope to highlight in this page.

The first major band that John was associated with was Family. He was with Family in '71 & '72 and appeared on the Fearless and still influential Bandstand album.

Unlike his contemporary, Greg Lake, John was integral in several bands over the years. He brought his musicianship and melody to King Crimson in 1972 as he replaced Greg Lake in the band, His recording debut came with the album Larks Tongue In Aspic, released in 1973. He was singing lead and playing bass, exactly as Greg had done.

John was to stay with King Crimson until 1974 and appeared on another two seminal Prog Rock albums - Starless & Bible Black and Red and co-wrote the majority of the songs on both albums.

Following his successful stint in Crimson, John found his way  into another 70s English institution, Uriah Heep. Playing Bass, Keyboards and Vocals, he was with the band for two of their mid-70s albums, Return To Fantasy (1975)  and High & Mighty (1976). He even co-wrote a couple of songs, including Weep In Silence with Ken Hensley.

John was never shy of a collaboration and during the 1970s he appeared on record and played live with a multitude of the finest musicians and bands including Brian Eno, Roxy Music,  Phil Manzanera  and Yes man Peter Banks.

But in 1977, John formed his new band UK, with former band mate in King Crimson, Bill Bruford, violinist/ keyboardist Eddie Jobson and guitarist Allan Holdsworth. They released their eponymous debut album in 1978. John was the lyricist on all but one track and co wrote the music on all of the tracks. It featured John's soaring vocals and his ear for a good melody, which would serve him well throughout his career.

The debut was followed up in 1979 with the album Danger Money.

Following the demise of UK in 1979, John went on to record and release his first solo album, Caught In The Crossfire in 1980.

With all songs written by John himself it is the precursor to the mega success that would come to him in 1981 with the release of the first album by 'Supergroup' ASIA.

No-one expected the success of ASIA. I know, I was there in 1981! Everybody expected a Prog led debut considering the Prog pedigree of the band. John Wetton on Bass/Vocals (ex King Crimson), Geoff Downes (ex Yes/Buggles) on Keyboards/Vocals, Steve Howe (ex Yes) Guitars/Vocals and Carl Palmer (ex ELP) on Drums. But, what was released was a glorious slice of AOR. That was singles oriented and SO radio friendly. To say it took off in America is an understatement. It was the biggest selling album of the year in 1982.

With those classic Rock Star good looks and that amazing, soaring voice, John proved the ideal frontman for this new venture. The lead off single from the album was the brilliant Heat Of The Moment. To say Prog fans were shocked didn't tell the full story. Lots hated this new band - I loved 'em. The album spent nine weeks at the top of the US charts and went on to become 4x Platinum by the mid 1990s. Total worldwide sales reached over 10 million copies.

The follow up single Only Time Will Tell was another smash hit worldwide. With all tracks written by John Wetton & Geoff Downes, it was to be the start of a fruitful writing partnership and a lifetime friendship

This original line-up had one more album in them and a year later in 1983 the album Alpha was released. Although not reaching the dizzy heights of their debut, Asia found themselves with another number 1 US album and a couple of hit singles which remained popular in their sets all throughout their career.

Lead off single was Don't Cry.

As per the previous album, all songs were written by John & Geoff except the follow up single, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, which was written solely by John Wetton.

Following the perceived non-success of Astra and for whatever reason, John left the band in 1983.

John next appears on a project with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera called Wetton Manzanera, which also featured Alan White from YES on drums in 1987. It's very much in the vein of what ASIA was producing in the early 1980s with all of the songs in the 3 or 4 minute mark. It's very much a product of the 80s but not a bad listen.

The 1990s saw John release a brace of solo albums. In 1994, in Japan only, Voice Mails is released. It is later re-released under the new title of Battle Lines. Very much in the vein of his earlier album release it contains some good work and proved that John hadn't lost his way with a melody.

In 1997, John released his next solo album, Archangel. 

Throughout the 1990s and beyond John also released many live albums recorded all over the world.

In 2002, John reunited with former ASIA colleague, Geoff Downes to form Icon. Taking a more Progressive path than their previous commercial route, the album contains some lovely work from both members and reignited the Wetton/Downes songwriting partnership that was such a force on the first two ASIA albums.

In 2006, ASIA regrouped in their original line-up following years of touring with various line ups and the start of the 'Two Bands' era of ASIA.
The original line-up released a new album in 2008, Phoenix. It was as if they'd never been away.

From 2006, there we two more Icon albums, 2 & 3 and three more ASIA albums - Omega (2010), XXX (2012) - after which Steve Howe left the band. Gravitas (2014) featured new young guitarist Sam Coulson, with all tracks again written by Wetton/Downes.

As I stated at the beginning of this piece, I met John Wetton. Only the once. It was in the early 1990s when he was touring alone. He booked to play a gig at Ebbw Vale in the Welsh Valleys. 
He arrived two and a half hours late because of travel problems he had no control over. Most people had left. We were an audience of about 10 waiting for John to turn up.
I'll never forget it. He came in - all dressed in white. Armed with a 12 string acoustic, he played for us 10. He didn't manage a full set because of the curfew in the hall. In fact, we actually went downstairs in the bar. But he played all the hits and even some Crimson. Later he talked to us in the bar. He gave me a hug - thanked me for staying to listen. We had a good chat about his music and his days in Crimson. I told him I especially liked his worked with U.K. - he seemed pleased at this and said he wished he had pursed it for longer. He was a genuinely nice guy, with no pretensions whatsover. A true gent.

Over the last year, John has been fighting a brave battle with cancer. In a brave move, he often posted about his fight on social media by talking about his illness and posting photographs from his hospital bed while getting treatment.

He met Robert Fripp again over the Christmas 2016 holidays and posted the photo below.

John with Robert Fripp

John finally fell to the disease today and died in his sleep this morning - 31st January 2016. He was posting positive messages on social media right up until this month. 
After his death, it was revealed that he had colon cancer.

He is survived by his wife Lisa and son Dylan.

But he also leaves a body of work that will show what a supreme legacy he has left for Music Fans and Musicians alike.

The Great Gig In The Sky has another excellent Bass Player and Lead Vocalist tonight. Rest In Peace John. You will be missed Sir.