17 Apr 2014

H.E.A.T - Tearing Down The Walls

The Swedish pop charts have been very kind to the rest of the world over the years. The most obvious band to mention here are Abba, shortly  followed by Europe, The Hives and more recently Avicii. It’s safe to say the Swedes have a great track-record when it comes to catchy tunes. AOR revivalists H.E.A.T. have a lot to live up to but they definitely don’t disappoint.

Swedish Idol winner, Erik Grönwall, is the current front-man of H.E.A.T. He certainly earns his place by embodying other great front men in rock throughout the album.  In most places Grönwall coan be compared to a young Jon Bon Jovi on tracks such as ‘Inferno’ and title track ‘Tearing Down The Walls’ which also has shades of Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach.  Lead single ‘A Shot At Redemption’ sees Grönwall channelling the late Michael Hutchence (from INXS), in a very catchy crowd anthem which should be a favourite at festivals this summer.

It’s easy to compare H.E.A.T. to fellow Swedes Europe in places. The soft-rock synths complement the guitar work nicely with Grondall’s powerful vocal. It is also fair to compare the five-piece to KISS, especially as Grönwall sang one of their songs on Swedish Idol, but also as there is a sense of the band and audience as one unit - much like the KISS army.

I wouldn’t put it past Sweden to ask H.E.A.T. to represent them in Eurovison one year as the ‘token rock band’ of the competition. It is no insult to say they also have a pop-crossover appeal in many areas, much like their countrymen (and women), Abba. ‘Mannequin Show’ definitely echoes Abba’s ‘dark’ period and another side of H.E.A.T. we should see more of.  Although the final tracks don’t have the same oomph as the preceding tracks, this is definitely a solid pop-rock album with roots in the 70s and 80s but still very current. H.E.A.T. definitely have a long career ahead of them on the rock scene and will be played on the digital ‘rock’ stations for years to come.

Words: Neale McGeever

H.E.A.T are playing Newcastle O2 Academy 2 on Saturday 17th May 2014

Tickets for all four concerts are can be ordered from the official H.E.A.T website - http://www.heatsweden.com/  

14 Apr 2014

EUROPE at Newcastle City Hall - 4th April 2014

Due to budget cut's within the Council they've closed Newcastle City Pool – and that's a real shame – because as the line winds around the corner for tonight's performance I'm sorry for all those people who never got to experience the rich and vibrant history of the baths. City Hall in Newcastle is arguably the longest standing and most historic venue the city provides, with everyone – and I mean everyone – from Queen to Elton John to Motorhead having played on this stage. The diversification of it's performances mean that in about a month's time I expect to see Michael Bolton on the same stage, but we won't get into that right now!

FM provides tonight’s support, a band with as rich and diverse a history as any other, but one who've been perhaps too ignored by mainstream media. I confess myself to having only listened to them once I heard about their inclusion on this bill and with songs like “Closer To Heaven” and “That Girl” you're unlikely to forget their name any-time soon. As someone who was brought up listening to White Lion, Winger and Warrant this is overblown hair metal sleaze guitar at it's best – and I love it!

Europe have been on something of a reassurance since 2009. Following the phenomenal response to their album 'Last Look At Eden' their music has suddenly found itself more accessible and diverse than ever. The unenlightened will only know them as the band responsible for that “Final Countdown” song but everyone else can see that hits like “Carrie”, “Superstitious” and “Prisoners In Paradise” can only be written by a band like Europe.

Joey Tempest wanders out on stage looking like the cat who got the cream, with a very tight outfit that you're not sure gives him room to breathe, but which excites a number of older woman dedicated enough to force their way into the non existent orchestra pit. With photojournalists doing their job on one hand you've got this hilarious juxtaposition – never thought I'd use that word in a review – of two women holding out roses for Tempest in a declaration of affection.

As the band have only an hour to perform – an old fashioned clock at stage right informs us neatly of that fact – there's little time to stand on ceremony. Songs like “Firebox” and “Not Supposed To Sing The Blues” start the evening with a nice exercise in guitar skill from John Norum and the proof that Europe can still write good songs in the 22nd Century, but it's classics like “Carrie” which get the greatest of responses. “Superstitious” provided an obligatory chance to sample Whitesnake's “Here I Go Again” which provided some excitement for those not expecting it, but the stand out moment has to go to the bands decision to play “Cherokee” - somewhat of a personal favourite of mine – which is the first performance of this track for a few tours.

By the time the band had begun to wind down their set (one which, to be honest, flew by) it was obvious what was to come next. The encore of the night belonged to 'The Final Countdown'; there was an anticipated excitement like no other as keyboardist Mic Michaeli let loose for what is still possibly the greatest keyboard intro in rock and roll history. As the crowds diverged from the venue there was a wonder if the band needed to play that song at all. Europe's amazing performance proved the night had been anything BUT 'The Final Countdown'.

Words: Wayne Madden

11 Apr 2014

ALEXANDER MARKOVICH - Franz Xaver Scharwenka – Complete Piano Concertos

This is one of those albums that has really ‘got’ to me. I took my time with it, since I know nothing of Scharwenka’s compositional output and wanted to understand it properly. Each time I listen to the album it is fresh: there are things which surprise me and make me want to play one of these pieces! 

Scharwenka was a Polish composer who had a flourishing performing career, most of which has been forgotten. He was also a composer, though his output was not large. This album of two CDs brings together his four piano concertos for the first time. 

One thing noticeable throughout this album is that you will find many parallels with the ‘great’ composers. The opening Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor draws many comparisons to Liszt, to whom Scharwenka dedicated this piece. The orchestra breathes life into this work, providing competition for Markovich to wrestle the spotlight away, drawing focus back to the virtuosic elements infused throughout. The final movement is mysterious, with a beautiful clarinet solo nearly managing to outshine the final moments of the piano running rings around the orchestra! 

A more muted Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor follows the brilliant opening. This one is not my favourite, but still has its merits. The Adagio is the highlight of this concerto. A beautiful opening by the strings, contemplative and serene, balance out the entry of the piano: all of a sudden it becomes less of a competition between orchestra and piano, instead having them briefly uniting to create some moments of beauty and colour. Some folk influences are heard in the final movement, with a small nod back to the first movement’s key. 

The third concerto: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C sharp minor, has strong resonances with Rachmaninov’s work. Opening with a brass fanfare, the piano becomes a force of nature barging in through the orchestra. Finishing this concerto is a dainty dance-like melody which keeps the orchestra on their toes, until the final bars which revisit and close with the opening movement’s themes. 

Piano Concerto no.4 in F minor finishes this album, and this was perhaps Scharwenka’s most famous work. Rachmaninov and Tchikovsky seem to have influenced him in this piece. It drifts dreamily in between structure and no structure at all, which is refreshing and makes the listening experience a journey through ideas. The overall finale begins in the third movement; almost melancholy in its beginning – a sad farewell. The pace gradually quickens to a rollercoaster ending: a battle between the orchestra and the piano, with the piano triumphant at the end. 

This album is more of a celebration of a composer who has been forgotten, and it manages to do this extremely well. Alexander Markovich’s performance is truly virtuosic and breathes life into pieces of music which have not had the recognition that they deserve. Listen to this if you are a fan of any of the ‘great’ composers and see how many parallels you can find.  

Words: Emma Longmuir

9 Apr 2014

RADSTOCK at O2 Academy, Newcastle on 30th March 2014 (Day 2/2)

As we arrive for Radstock action on Day Two it's a somewhat leisurely stroll through the centre of Newcastle. The venue is located perfectly adjacent to both Central Station and Eldon Square Bus Station so there is no excuse for fans to spend their Sunday anywhere else. But the venue is slightly devoid of life and the assembled crowd of ten or so fans present as doors open creates a somewhat inhospitable atmosphere.

Inside the venue, things aren't much better, as we're given the news that Hacktivist have cancelled their performance from someone at the merchandise stand. The band have informed fans of this via Twitter and it's due to a sick band mate. On the subject of merch, stands are rather dull and devoid, with even less merchandise on show than yesterday and the headline act offering extraordinarily little in the way of shirts because, as their official vendor tells me, they're on tour in May and haven't really produced anything new.

Due to a lack of communication from the promoters on the official Twitter and Facebook pages – in that virtually nothing has been said of any consequence – hearsay and rumour have allowed us to believe the event is being held, on the second day, in the larger of the two academy venues, providing a more adequate space to a band of Funeral for a Friend (tonight's headline) calibre. Unfortunately this has turned out to be just that (rumour) and all the action is, once again, taking part in the smaller upstairs arena.

Kicking things off tonight is Cytota who perform a credible set, showing they're a band of merit deserving to be taken seriously, but with sound problems and feedback plaguing their performance alongside a very dismal audience and little to no crowd interaction. The bands can't be blamed, naturally, but the lacklustre attendance – obviously more than satisfied with the performers the night before – have yet to arrive in their numbers, with the bulk of that audience appearing just as Heights ring out their opening chords. Their material could certainly liked to Biohazard and while post hardcore has never been my personal favourite sub genre I will give immense credit to any band who releases a song like 'Eleven Eyes'

The night is getting progressively heavier as Heart of a Coward make an otherwise mediocre evening something to get seriously excited about. These guys are hot, on fire, and worth paying attention too – you can't go wrong with a group of men who look like bouncers come bailiffs and have opened for the likes of Raging Speedhorn. 'Deadweight' and 'Nauseam' both prove that if you're not a fan of this band then there might be something wrong with you. And I don't mind saying that!

Feed The Rhino also produce an excellent set, a band I have been eager to see for a while and glad to have managed the appearance, with a number of audience members arriving late and the atmosphere really beginning to build for tonight's headlines. Of course as Funeral for a Friend take to the stage in order to close tonight's proceedings – and this festival – you'd be forgiven for thinking it was 2003, so dedicated are the band to playing hit after hit from their début album 'Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation'

It's proof, if proof were needed, that tonight is a bit of fun for FFAF and one for the fans and the casual listeners alike. That being said, it does have to be said that this weekend has been subject to delays, mis management, mistakes and a serious amount of problems tantamount to more than just “teething” problems. 

While I would welcome the event in Newcastle again, especially at the same time of year, I would expect a massive improvement in line with more acts, a better stage, a return to a one day event and some actual Radstock festival bannering!

Words: Wayne Madden
Photo (HOAC): Brian Nicholson

RADSTOCK at O2 Academy, Newcastle on 29th March 2014 (Day 1/2)

When a promoter arranges an event he/she takes great personal risk, albeit financially or otherwise, to organise the best event he/she can for the paying client. When the inaugural Newcastle version of Radstock was  first announced in the last quarter of 2013 it was billed as an event containing 30 bands over three stages embracing a wide and varied musical pallet from Kids In Glass Houses to Bleed From Within.

Acknowledging that for reasons “beyond their control” the event had to be massively reorganised into a two day event featuring just under half of the bands originally scheduled to play – and all on one stage – is actually forgiveable, but calling the event a festival just really can't be. Newcastle audiences are notoriously well known for “knowing what they like and liking what they know” so it's doubtful the promoters would be easily forgiven beyond a single event.

You might feel this Journalist is nitpicking, finding fault where this none before any music has even been heard, but with the Academy 2 venue having a production complete capacity of just 400 it is nowhere near full. As we enter the venue we're not given any Radstock style wristbands/passes and there's no chance to purchase any Radstock Festival specific T Shirts. No banners proudly proclaim we're actually at Radstock Festival and there's not much room to have a wander in the cramped conditions around the merchandise stand.

Perhaps this is all something that was once considered for the event and later scrapped but in my experience it's the small things that make all the difference when it comes to audience satisfaction.

Bentley Park begin the day's proceedings with a short and vibrant set. These boys are from Manchester and their début EP is awaiting it's official release in April – the song Darker Days which begins the set is the sole track of representation on Spotify. I'd recommend you look it up and give it a listen because these guys are really good. During the set the group attempt to get a 'circle pit' moving which – probably due to the absence of security on the floor – is established quite quickly. That being said, the two young men left to throw themselves at each other inside the large pit just end up looking foolish, it appears that isn't the type of audience present.

They're followed shortly thereafter by Verses from Brighton down by the sea – who spoke exclusively with NE:MM shortly after their performance – and have the spirit and enthusiasm needed to make sure they go far. Musically the sound suffers through poor acoustics but the group are having fun and making sure their future tour mates Lost Alone are given a superb welcome from the hungry crowd. Energy – and attendance – are rising at this point as the room becomes much like a well cooked sauna with steam rising from every area.

The energy and enthusiasm of the audience soon becomes clear, as Fearless Vampire Killers emerge on-stage. With vocals that sound like a cross between M Shadows and Mike Patton and musical influences ranging between Queen and the Manic Street Preachers, FVK are clearly the favourites among the assembled here tonight. Virtually every young lady within spitting distance of the stage is screaming at the top of their lungs alongside tracks such as All Hallow's Evil and Palace In Flames. It's hard to know for sure, but you'd be forgiven for thinking a lot of the same fans simply turn and walk out once they've finished their set.

Sandwiched between the two favourites – if the T Shirt's worn in attendance are any indication – Canterbury have a difficult job convincing people that they're melodic rock will win over the majority of fans awaiting the headlines. Their latest album Dark Days was released in January and reached No 84 on the UK album chart, an admirable feat for a young band but indication that almost all of today's performers are simply second stage material at best.

Finally we find Yashin proving their worth with a headline set exemplifying their talent. Opening for Black Veil Brides and Korn has gained them popularity, their set at Download has increased this and tonight they're in fine form among the faithful. Those who've stuck it out have witnessed an admirable 45 minute's from their headline band. Tomorrow we're going to see just how far things can go.

Words: Wayne Madden
Photo (Versus): Brian Nicholson

8 Apr 2014


This is a self released album available from the bands website although individual tracks are available to download at Amazon for the usual price.

The band are a three piece who hail from Portland, Maine in North East USA and specialise in authentic bluegrass with excellent vocals and superb high energy instrumental pickin'. What sets them apart is that vocal prowess that shines out across the 13 tracks here. The album gets off to a sprightly start with 'Broken Things' which is, at its heart, another list song but they put such infectious punchy energy into it that you can't help but grin along inanely and the fiddle refrain gives it a massive lift and it leaves any Mumford & Sons comparisons trailing in the dust. This is quickly followed by an even more sprightly 'Bound to Ride' that is powered by some fine banjo pickin' and a hot fiddle that makes an impressive opening gambit. Things slow up for the title track 'Loving a Fool' a sad lament for a lost cause that's drenched in misery and tears with a suitably mournful vocal and heavenly backing vocals.

Across the forty minutes of music we have a range of distressed anxious characters who are bemoaning how life sometimes turns out but overall we are uplifted more than we are dashed. There's a raft of influences at play here from the great Hank Williams through Woody Guthrie and a touch of Marty Robins. There's upset and disaster aplenty and that old time feeling is well captured especially on the banjo and harmonica laced 'How They're Rolling' where we get some lovely tight-knit three part harmony alongside some tasty pickin' and wild wailing harmonica.

'Shady Green Pastures' takes us right back to those tight old fashioned a-Capella harmonies and a superb gospel feel that brings a lump to the most cynical of throats, spine tingling stuff that can't fail to stir your heart. 'Red Red Rose' is a gruesome murder ballad that, like any good murder ballad, sucks you in and involves you in all the grisly details - lovely.

'This Time Last Year' is a corker and had me checking on-line to see if it was a cover as it seemed so familiar. The aching vocal refrain will make grown men cry and comes over like an instant classic with a sad a melancholic vocal and a heartbreaking lyric about love and loss - wonderful stuff. This is followed by another gospel ditty 'A Voice From on High' that could be about the crucifixion and is a real olde worlde hymn - just like you don't hear anymore.

'Just Because' IS a cover and one of those songs that everyone knows but few people can tell you who wrote it. It may have been written by one William York and whilst I know that The Stanley Brothers recorded it the version I know best is by Elvis. The take here though is a bluegrass romp and flashes with humour and cheekiness. It leads us straight into an uptempo 'Money is for Spending' complete with rockabilly Stray Cats style-guitar-boogie with some hot banjo thrown in. 

So, what we have here is a fun, old timey album with much to recommend it. It isn't fantastically original or innovative but it is an entertaining listen and has a wonderful contemporary sheen that will keep you coming back for a while.

Words: Greg Johnson

7 Apr 2014

THE HOAX's Robin Davey talks to NE:MM

British Blues Hall of Famers, The Hoax, have returned to the international stage with the release of their first album in 15 years, 'Big City Blues.' The promotional tour takes in Stockton's The Arc on April 24th and Newcastle's The Cluny on April 25th. Ahead of the dates we spoke to founding member, guitarist and vocalist Robin Davey. 

NE:MM: How does it feel to be back on the road with The Hoax?

Robin: It's always fun to get out and play with The Hoax. Even though we have all had success in our individual projects there is definitely something special that happens when the five of us get on stage.

NE:MM: What are you looking forward to the most being "back out there"?

Robin: It's just really great to see the outpouring of support our fans continue to give us. We took a long break away but it was the people who have supported the band and continued to spread the word that kept it alive, and enabled us to get back in the studio and record another record.

NE:MM: Have you played in Newcastle before, what are your memories? Do you know the Cluny? Great venue..

Robin: We have played the Cluny once before and it was a great night. We have always had a great time playing the North East and the the warmth of the people and their respect for music, especially the type of music we do, means we always look forward to coming back.

NE:MM: Do you have any new material coming through? what's it been like working together after such a long break?

Robin: To be honest it was like we had never been away. The moment we got in the studio together things just clicked again. We went in with nothing and 10 days later we had a brand new album, which sounds better than we ever have before.

NE:MM: In the past, you worked with legendary blues producer Mike Vernon (who worked with Eric Clapton, John Mayall and Peter Green amongst others), what was that like, did he tell you any scandalous stories about the people he'd worked with in those halcyon 60's days?

Robin: Mike was very supportive of us in our early days. Though sometimes his clean producing style didn't fully gel with what we were aiming for, he was a great inspiration to have around. He was right there when the original blues boom started and was instrumental in not only creating defining records but also shaping the whole scene. As for scandalous stories if I told those he would probably tells ones about us!

NE:MM: Why do you think "The Blues" has endured?

Robin: Because it is about raw emotion, just the same reason why comedy had endured, or art. Humans have a need for it, a need to feel something real amongst all the fast food music that saturates our ear drums.

NE:MM: Who would you say are the greatest of the blues greats? Give me your Top 5.

Robin: I can't speak for the whole band, but in my opinion, BB King, Albert King, Lightning Hopkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Leadbelly, Son House. I know that's more than 5 but you just can't narrow it down.

NE:MM: Is there any contemporary blues players/bands that caught your eye?

Robin: Hmm this is a tough one because we started young and now I understand what we were missing back then, but also what made us unique and gave us the edge.

The best thing we ever did from a musician and song writer perspective, I believe, was going away for 10 years and experiencing life. We had success but then we all went away and started at square one again with our own projects and that is tough. But it makes you realize what you are lacking in both experience and musical ability.

So many young played are thrust into the limelight and though they show potential, they never become what they could be, because all they know is being told how good they are, and the inside of a tour van and venues. Here's your record deal, heres your circuit, here's your backing band, it's like the blues equivalent of Pop Idol.
The blues greats came out of true hardships, working crappy jobs, getting in fistfights, going to prison. The blues scene nowadays is too accessible for young performers, there is a circuit that they jump right into before they have even experienced the realities of life, and before long they have a career handed to them on a plate, I personally don't feel this is healthy for the music.

Questions: Greg Johnson

STEVE DAVIS - founder of SSD Concerts - Q & A interview - Part 2

In part two of our Q & A interview with Steve Davis we touch on some of the more contentious issues surrounding the man and his gig promotions.

NE:MM: Why did Think Tank? move from Hoult’s Yard to Digital?

Steve: It’s hard to comment on this really but it was the best option for all concerned. The small shows out there suffered. Nobody want to drive out of town on a Tuesday night in the rain to see emerging bands. It has to be accessible in the city centre to work.

NE:MM: What is the current set-up - you use a mix of venues still or Think Tank? and Riverside as home?

Steve: Think Tank? and Riverside are home but we still use The Academy for big shows, The Head of Steam a lot because we love it, The Uni’s, sometimes along with the Gerogian Theatre in Stockton, Leeds Brudenell, York Fibbers, Factory in Manchester and more.

NE:MM: How did the Riverside deal come about?

Steve: The company that owned it went into administration and a close friend got Riverside. The set up there is now the best in the region for that capacity. We have some amazing unannounced shows to go in their its super exciting for all of us.

NE:MM: Why do you think Riverside is important for the city and the music scene?

Steve: Riverside is vital and I believe will bring around a new scene for the quayside; its perfect down there. The pre-bars, the parking, the setting, the hotels for bands etc, this will be the main venue in the city by September. Nobody’s favourite gig was in a 2000 cap space, seeing bands with 600 others is where the atmosphere is. Where the bands main hardcore fans are there and additional people find it hard to get a ticket. It’s got soul that building, the bands love it.

NE:MM: What future TT and Riverside gigs have you got lined up? (can you give us one exclusive announcement as a headline?)

Steve: Haha I would love to let you all in on the holds we have in the diary but can’t, but by the end of June that venue will be firmly on the map. 

NE:MM: Bigger than Interpol and Courtney Love? There were rumours of you trying to get Prince!!??

Steve: Yeah believe it or not the Prince story had some truth behind it, they wanted some warm ups for the London shows last time around, they wanted warehouses and asked about Hoults, then we didn’t hear further! And yes bigger than Interpol and Courtney Love.

NE:MM: How did the Courtney Love booking happen?

Steve: We just got offered it as an additional show to her tour when the agent heard how well the Interpol show went. I will definitely be repping that one, it’ll be great to meet her and find out what she’s like, that’s an exciting weekend for us as we have Frankie and the Heartstings the night after too.

NE:MM: Do you have any further expansion plans?

Steve: Yeah always looking to move forward, I‘d like to do more grass roots stuff but I’ll tell you more about that on another day. SSD local will be something we launch in the winter of this year in local bars etc. we also have Cult Festival to announce for August.

NE:MM: You use a few regular bands as local supports - Lisbon, Gallery Circus - are you involved in managing them at all? Any others on your roster?

Steve: Yeah we officially manage Lisbon and Gallery Circus, both are flying at the minute. Gallery Circus will be one of the bands to watch this year, they are on just about every festival in the UK the next single is something else. Lisbon ... well just wait and see where those guys go, Lisbon are going straight to the top, amazing bunch of guys, amazing tracks. This is why we got into this whole thing in the first place to try and help guys like these.

NE:MM: Some final questions - about how people perceive you
He's impossible to pin down / get hold of ...

Steve: Anyone who worked in a professional role who ran 2 venues, 1 promo company, managed 2 bands and had 2 small children would be hard to pin down. I tend to stay off the phone now as it wastes a lot of time, everyone who emails me gets a response.

NE:MM: He does too much. If he did 50% of the stuff he'd be able to do a more thorough job of promoting the gigs he does ...

Steve: If I did 50% there’d be a chance 50% of the bands you all want to see would come to this city, and if I did 50% I wouldn’t be giving my all. I don’t agree with that comment anymore, maybe in the past when we had the issues of Hoults to address but now we are a well oiled machine and have an ace team behind us.

KIRSTY MACCOLL - All I Ever Wanted (The Anthology)

I received this promo cd weeks ago but it’s so full of content (43 tracks) and the booklet that accompanies it is so fascinating that it’s taken me ‘til the eve of the album’s release to finally put pen to paper.

I was always a fan of Kirsty MacColl; not so much of the music but a huge fan of her as a music industry survivor and an experimental and brave artist. During her rollercoaster of a career in pop she was dropped by labels, was embroiled in contractual disputes, endured a failed marriage to a musical collaborator, yet through it all she continued to write and record spirited and infectious songs. As I say, I wasn’t a HUGE fan of the music but also wouldn’t have changed channel if ‘A New England’ etc had come on the radio.

Early MacColl meant guitar based pop songs, often with witty lyrics and catchy hooks. Examples of that are found here in abundance; ‘They Don’t Know’ (made more famous by Tracey Ullman), ‘Don’t Come The Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim!’, ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis.’

The mid point of her career was also probably its critical high point. The album ‘Kite’ contained hits ‘Days’ and ‘Free World’ whilst she enjoyed huge seasonal success with the Pogues and ‘Fairytale Of New York.’

Towards the end of her tragically short life she recorded a world music-inspired album entitled ‘Tropical Brainstorm’. The highlight of the record was arguably the Cuban influenced ‘In These Shoes’ and that track, along with many from all parts of her diverse back catalogue are contained on this near complete collection. I say ‘near complete’ because sadly MacColl’s rendition of ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ from her Jools Holland Hootenany appearance (with the Pipes and Drums of the Irish Guards) is not here but it’s the only omission I can detect.

As well as a broad and well chosen selection of songs you receive with this double cd a fantastic and lavishly produced booklet exploring MacColl’s interesting career and life with contributions from collaborators such as Jools Holland and Johnny Marr.

The whole package is a fitting tribute to a sadly missed and perhaps underrated singer songwriter.

Words: Rachel Jean 

6 Apr 2014

IAN McFERON - Acoustic

This deceptively simple 10 track album, from Seattle songwriter Ian McFeron, is a real grower and after having lived with it for a good few days now I find many of the sings lodged in my brain. They are all soaked in Country and Americana and never overstay their welcome. With a simple array of guitar, fiddle, piano, a touch of cello here and there, some light percussion and tambourine we have a superb low-key record. The songs themselves are light and melancholic and remind me of a number of different artists like the Willard Grant Conspiracy and, at times, Randy Newman with the predominant confessional style songs that invoke lost loves, childhood and times gone.

The album opens with the upbeat 'Down the Road' as we are taken through big questions about life with some advice about "finding what we are looking for a little way down the road'. In other hands this might sound a little clichéd but the vocal is strong and committed and Alisa Milner's melancholic fiddle and subtle backing vocals lift it into a different dimension.

Milner's fiddle is the dominant instrument in the second song 'That's Where I Learned to Sing' that's comes across like a sad remembrance of a childhood passed. McFeron's lovely vocal reminds us what we all feel about the past sometimes. The tempo goes up a gear for 'Feelin' Good' which seems to be about the joys of living without artificial stimulants and getting high on nature and life instead of sex drugs n rock n roll and hits us with the refrain of "well I used to feel bad but now I feel so good".

'The Sands Hotel' sounds like a place of strange and weird mystery and I'm not sure it's somewhere I'd like to visit. It begins with a stately piano introduction leading us into a cold and lonely town covered in dust and memory. We get advice to "pick up your bag and hit the street running" with the waves lapping on the beach leaving only lonely footprints in the sand - yikes!

'Streetlight Serenade' has the most beautiful fiddle refrain and Ian's insistence that  'I would do anything...' sticks in your memory long after the album is over. In fact all the arrangements are classy but straight forward and help to evoke life's inherent simplicity as on 'The First Cold Day of Fall' and 'Summer is Gone' towards the end of the album. Both songs take us through the end of summer and the coming of Halloween and the winter, with a beautiful evocation of this time highlighted by a sad fiddle line running through them.

This is not one of those records that screams "instant classic" at you but the songs are wonderfully crafted and 'Acoustic' is a superb and memorable album that repays repeated listens and is available from Ian's website now, do yourself a favour, click here and buy....


Words: Greg Johnson

4 Apr 2014

SPEEDY - News From Nowhere

‘Lost albums’ are things of musical myth and legend, so the launch of a new label dedicated to rediscovering and setting free such albums is to be very much welcomed and applauded.
The Lost Music Club’s much anticipated first release has been patiently waiting in the wings for 17 years and the new label describe Speedy’s News from Nowhere as a “glorious slice of joyful Britpop”.
1997 was the year that gave us Songs From Northern Britain by Teenage Fanclub, In it for the Money by Supergrass, Drawn to the Deep End by Gene, OK Computer by Radiohead and the twin great fading tail lights of the Britpop movement Be Here Now by Oasis and Blur by Blur. To attempt to place Speedy’s album within this historical musical context is not particularly fair to all parties because it’s a surprising and refreshing contemporary collection of tunes. 
It’s bright and poppy but also gloriously dark in places (particularly on one of the album’s many high points, ‘I like you so much’ which is the most fun you can have while contemplating cannibalism). The album possesses a tremendous sense of humour too, name-checking, among others, Liam, Damon and Jarvis on the breakneck ‘Boy Wonder’ and sounding on the quirky ‘Karaoke King’ like a Britpop reincarnation of The Housemartins (which is no bad thing in my book!)
The album is released on Monday 7 April and, excitingly, the band are playing live to celebrate its belated release, when they may finally be able to count themselves a part of the massed ranks of Sheffield’s finest.

Words: Neil Pace

STEVE DAVIS - founder of SSD Concerts - Q & A interview - Part 1

To say that Steve Davis is a controversial figure in the local music scene would perhaps be going too far but he certainly has his supporters and his detractors. Some accuse him of trying to accomplish too much with the result being that sometimes an apparent failure to pay attention to detail can lead to disappointment. Others say that without him the local live music scene would be a far less interesting and busy one. Either way you look at it, Steve Davis is someone who is worthy of our attention and so we caught up with him recently to ask some of those questions on everyone’s lips.

NE:MM: What was your motivation to start promoting live music events?

Steve: I have always been a huge music fan and although I can play guitar this whole thing probably started from me having the want to be a rockstar. I quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen so the music side mixed with my desire to earn £ led me to promoting shows. To this day there is still nothing like the thrill of securing a big show.

NE:MM: You began as Gigs North East. When and how did it all begin and what will become of Gigs North East following the foundation of SSD Concerts? 

Steve: Gigs North East, although it was founded 10 years ago still hasn’t launched in full. It’s an exciting year for this project and there will be lots to come from it in the very near future. When I started promoting it was going to be the company promo name but we quickly started doing shows outside the region so it was shelved. The long term plan for it is great and it will be a platform and source of information for bands/promoters venues etc starting in the summer of 2014. Gigs North East will be self financed as it will stand on its own two feet due to several income streams it will develop. Generator have helped a lot with the initial stages and putting the website together. It will have an instant impact on the regions ticketing for live shows.

NE:MM: When and why did you form SSD Concerts?

Steve: SSD was formed 10 years ago or more now I wish I kept the date and our first show written down so we could tack it and have annual birthdays etc but at the start it was more of a fun thing, we didn’t know where it was going back then so everything was just thrown together and off we went. We were going to be Gigs North East but that name limits us to this region so it became SSD Concerts. It was going to be a consortium of people whose initials spell SSD but they backed out at the last minute and I had already had the logo designed so I just kept that name. It doesn’t really mean anything now the name, although people think its my initials. My Initials are actually SAD, so luckily we aren’t called SAD concerts or we’d have to put on acoustic gigs every night to make it fit : ).

NE:MM: How is SSD Concerts run?

Steve: I run it and have a small team of people I can rely on to help run the shows. I am a radiographic practitioner at a hospital for most of the week so can’t do everything myself. We’ve put on at least 1,000 shows but I can’t tell you exactly how many. 

NE:MM: You’ve had some big bands who must demand large fees. How do you manage to avoid huge losses?

Steve: By sending the right offer for each band, it is easy to offer the earth for most bands but most of the time you would be surprised what they actually get paid. I look at each artist as a long term relationship, you never make money on the first show you do with most emerging artists. I tend to look at each artist as a 5 show relationship you will lose on the first 2 but make on the last three. Its getting harder now though as artists are getting catapulted from the bottom to the top in 5 minutes nowadays, so by the time we have lost on the first two shows Zane Lowe has blasted them to stardom and the big boys like SJM and Kilimanjiro have taken them off us.

In part 2 of the interview we ask Steve about why Think Tank? moved from Hoult’s Yard to Digital, how the Riverside deal came about, Interpol, Courtney Love, Prince rumours, what plans he has for the future and his response to criticisms about his style of promoting. 

1 Apr 2014

LIVE AT LEEDS FESTIVAL 2014 - Special Preview

Live at Leeds is in its eighth year and after 2013’s event boasted appearances from the likes of Everything Everything, AlunaGeorge, Rudimental, Laura Mvula, Pigeon Detectives, Peace, The Staves, Savages, it’ll have to go some this time around to match last May’s festival. Taking place across various venues in Leeds over the May Bank Holiday weekend v.2014’s line-up hasn’t quite the same level of ‘headliners’ but we think that there’s plenty of strength in depth which is worthy of special consideration, so here is our guide to those lesser known bands and artists on the Saturday ‘wristband event’ schedule.

  BLAENAVON at Nation of Shopkeepers 1.00pm
We were alerted to this three man band from Hampshire    over 2 years ago by the excellent ‘Crack In The Road’ online blog and have been eagerly awaiting the chance to catch the precocious teenagers ever since. Though still at school (!) they’ve crafted some beautiful indie rock befitting experienced veterans and have drawn comparisons to early Wild Beasts. We reckon they’re pretty special.

THE WITCH HUNT at Leeds Uni ‘Stylus’ 2.00pm
Fans of The Kills need to check out this Leeds trio, formed around heavy guitar licks and the piercing vocal talent of lead singer Louisa Osborn. Live at Leeds has a habit of supporting local bands and here’s a great example of that ethos paying dividends for wristband purchasers because this is a band who have grown enormously as a live act over the last year or so and seem ready to stake a claim for serious recognition. If we were  label A&R scouts we’d be at this one. 

 THE MEXANINES at The Cockpit 3.00pm
Back in the summer of 2011 we saw a Bradford 3 piece on the BBC Introducing Stage at Leeds Festival. They were one of the highlights of a weekend that included Elbow and Interpol, despite their youthfulness and relative inexperience. The band played a kind of blues infused indie rock, the blues element largely emanating from the rich lead vocal of James Brander. They’ve since added keys and sax to their sound and we’re looking forward to hearing how they’ve developed. When we caught up with James recently he was looking forward to LAL. “We are really excited to be playing at this years live at Leeds festival! We are very lucky to have landed a great spot at the cockpit this time around and if it's anything like the last time we played we know it's gonna go off big style!”

LYLA FOY at Leeds College of Music 3.30pm
You may know Lyla Foy by her previous moniker ‘WALL’ but she reverted to her own name recently before signing to label Sub Pop for the release of her beautiful debut album ‘Mirrors The Sky’. Lyla deals in simple, minimalist and melodic pop. Leeds College of Music could be the place to stop off if you’re looking for a relaxing break in the middle of a hectic schedule. 

 GALLERY CIRCUS at The Packhorse 5.00pm
North Easterners need no telling about the identical twins who make a bigger racket than many full bands. The twins are energetic and engaging performers armed with killer hooks and soaring vocals. One half of the ‘anti-garage’ duo Graeme Ross can’t wait to play the festival: “I think the line-up looks great this year and we're delighted to be playing. It will be our first show in the city and couldn't have asked for a better one. We will be playing some new material and our new single Club house killer will be released in the same month.”

  GAMBLES at Holy Trinity Church 5.00pm
If you’re younger than 50 this is the closest you’ll ever get to seeing and hearing Bob Dylan in his prime. Actually, that’s a bit of a disservice to Matthew Daniel Siskin whose simple songs with beautifully crafted lyrics deserve to be appreciated on their own merits. We’ve been tracking his progress from the off in late 2012 and he’s possibly the artist we’re most looking forward to catching at the festival. Thumbs up to the organisers for putting him on in such a beautiful setting. We predict he’ll have many more disciples after the May Bank Holiday weekend. 

EVA STONE at The Cockpit Bar 6.30pm
The one thing all of our featured artists have in common it seems is a precocious talent and 22 year old Eva is possibly the best example of this, singing with a mature, smokey, bluesy voice of situations that you’d swear she could have no personal experience, except for the fact that her delivery is so authentic. A native of the North East she recently headed to the Capital where she found new management and a new impetus. The future looks bright for this talented young singer/songwriter. 

As an addendum we’d suggest for an authentic Leeds indie experience you check out local favourites THE WIND-UP BIRDS at a fringe event at Milo’s. The band take the stage at 11pm we understand. Their debut album ‘The Land’ was one of our favourites of 2012 and we hear good things about the soon to be released follow-up.

As if that wasn’t enough there’s some great bands and artists of greater repute playing this year’s Live At Leeds, our pick of which would be THE HOLD STEADY, YUCK, GEORGE EZRA, MARICKA HACKMAN, LANTERNS ON THE LAKE and ROYAL BLOOD.

On the night preceding the Saturday wristband event there’s also BLOOD RED SHOES playing The Cockpit and following the release of their brilliant new album we’d recommend catching that if possible. 

Words: Russell Poad

Photos: Daniel Robson (The Witch Hunt & Gallery Circus)

Photo: Caroline Briggs (Eva Stone)