FANS – Malcolm McLaren

When this record arrived in the mid-80s, I was an opera ‘newbie’, sampling the occasional aria.

This is Malcolm Mclaren’s strangely beautiful album, fusing together opera favourites (from Madama Butterfly, Carmen, Turandot and Gianni Schicchi), with ’80s Rhythm and Blues and disco beats, and given a youthful narrative.

35 years later, this album still ‘hits the spot’. Still as engaging and ‘catchy’ as ever, and the tunes and melodies of Puccini and Bizet’s music are timeless.

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Jimmie Dale Gilmore + Butch Hancock – Auckland, NZ

American country singer and song-writer, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, played in NZ in 2015 but this time (pre-pandemic on 1 March 2020), he brought Butch Hancock, fellow-member of legendary The Flatlanders trio.

As I was unlikely to visit USA again in the near future, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see Butch Hancock, another respected singer and song-writer.

Top class, these guys from West Texas are the real deal.

One of the most enjoyable Americana-country concerts I’ve attended. Outstanding.

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Concertgebouw – Amsterdam

My first visit to the Royal Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam on 21 May 2019.

The acclaimed pianist Yuja Wang performed with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

The programme was:

  • M. Weinberg – Rhapsody on Moldavian Themes, op. 47/1
  • Prokofjev – Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 55
  • Prokofjev – Vivo from Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 55 (encore)
  • Stravinsky – Firebird

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TECHNICS SL-1200/1210 – a hi-fi turntable? – Pt 1

Encouraged by the success of the TECHNICS SP-10MKII that I have been playing with, I thought it would be a good idea to try out the humble TECHNICS SL-1200/1210.

We have 2 of these ex-DJ ‘work-horse’, direct-drive SL-1210MKIIs in the house.

The choice of cartridge falls to a venerable Ortofon VMS20E MkII moving magnet (which I’ve owned since the 70s) – Ortofon say that the popular VMS20E MkII is “probably one of Ortofon’s most highly acclaimed magnetic cartridges“. Continue reading

Jason Isbell + Nadia Reid, live in Auckland, NZ

Having missed Jason Isbell when he visited New Zealand 4 years ago, I didn’t want to miss out this time, especially with our Nadia Reid opening as a stellar bonus – at The Powerstation venue, 27 Mar 2018.

Isbell’s work now is billed with his band as ‘Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit‘.

Now a multi-Grammy winning artist, Alabama-born Jason Isbell was a guitarist first Continue reading

Hayes Carll + Lindi Ortega + The Cactus Blossoms

Three of the headline acts at the week-long ‘Southern Fork Americana Festival’ in Auckland, New Zealand, 7-16 October.

Hayes Carll is a Grammy-nominated Texan songwriter and  Lindi Ortega originally hails from Toronto, but both have ‘paid their dues’ for well over a decade and have a handful of albums each.

On the other hand, young siblings The Cactus Blossoms have just issued their first album Continue reading

STAX RECORDS – Memphis

Most people interested in popular music, and soul music in particular, will have heard of Stax.  And of Memphis, Tennessee, USA.

Stax Records (originally Satellite Records), was created in 1957 by two ‘white’ siblings, Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton – hence the name ST-AX.

Stax soon relocated their studio to an old movie theatre in a ‘black’ neighbourhood in South Memphis – at the time (1961), Memphis was still completely racially segregated. Continue reading

Linda Ronstadt – Canciones

To celebrate Linda Ronstadt’s birthday today, I had to spin some old favourites.

These days, Linda cannot sing because of Parkinson’s Disease.  However she has given us over 30 albums of music to enjoy.

Canciones de mi Padre – I love this album (from 1987), together with Mas Canciones  (1991). Both albums contain her renditions of traditional Mexican classics and ‘ranchera’ folk songs from her family heritage. Continue reading