The New York Yankees in April – Part one – The Hitters (2021)

Well, it’s so wonderful to have baseball back at something approaching normal. The crowds allowed to attend are limited but isn’t it great to hear games being played with real crowd noise – we are not there yet but we are taking steps in the right direction and it is so heartening.

So, the time comes to survey the Yankees first month. The picture is not pretty but with so many players under-performing there is so much scope for growth – so, let’s not sink into the slough of despond just yet, even with the Boston Red Sox sitting pretty at the top of the division.

It is fair to say we wouldn’t have expected that anymore than we would have expected one of the Yankees’ roster to have retired from MLB in the first month of the season. We closed out the month at 12-14 and in fourth place but given they spent 8 days on the bottom spot, at least the trajectory is in the right direction,

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Inventive churches turn to Bob Dylan

Mainstream Christian churches in England are not allowed to have community sung worship at the moment, because of the necessary rules imposed by the government during the pandemic.

The churches in England are still allowed to open and of course, the singing of hymns has been a staple of the major denominations for centuries.

Some of the churches that are still open are being inventive. Because solo musicians and singers and small groups are still allowed, here’s one that in previous weeks has incorporated jazz and classical music into his menu of musical items and this week adapted some Bob Dylan songs into the heart of its service.

Here are some of the service highlights:

Hilary James and Bob James have “Christmas Eyes”.

Well, it’s been an interesting year. Just in case you hadn’t noticed. In the first three months of the year my writing went along in its normal way and then came the the first three lockdowns we’ve experienced in London because of the pandemic. I started that period floating the idea of online performances and interviews to some artists. Some worked out and some didn’t. I interviewed Nad Sylvan (who is also known as lead singer in Steve Hackett’s band) about his trilogy of solo albums. There was an interview with Bob James and Hilary James which was going to be a stand alone interview but has now become part of a series. Then, there was a long essay about Bob Dylan’s “Tell-Tale Signs” box set.

Each of these was well-received and attracted a very healthy readership. And then my eyesight began to fade. And so everything was delayed until surgery brought about improvement in what was a complicated situation.

So, now this week I was able to interview Bob and Hilary for the second time. Appropriately, this time we concentrated on their Christmas Eyes album – just the right time of the year. At the beginning of the interview, there was a short discussion about my situation, which I’ve left in as a personal marker in the sand.

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Passion and Betrayal – Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs reassessed

(This article is an expanded version of a review that I wrote when this album first came out. I was really unhappy about the way that the magazine, who commissioned me to do it, published it. They changed the title. They printed it in a way that removed paragraph breaks and they made editing changes to it without consultation. Needless to say, I stopped freelancing for them shortly afterwards. I revisited the article, originally just with the intention of restoring it to the way it was meant to be but then as I read it and listened to the music, I figured perhaps there was more to say. It concentrates on the spiritual and faith-based references in Mr Dylan’s lyrics but touches on other matters too.)

“Those old songs are my lexicon and prayer book.  All my beliefs come out of those old songs, literally, anything from `Let Me Rest on that Peaceful Mountain’ to `Keep on the Sunny Side.’ You can find all my philosophy in those old songs. I believe in a God of time and space, but if people ask me about that, my impulse is to point them back toward those songs. I believe in Hank Williams singing `I Saw the Light.’ I’ve seen the light, too.”

This was Bob Dylan speaking in 1997 – a period which provides 11 songs on his 3-disc set “Tell Tale Signs” (10 out-takes from his “Time Out of Mind” set and 1 live recording).

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Nad Sylvan – An Interview with the Vampirate

(And so as part of my ongoing project for this difficult period, on the day following my Bob and Hilary James interview https://twilightdawning.com/2020/05/22/bob-and-hilary-james-they-are-flesh-and-blood/, I was able to interview Nad Sylvan. As well as being an artist in his own right, Nad is the lead singer with the band led by ex-Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett).

(In the following conversation, NS denotes the comments of Nad Sylvan, and DH those of Darren Hirst)

DH: Thank you for making some time for me today in these strange circumstances. How is the weather with you?

NS: It’s very cold. It’s only like six degrees. it was up to 15 last week with sun, and you know, scattered clouds. But it’s pleasant enough. And we get to make a huge bonfire tonight because on this date every year it’s called Valborg. When we celebrate spring and we’ll all light a bonfire – the only day in the spring that we’re allowed to do that. I have a load of dead wood ready to go.

DH: Well, we’re in the middle of a thunderstorm at the moment in London, so if you hear any strange noises in the background that’s the explanation…

NS: Okay, cool.

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Bob and Hilary James – They are “Flesh and Blood”

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A Salute to the Salutation!

In March 2020. I was asked to put together an event at one of our local pubs. The Salutation in King Street, Hammersmith, London had been a little quieter than normal since the local Town Hall had closed for refurbishment and I was asked to put on a bill of varied artists in order to get new people over the threshold.

After a few phone calls and a little planning, we had six acts, across a broad range of styles:

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John Shuttleworth is back!

Where: Leicester Square Theatre, London

When: March 2020

Who: John Shuttleworth

When: John Shuttleworth’s back

Or is he? Due to an error in Ken Worthington’s printing of the flyers and posters for the tour, it reads “John Shuttleworth’s back”, making it sound not so much like our hero’s return to live performance but a reference to the rear features of the star. This is not the first time that Mr Worthington has messed up the promotion and so the gallant star plays the first few minutes of the show with his back facing the audience in order to fulfill the promise of the posters.

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Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan

What: The Girl from the North Country

When: February 2020

Musical by Conor McPherson, Songs by Bob Dylan (used by permission, Dylan has no formal involvement)

This is not “We Will Rock You” or “Mamma Mia”. The Queen and Abba musicals are essentially vehicles to promote the greatest hits in the back catalogue of two acts that are no longer recording. The songs are made to measure into storylines of varying ridiculousness and unbelievability.

It is also not “Jersey Boys”. There the story of Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio’s musical partnership is told (albeit in a truncated form) and the songs are inserted to illustrate the development of the 4 Seasons’ career. This indeed was a level higher and a completely different approach to your average “jukebox musical” as the first category has often been labelled.

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Seasonal music – another good reason for the season

If you’d have said to me when I was a young adult that I’d be enjoying Christmas music later in my life, I would probably have laughed at you.

But here I am, it’s 2019 and I have many Christmas albums and it feels untrue how we develop and change. Now, it has to be said that any fascination for Christmas I had when I was younger had been turned right around by the time I hit my teens and in the intervening years some remarkable transitions have taken place in my life. These have caused me to re-evaluate why Christmas should be celebrated – and celebrated in a totally different way. But, back then I had exactly one Christmas-flavoured record. It revolved at 45rpm and had one song on each side. Now, I have more than thirty albums of seasonal music – mostly songs of faith and about the birth of Jesus but some that are just about the festival and carry their own joy.

This list may come too late for you to listen to them but at least it gives you some time to add to your own collection before next year. It is the nearer the day when the true love brought five gold rings than the day when we celebrate the birth of the Messiah – so perhaps you’ll find some jewels here for 2020:-

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