Less than a year ago I was going to take some time to write a tribute to Jim Steinman, who was one of those songwriters I never quite go away from. He was a big influence in my teenage years and then his music re-entered my life when I was in my late-twenties and again, more recently.
The tribute for the songwriter (who passed away in the early Spring of 2021) never got finished. I guess my excuse has something to do with the pandemic and the fact that it seemed to be more relevant to be concentrating on the present than considering the past.
And then this month (January 2022), just as I had finished a day thinking about the current touring production of “Bat out of Hell – The Musical”, I heard the news that his sparring partner, Meat Loaf had also died. This time it seemed to be much more pertinent to reflect on the past than think about the present and if I hadn’t have been obliged to submit a report on the musical. I don’t think it would ever have got completed. You can find the part of that report which is for public consumption here:
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:-
There is a time when a man’s heart yearns for a little Soul and R’n’B (old meaning of the term). So last night, it was off to the Royal Albert Hall of all places – the least likely Soul venue in the whole world – for an Al Green concert. Accompanied by UK singer, Gabrielle, as support, Reverend Green was stopping off for two nights in London on his world tour which has been running since April and has yet a few more nights to run.
Gabrielle opened the show with a set that included most of her hits – Dreams, Give Me a Little More Time, Rise, Sunshine and so forth. Her band were allowed half of the stage and the volume was lower than it needed to be and the Albert Hall has a habit of swallowing sound anyway. Her set was perfunctory, pleasant and not very exciting.
Before the show, I tried to count how many times I’ve seen Al Green perform in concert. I’ve seen him in London, New York, and Birmingham and I stopped counting when I got into double figures. So I’m used to all those parts of the show which a master showman like Green manages still to make seem spontaneous but are actually very well-rehearsed and have been going on in this way for many years. Given that factor, this was still full of energy and a good show. Reverend Al included songs from his new album "Lay it Down" (the title track and "Stay With Me") and 1 track from his 2004 set, "I Can’t Stop" (title track). Aside from that it was the hits ("Let’s Stay Together", "Tired of Being Alone", "Love and Happiness", "Let’s Get Married", "Take Me To The River" etc, etc.), some gospel ("Everything is going to be alright", "Amazing Grace", Nearer My God to Thee") and a medley of covers.
Green has a warmth with his audience, he has a vocal range which is still astonishing and a band which is tight but fluid.
Shame about the venue. I would like to see him cut loose with the set list rather than just give the appearance of that. But all-in-all given the longevity and varied nature of his career, I think this guy is amazing.
So I’m in the midst of an interview project with Richie Furay (former vocalist with Buffalo Springfield and Poco). Sections of this will appear here and in Natural Progressions Magazine and Cross Rhythms magazine.
Received the new albums by Al Green and Walter Becker . I’ve done some promotional writing for these so I hope they live up to what I said!
Friends not only die – they get you through situations like this (you know who you are!).
As well as friends I’ve had a lot of music along for the ride. Some of these bands have been with me for thirty years now so I know that music is an important part of my life.
One important thing on my player at the moment is a box set by Donald Fagen (he who is lead singer of Steely Dan). The box brings together the three solo albums Don has recorded in his career – 1982’s The Nightfly, 1993’s Kamakiriad, and 2006’s Morph the Cat. If you know these albums you’ll know just how good they are. If you don’t know them and can’t imagine liking Steely Dan or anything associated with it, why not give one of them a spin? Look at how broad my musical tastes are on my profile, you might just find something here. These albums are jazz, they are rock, they are adult and articulate, they are spiritual and sexual. They are restrained energy personified.
Now if you know the three albums and agree with everything I’m trying to say, you might still not want the box set but you’d be making a mistake. The albums are presented here in a variety of musical formats – enough to make anyone’s amp and speakers come to life if you choose the right one – across 6 discs with videos and out-takes and the whole smorgasbord. Still not tempted? There’s a seventh disc. The unimaginatively titled “Trilogy – 10 extras” is a masterwork all on its own. It has a cover of Al Green’s Rhymes, it has a jazz piece that Fagen wrote for an accomplished player, it has three live tracks and singles that didn’t make the albums. You can’t buy it on its own and it’s not to be overlooked.
The Nightfly Trilogy has something for you and music can get you through the tough days.