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

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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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Steely Dan – “The People Request”

Who: Steely Dan

Where: The Beacon Theatre, Manhattan, New York City, USA

When: 21st October 2018

What: By Popular Demand

On the first days of booking tickets for this “popular demand” show, ticket-buyers were asked by Ticketmaster to write-in their requests for songs to be featured. Now those who booked on the first day were probably (for the most part) die-hard Dan fans who had in mind songs that they had seldom heard before. But if this was the case then, there was little evidence of it in the set that emerged with this more closely resembling a “Greatest Hits” show than two-hours of rarities and deep cuts. Now that is not to say that this wasn’t a wonderful show to see. This band are tighter than they have ever been. Older bands like this either barely tolerate being on the stage as each other (look at the recent Fleetwood Mac debacle) or they have grown close and closer still through years of musical and personal inter-action. The latter is the case with Steely Dan

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Steely Dan – The Most Unforgettable Night of Whatever

About a lifetime ago, my friend, Andrew, and I went to Leeds for the day and in the course of our shopping I brought home every Steely Dan album that had been released to that point, that I didn’t already own. By the time I had worked through albums like Pretzel Logic I was a fan for life. Indeed, Katy Lied joined Van Morrison and Bob Dylan in seeing me almost single-handed through some very tortured teenage years.

Flash forward to 2015 and my wonderful opportunity as I was invited to fly out to the U.S. and cover their residency at the Beacon in New York. I’d seen them a number of times but to see them on home territory playing with imagination and verve — well, this is the stuff that dreams are made of. So let’s take a look at their final night:

Who: Steely Dan

What: rockabye gollie angel tour 2015: “The Most Unforgettable Night of Whatever – Featuring Spectacular Musical Guests, Glorious Tunes and Riffage, and Whatever the Party Calls for! “

When: October 17th, 2015

Where: Beacon Theatre, New York, New York, USA

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The Greatest Damn Steely Dan Band to Ever Come Down the Pipe

Who: Steely Dan

What: rockabye gollie angel tour 2015: “By Popular Demand” night

When: October 16th, 2015

Where: Beacon Theatre, New York, New York, USA

“The greatest damn Steely Dan band ever to come down the pipe”. So said Walter Becker on this “By Popular Demand” night at the Beacon. And you know what – in terms of live performance, –  I think he is just about right. This was an outstanding night of music. The “By Popular Demand” thing might just have been a cool cover-up: I’m not really sure what was so different from some other nights on the tour – but slightly dodgy promotional tools aside, this was a very, very good performance indeed.

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The Children of the Light

What: The Children of the Light Trio – Danilo Perez, Brian Blade, John Patitucci,

Where: Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Frith Street, Soho, London

When: July 14, 2014

Writing reviews of jazz concerts can be a difficult ask – especially when the artists communicate little with their audience. Here I am in Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London and I’m scribbling notes – mental and written – but those pesky musicians won’t give me song titles to hang my thoughts on. What can I say? Tonight was a night of beautiful music. Here are some random thoughts I came away with but they won’t make the most coherent review.

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Folk ‘n’ Magic

What: Cordner and Rudolph supported by Perkelt

Where: Ravenscourt Arts, Hammersmith, London

When: June 11, 2014

This show promised to be an unusual and cosmopolitan evening of folk music and it didn’t disappoint. The main act came from Northern Ireland and France, the support from the Czech Republic and in the show there was something for everyone.

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