Category Archives: Music

Coronavirus: Week eight in self-isolation

Lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly by the UK government this week. It’s not made much of a difference to my personal situation though; I’m still self-isolating as a precaution and working from home.

At this point, all the weeks are becoming quite similar. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. I find that easier to think of than how long I might be at home for. My own situation will probably need to last until the end of June, at the earliest. Longer than I initially expected.

The hardest thing to come to terms with is, when I do eventually finish my period of self-isolation, things won’t be like they used to. When I return to my usual work base in Carlisle, I won’t be able to hug colleagues who I haven’t seen for months. Instead, we’ll stay two metres apart. There’ll be leaves on the trees on the road leading up to our house, which I haven’t yet seen. People will be wearing PPE on public transport. The list goes on.

For some people, the prospect of not leaving the house for more than two months must seem daunting. The reality is that it’s just become a way of life for me now and I’m used to it. The key thing is to try not to dwell on the negatives. There are some positives to quarantine, like reading more books, re-discovering music (really listening, not just having it on in the background) and having time to reflect about ourselves. Life usually comes at a fast pace and, if anything, slowing down means we’re able to take stock.

Over the past week or so I was nominated on Facebook to post the covers of 10 albums which greatly influenced my taste in music. A challenge right up my street! I thought I’d elaborate a little about my choices. Here we go then, in no particular order:

Zero 7 – Simple Things (2001)

I love the ‘chillout’ genre. To me, Zero 7’s first album epitomises everything I love about that style of music. Simple Things features the wonderful Sia Furler on many tracks. The very first radio interview I did was with Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker for Fuse FM, ahead of a great gig at Manchester Academy in 2009.

Röyksopp – Melody A.M. (2001)

The track Eple was what first introduced me to the electronica genre of music. I feel this was when I was truly developing my own taste, rather than being influenced by my Mum’s Easy Listening or Dad’s Prog Rock. This is a brilliant album from the Norwegian band which has downtempo and house influences.

Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. (1995)

Wonderwall was the first single I bought. Back in the days when you had to physically go into a record store to do something like that. (It seems a world away from these current times of downloads and streaming! Sad to think the occasion of doing that is now lost, but the modern day way is more convenient and instant, I suppose.) Wonderwall is included in this album, along with many other iconic tracks. Listening to Oasis makes me think of my proud Mancunian roots.

Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)

Long before Coldplay were a band headlining stadiums, this was their first studio album. I remember being blown away when I first heard the track Yellow and followed the band since then. Their sound has developed, over the years, but there’s something still very special about this debut album.

Jamiroquai – A Funk Odyssey (2001)

I could have chosen any of Jamiroquai’s studio albums to be included in this list. A Funk Odyssey was what I heard that made me want to discover more about the band though. I loved their fusion of acid jazz with the pop genre. When I was with Fuse FM, I presented an overnight special feature the back catalogue of Jamiroquai’s music. Great memories.

Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)

The distinctive sound of French House music, which the Daft Punk duo are the masters of. There’s so many fantastic tracks on this album. Digital Love was the first I encountered by watching a music video channel. This album makes a good use of sampling from other songs. This is what has often encouraged me to seek out how the original pieces sound too. A ‘Discovery’ indeed. (I actually wrote about the sampling of George Duke in Daft Punk’s Digital Love in this blog, seven years ago this month. Time flies!)

M People – Fresco (1997)

I received M People’s final studio album on cassette for Christmas in 1997. It features the inimitable voice of Heather Small. There’s something so joyous about the band’s sound that I love and there’s a great cover of Roxy Music’s Avalon on this album. The band have another Manchester connection for me. I saw them perform live years later at the city’s arena, which is one of my most memorable gigs. We literally went down Angel Street to get there as well.

Leftfield – Leftism (1995)

Another from the House / Dance genre. This album was recommended for me to listen to and I’ve been a fan ever since. It got me through a long coach journey to France as a teenager, listening on repeat! The individual tracks are all good but the album as a whole tells a story with music. I was lucky enough to see this performed live at Manchester Academy in 2010. Great to just lose yourself in while listening.

Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (1973)

Well, what can I say about this masterpiece that won’t have already been said over the years? The full Tubular Bells remains one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard; there’s so much variety to it. It’s difficult to hear the beginning an not think of the film The Exorcist though, but there’s so much more to it than that. A truly epic listen. Play it loud!

Grease – Movie Soundtrack (1978)

I had to make a nod to my passion for musicals somewhere in this list and Grease was probably the catalyst for me. So many hits from the film but what’s great about the soundtrack album is that it also includes the Sha Na Na tracks from the school dance scenes. I had this album on cassette and have a feeling it may have worn out from being played so much!

It’s obvious, from looking at those choices, that 2001 must have been a pivotal year for shaping my musical tastes. Other years have great influence too, many dating back before I was born, and not just limited to this list. I don’t get it when people say music “wasn’t from their era”. The great thing about discovering music is you can listen to anything and develop an appreciation for it. In the Internet age, it’s easier to do than ever before.

Last chance to listen: Eclectic 80s

It’s the decade of big hair, big shoulder pads and even bigger songs.

That’s why, over the Easter period, I wanted to present a specialist music programme dedicated to the music that defined a decade. It’s a popular radio format for a reason and these songs ‘test well’ with listeners.

If the BBC wants to attract younger audiences then I think music of this era is a great way to do it. It evokes memories for those who remember the decade for those who lived it and appeals to those who didn’t. I think it’s testimony to how good the sound of the time was because programmes – and indeed entire radio stations dedicated to the decade – prove so popular.

When I was starting out in my broadcasting career I learnt a lot from the likes of DJ Caz Matthews at North Manchester FM. A few years later, I appeared on BBC Radio Manchester’s 80s programme firstly with Manchester musician Clint Boon and latterly Stuart Ellis. I was delivering travel bulletins into the programme at the time and a great advantage was that I got to hear a lot of the output! I know 80s is a format well done by very knowledgable and experienced presenters, which is why I wanted to do something a little different an put my own spin on things: I pitched “Eclectic 80s”.

My programme on BBC Radio Lancashire celebrates the niche, the novelty and great songs you don’t often hear on the radio. Wham! was the most requested band in my running order but, instead of what you might expect, I played ‘Young Guns’, when was the last time you heard that?

80s computerised TV host Max Headroom makes an appearance with The Art of Noise for ‘Paranoimia’, in what arguably takes the title of most eclectic song played in the whole two hours – and proudly so!

Also, I channeled Brett Davison’s ‘Tricky TV theme teatime teaser’ by playing the full theme from the TV show ‘Moonlighting’, which starred Bruce Willis – back when he had hair. It was performed by the late, great Al Jarreau and producer by Nile Rodgers of Chic. I’ll post a full tracklist at end of this blog post.

I was so proud of this programme, especially with the amount of interaction that I got while on-air. I wasn’t expecting much as it was Good Friday evening, but people got in touch to say they were listening, to tell me what they were doing and share their memories of the 1980s.

It’s only available on BBC Sounds for a few more days so if you fancy a quirky couple of hours to re-live the new wave, new romantic and synth pop style that defined a decade, follow the link here and re-run the fun: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p075j96b

TRACKLIST:

Stomp! – The Brothers Johnson

Sweet Surrender – Wet Wet Wet

Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy) – Scritti Politti

Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics

Rain or Shine – Five Star

The King of Rock n Roll – Prefab Sprout

You’re the Best Thing – The Style Council

My Old Piano – Diana Ross

Moonlighting – Al Jarreau

Kissing with Confidence – Will Powers feat. Carly Simon

Dancing with Tears in my Eyes – Ultravox

Let’s Wait Awhile – Janet Jackson

Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins

Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need this Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet

Too Shy – Kajagoogoo

Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Young Guns (Go For It) – Wham!

Bridge to your Heart – Wax

This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

Paranoimia – The Art of Noise feat. Max Headroom

Rosanna – Toto

Here we Are – Gloria Estefan

Don’t Look Down (The Sequel) – Go West

January, February – Barbara Dickson

Half a Minute – Matt Bianco feat. Basia

Thinking of You – The Colour Field

My One Temptation – Mica Paris

Down to Earth – Curiosity Killed The Cat

Waiting for a Train – Flash and the Pan

Cassette tape

Chilled Christmas

Christmas traditions can come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s a snowball cocktail on Christmas Eve or getting out the Boxing Day board games to play with the family. For me every year meant I’d dig out some festive favourite songs for a Chilled Christmas on special on the radio. The time has flown by like Santa on his sleigh and it’s been three years since I last presented a programme… until now!

I gave up that side of things to concentrate on newsreading instead. 2018 will mark my 10th year in radio and up until I qualified as a broadcast journalist I’d presented a ‘chillout’ programme of mellow music every week on different radio stations in the North West.

This year I’m delighted to say that I’ll be back on the airwaves presenting a new ‘Chilled Christmas’ programme on BBC Radio Lancashire on Christmas Day from 17:00.

My love of radio began at the University of Manchester’s student radio station, Fuse FM. After I graduated, I transferred the programme to North Manchester FM. I was also on weeknights on the Stockport radio station Pure 107.8FM too. One of the highlights when I was presenting Chilled Pure on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day morning and I was on Santa Watch. It was magical and I jingled all the way.

Even though I’ve had almost a decade in the industry, I still have to pinch myself because I never imagined I could make a career out of it. I originally joined student radio as a way to bring out my confidence. People who work with me now will find it hard to believe, but I was actually quite shy!

After working with Fuse FM’s marketing team, I was persuaded to put a show proposal in and I thought I’d pitch a show of music that I knew well from my own collection and that’s how ‘The Chill Room’ was born.

Later down the line, I was advised by industry professionals that to specialise in a genre or a niché area of programming was a bad thing, if you want to become a radio presenter. I can understand why they said that because there are so few opportunities in that line of work nowadays. However, I just took a different route and broadcast journalism suits me. I think it has made me a more rounded broadcaster as a result. It serves as a reminder; there’s more than one way to achieve your ambitions.

It’s been great to put a ‘Chilled Christmas’ programme together again, this time to be broadcast on the BBC. It’s an hour of festive favourites and mellow versions of tracks you know, with some hidden gems there too. On the playlist there’s Lady Antebellum, Luther Vandross, Stacey Kent, The Stylistics and a new release from Kate Rusby’s latest Christmas album – to name but a few. Hopefully, it’ll be the perfect festive accompaniment, while all the rich food digests on Christmas Day!

What a pleasure it’s been to research the music again. The programme will also be sprinkled with some anecdotes from myself as well. And – you know me – they’ll be quirky! This year has been truly fantastic for me in every way, both professionally and personally. To have been given the chance to present a programme on BBC Radio Lancashire really has been the cherry on top of the cake… or should that be the brandy on top of the Christmas pudding??

I hope you can join me on BBC Radio Lancashire from 17:00 on Christmas Day for ‘Chilled Christmas’. It’ll be available on iPlayer for 30 days after too – in case you want to extend that festive cheer even further!

All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas to you! Thank you for reading my blog during 2017 and I wish you all the very best for the new year ahead.

George Michael: You have been loved

george_michael

George Michael in 1988. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

What a year this has been for the passing of true talent. It started in January with a the news of the death of David Bowie, now the latest star to be taken is George Michael, at the age of 53.

The news is particularly poignant having broken over Christmas; a time when Michael’s music is at the forefront of public consciousness due to his widely different – but equally brilliant – festive hits ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas).’

As a big George Michael fan, I have a lot of his albums both as a solo artist and with his band Wham! His was one of the first “grown up” types of music I listened to. Of course, George Michael was an archetypal and inimitable pop star. Alongside his beautifully silky voice and striking good looks he also had a great understanding of music, with political awareness and intelligence. He was the full package.

I love how he could create classics in any type of mood or style. This is particularly evident in the way his greatest hits are  arranged in the compilation ’25’, that was released to mark his 25th year in the music industry. One disc is “For Living” and the other is “For Loving”. What comes through in his music is honesty that can really touch your soul. This is particularly evident in  ‘Jesus to a Child’, a tribute to his late partner Anselmo Feleppa:

George Michael moved seamlessly from a dance track to a ballad full of sadness. I also enjoyed how he could completely rework and remix works he appreciated and put his own unique stamp on it. Tracks that come to mind are his version of The One’s ‘Flawless’ and how ‘Shoot the Dog’ utilises Human League’s ‘Love Action (I Believe in Love)’ and makes it into a completely different style. Meanwhile, his duet with Mary J. Blige on the song ‘As’ contemporises a Stevie Wonder classic.

Michael’s career shows a musical progression as well demonstrating a wide range of emotions in his work. I think this is one of the reasons why he has had such longevity; his ability to adapt. While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to his interview with Kirsty Young for Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme and what strikes is how modern his choice of songs were. He had so much more to give; apparently in the pipeline for 2017  would have been a new album and a documentary.

Alongside George Michael’s copious talent, he was a generous philanthropist. I remember seeing an interview with him saying that he didn’t mind how people accessed his music, as long as they were listening. It’s also the impact he had on other’s lives which adds to this selflessness:

There’s a reason George Michael is one of the most played artists on UK radio, and my own personal collection, because he is one of the the best.

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – ‘You Have Been Loved’ and you will be missed.

Why pop music should be more Bowie

bowie

I will forever remember waking up last Monday morning (January 11th, 2016.) Like most people, I picked up my phone to see the news agenda of the day and there it was – an alert announcing 69-year-old David Bowie had died.

Disbelief; I hadn’t known he had cancer? Is this a nightmare? Surely this was a hoax?

Worldwide mourning followed with many radio stations opting, in the early part of the day at least, to play his songs back-to-back in tribute. Listening to this struck me at how unique this moment must be. To hear an artist’s back catalog and not become disinterested. (The radio industry term being that songs ‘burn’ out after being heard too much.)

From ‘Space Oddity’ to ‘Let’s Dance’, there’s something to suit every musical taste. Not to mention how familiar his dulcet tones or riffs seem, even after a while of not hearing them. I’m not old enough, to have been there in Bowie’s heyday, when Ziggy Stardust took to the stage  and from then on. Yet his music sounded as fresh last Monday as some of the most recent chart hits.

It got me thinking, is there anyone in pop culture these days whose ‘Sound and Vision’ will stand the test of time like that? By the very nature of the pop genre it needs to be a one-size-fits all. The concept of the industry is to appeal to as many people as possible in order to maximise sales.

That’s why all of Adele’s songs sound the same, it’d be too much of a risk to deviate from what’s expected. All credit to Justin Bieber; (I never thought I’d write that!) he’s done well in reinventing himself from a rebellious adolescent to someone whose music you don’t have to hide away and listen to secretly in the car (surely, that’s not just me??) Now you can play ‘What Do You Mean?’ loud and proud from those speakers – pump that looping flute up to 11!!!

….BUT will Beiber’s songs have longevity? Will they become anthems in years to come in the way ‘Heroes’, ‘Rebel, Rebel’ or ‘Fame’ is? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t think so. However, maybe you need hindsight for these kind of things.

On top of Bowie’s music being as good as it was unconventional, for the time it was released anyway. It was his fearless approach to being different that cut through to other areas as well. Whether that be fashion or cultural influence to promote a shift of attitudes. I think it’s this that’s helped cement his status as a British pop icon. Bowie’s music can be related to something tangible that resonates beyond the songs you hear.

See this tweet by Preston’s Men Against Violence charity, as an example…

This is the antithesis of pop music; it needs to appeal to as many people as possible, remember. I wonder what we’d think if someone like an unknown Bowie released a song in today’s charts. It would probably do very well in the alternative arenas but would it cut through to mainstream?

I’m not saying I want someone to be a carbon copy of David Bowie; there will only ever be one of him, that’s the point. There needs to be someone  daring enough to build upon and use their public profile to provoke social change. Who knows what might be able to be achieved.

It’s been a while since my last post and I was thinking of starting it up again. Before Bowie died my focus of the post was going to be Kate Bush. She has a similar unconventional allure that has made her too achieve legendary status. You only have to get past the heavy rotated hits like ‘Wuthering Heights’ (as wonderful an example that is) and listen to her albums. You realise just how beautifully outlandish her discography is too. Long may she release more! There may be many more artists in this vein too, but these are two striking examples, off the top of my head.

David Bowie – a hero for much more than just one day. He may no longer be with us, but his music is immortal. The Starman’s influence has helped drive social change. He has been one of the best ambassadors for British quintessential eccentricity we could ever have wished for.

Now let’s hope some of today’s pop stars use Bowie’s death and rise into social consciousness again to follow this lead. Be that extra bit different: “Turn and face the strange…”

Lost in Music – at Glastonbury Festival

Glastonbury – the festival I’ve never been to but feel like I have due to extensive BBC coverage. This year is no exception; The Rolling Stones headlined. What I was most looking forward to was seeing Chic, featuring my musical hero – Nile Rodgers… but they weren’t on the main stage.

It’s understandable why Glastonbury wanted the Stones on the Pyramid stage; it has been the dream of organiser Michael Eavis to see them perform at his festival and this year it came true. This is something that spans wider than the Somerset fields though, the BBC gave the Stones prominent coverage on BBC2 while Chic’s performance was hidden away on BBC Four – I would have missed it has I not been told it was on. Admittedly I am a massive disco fan, but it’s still a valid point.

I can’t help thinking this is modern day music snobbery that’s a throwback to the attitudes that caused the fateful Disco Demolition Night in July 1979. A baseball match was disrupted in Illinois, USA, and the ‘Disco Sucks’ movement began. This forced the music, flares and mirror balls underground while genres like punk rock started to gain rebellious popularity.

Chic live at The Ritz in Manchester

If you listen to the charts you’ll hear disco’s influence everywhere. Nile Rogers has reinvented himself many times to have hits with David Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and that’s just naming few. Most recently, of course, is his number one anthem of our summer – ‘Get Lucky’ with Daft Punk. That’s why I think Chic should have had a bigger billing, rather than on the smaller West Holts stage.

Chic lived up to their name, looking classy dressed in white throughout their performance. The Stones, on the other hand, looked frail and past it, with too many breaks for unnecessary costume changes. Judging by this Glastonbury appearance, Maroon 5 surely must reconsider whether it really is all that cool to “move like Jagger” for their hit song. I would have commended Ronnie Wood’s ability to multi-task… had it not been that he was smoking a cigarette while strumming his guitar.

Apart from their more mellow tracks that I play on my radio shows, I’ve never been a fan of the Rolling Stones’ music – it’s just not my cup of tea. Glastonbury was the chance to change all that but it didn’t. The sound quality was awful and I would have been distracted throughout had I not have thought I was watching Spinal Tap instead.

Don’t accuse me of being ageist; I’ve always had an affinity with music that’s not of my generation. Just a few hours ago I got chills hearing Kenny Rogers (no relation to Nile) singing ‘Lady’  and ‘We’ve Got Tonight’ from today’s Glastonbury highlights. Kenny’s older than all of the Stones, yet he still looks and sounds great.

I know the the Stones’ music is legendary and the soundtrack to the lives of many. Credit where credit is due and they probably do put on good shows but I won’t be paying over a £100 to see them. The times I’ve seen Nile Rogers have been priceless.

Nile Book

Yowsah…

yowsah…

yowsah! 

The day the music died

I read a thought-provoking article the other day by Sophie Heawood: she commented about how our experience of music has changed in this digital age of downloads and streaming. As a Spotify premium subscriber, this resonated with me and I wanted to give my response. To get in the mood I’m listening to some of my guilty pleasures on Spotify as I write this, feel free to join me…

The trouble with digital – streaming music in particular – is that I don’t feel that I own music anymore. Not physically anyway, I literally just pay to listen to it. No doubt it’s saved space; I have racks and racks of CDs in my bedroom that are not getting added to anymore because I can listen to everything I want on my phone.

It’s not just our buying experience that’s different though, the entire way we hear music has changed because of digital. There’s a decline in hi-fis (don’t I sound old!) Instead of these dedicated sound systems, most people listen to music through tinny earphones, laptop or iPad speakers – all of which weren’t designed with sound quality as a priority.

headphonesIf you want to have a good listening experience I suggest you invest in a good pair of headphones. Walking down the street in a city centre you would think most people have, many people with headphones on their heads will go past you nodding along to the tunes that are whizzing through their ears. Do not be fooled by first impressions! These people don’t care for music; they’re flaunting it as part of an ‘80s throwback fashion craze. That’s because Dr Dre’s colourful Beats headphones are built for style rather than substance. My own headphones are Sennheisers, which sound fantastic, but I wouldn’t want to be seen outside of a studio wearing them!

Is music worth listening to anymore? People are still buying it (or rather, downloading it) in their droves so it obviously hasn’t died – just a bit of my soul has. The chart offerings aren’t just lyrically bland, the music sounds like music that could have been produced in someone’s bedroom… probably because it has been.

Then, out of the blue, came along a smash hit that restored my faith in modern music: Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, featuring Pharrell Williams and produced by my musical hero – Nile Rodgers. That song is the sound of the summer for many. The lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but the reason it sounds so good is because Daft Punk have learnt – and listened – to music from the past. By collaborating with established producers like Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, they’re adding to a contemporary disco sound being coined nu-disco.

No matter what your taste is, experiencing music is so fulfilling it becomes the soundtrack to your life – so make sure you hear it the way it was supposed to be heard with good quality equipment. Be open minded to explore; don’t just accept what’s played to you in the charts. That’s what Daft Punk did and it got them a number one. Music isn’t just about now; any track you hear will be inspired, in some form or another, by hits heard before. Let’s hope music’s future is just as colourful as its past.

Remembering Amy Winehouse

It’s hard to believe that it has been year today since we lost the fabulously talented Amy Winehouse. I remember the moment well; there was a lot of speculation of her death ruminating around Twitter. Hoaxes on social media websites are not unheard of and, as I couldn’t find any viable source confirming her death, I hoped this would be the case. Then I heard the announcement on the radio – Amy Winehouse had died aged 27 at her home in Camden Square, London.

Due to the very intense lifestyle that Amy had lived, the news wasn’t entirely shocking but to lose her at such a young age, in the prime of her life and career, was saddening and such a loss to music.

I had been quite a late follower of Amy’s. Being aware of the buzz that surrounded her, but the music never really registered on my radar. That was until 2008, when I saw her performance of Love is a Loosing Game at the Brit Awards:-

From that moment, I was hooked. It was refreshing to hear an artist subvert the current chart conventions and hear soulful jazz inspired songs hitting the top spot. I instantly wanted to know more and began delving deeper by exploring her albums. What I liked about Amy was her retro vibe mixed with a sharp observational tenacity. You only have to be out at the weekend in a city centre to see life imitating the art as the lyrics from her song F’ Me Pumps unfold in front of you. She wrote lyrics from the heart but kept them current, combining this with musical production and her appearance that had a nice vintage twist, something reminiscent of The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas or The Marvelettes from years gone by.

In this superficial world that we live in, plagued by stories of scandal and celebrity, it’s almost too easy to take Amy Winehouse by face value. Rather than the headlines and hearsay that surrounded her career, let’s remember her for the music. The cannon of work that she has left behind is small but impressive. By those high standards, it is a shame that we will never know just how high her star may have risen to had she have lived longer. Amy Winehouse may be gone but her legacy will live on in her music and the new artists that she will continue to inspire for many years to come.

Don’t Forget to Remember Disco

Great music, mirrorballs and dancing around handbags all help to define the disco era. The music  has been brought into the limelight recently with a lot of prevalence due to the untimely passing of two stars of the genre; Donna Summer and Robin Gibb. Their music featured in the soundtrack of my formative years, which must be why I feel such a strong affinity with disco.

I may not have direct memories of this time period but I definitely enjoy hearing about it. My experiences of the music from the 70s have been formed subsequently, which started when I began to develop my own musical tastes… something in which the Bee Gees, inadvertently, feature quite heavily!

In the late 1990s I got my first Hi-Fi. No one calls sound systems that any more, but what made it extra special was that it was in the shape of a Coca-Cola can – I loved it! I’ll never forget the first albums that I bought on CD, which were: The Lighthouse Family’s Ocean Drive (I’ve always liked Easy Listening music you see) and a Top of the Pops compilation album because, like most young people do, I followed the charts like a hawk. Over the Christmas period of 1999 many artists of that time covered Bee Gees hits in aid of the charity called Live Challenge ‘99. Steps, Cleopatra (I can’t even type that without thinking “Comin’ at ‘cha!”) Boyzone, 911 and more 90s names released their versions of classic Bee Gees hits. I know that list doesn’t exactly set your heart racing now but back then it did for me. I wanted the tribute album and asked Santa Claus if he would bring it me for Christmas.

Alas, I didn’t get it! There must have been a crossed line to the North Pole somewhere. What I did get was a Bee Gee’s album called One Night Only, recorded live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I was not happy with this; any band my parents liked was not cool in my eleven-year-old eyes! So I stuck the album in a drawer, never to be spoken of again…

Many CDs were spun in my little Hi-Fi as the years passed and, as my musical exploration progressed, I started veer away from the constrictions of usual formulaic chart fodder. I became interested in many different genres, especially electronic based music, including bands like Daft Punk, Royksopp and Jamiroquai’s later work.

If you look hard enough for the six degrees of separation you’ll be able to see how all styles of music link together or how one genre has influenced another. With other songs though it’s not hard to hear the connection – take 2003’s Digital Love by Daft Punk as an example:

Now listen to George Duke’s I Love You More from 1979:

Spot the sample! A lot of the electronic music uses samples, especially the synthesizers and vocoders that are synonymous with disco music. So, even though disco is the genre that supplied a large amount of the soundtrack to the ‘70s, it is perhaps more influential nowadays than you may realise.

Music is eternal. I don’t think it matters that I wasn’t born during the 70s, when disco reached the height of popularity, in order to experience it. Taste doesn’t have to be constricted to what decade you grew up in – if it were then no one would ever listen to classical music! As there is such a massive range of music out there it would be narrow-minded to limit what you listen to by the charts, a certain genre or decade. I’m a huge advocate for encouraging musical exploration and with the internet, downloads and online streaming being so accessible there really is no reason not to delve that little bit deeper. (Get any How Deep is Your Love puns out of your system now, or forever hold your peace…)

Maybe an indication of how good songs are can be measured by how frequently they have been covered by other artists, which explains the ethos behind the Bee Gees tribute album that I yearned for in the late ‘90s… and I did get it eventually. The irony is that I don’t play it any more. I listen to the original versions of Bee Gees hits much more than any cover versions. The only reason that the One Night Only CD is in a drawer now is because I have converted the tracks into MP3s. I’ve played these songs even more often since hearing the news of the death of Robin Gibb. The longevity of music means that even though performers pass away their music can live on forever. I definitely will never forget to remember disco.

Stick a label on Charlene Soraia

APR signWherever You Will Go, featured on the Twinings tea advert in the lead up to Christmas last year. I was so enamoured with this song that I had to delve deeper into her work and was thrilled to find an already impressive repertoire to her name.

It’s interesting that Chalene’s biggest chart hit is purely piano led because she’s an incredibly gifted guitarist, self-taught and having played since the age of five. These influences feature prominently in her EPs and debut album Moonchild. At the age of 23 she is already a veteran of the touring circuit, regularly selling out the Night and Day in Manchester and countless other venues across the country. I was excited to finally get the chance to see her perform at the Royal Northern College of Music and her set didn’t disappoint.

To best describe the sound we have to talk about genre. I’ve encountered lots of musicians over the years but have never met one who liked being pigeon-holed by a label. This is probably because it becomes very constrictive; there’s a sneer if the artists venture beyond the genre that has been bestowed upon them by critics. Music shouldn’t be like that; it’s one of the most expressive and creative art forms so experimentation should be encouraged. Any good artist will want to enrich their own style by taking influences from many genres, therefore overlapping them all.

APR charlene

Here are some more labels for you: With similarities to artists like Katie Melua, Rumer and hitting the high notes as good as Minnie Ripperton, it made me wonder why the RNCM concert hall was only half full for the gig? Setting the ambience for the evening was the opening song When We Were Five, psychedelic in style.  Charlene’s prowess with a guitar is almost mesmerising because it is so effortlessly natural to her. She switched to playing the mandolin for the mellow Midsummer Moon in June, baritone guitar for edgier Animal and back again throughout the set. All of which was interspersed with humorous anecdotes, making it a thoroughly enjoyable night.

With many strings to her bow (or should that be guitar?), Charlene Soraia has an impressive back catalogue, dabbling in various styles, that keeps on growing. If you’ve only heard The Calling’s cover song then her musical cannon is definitely worth exploring further. Especially if you like her style of music… whatever it is being labelled as at the moment. Regardless of what genre it is, the music sounds good. That’s the most important thing.

APR band