Phi Yaan Zek’s Album Launch Review – 15th September 2018

Photo taken by Me on Steve Lawson's camera!

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Located on a warm Saturday night at Kidderminster College, the night began with one of the college’s talented bands; Hey Jester. The Hey Jester boys are really causing a stir with their progressive rock music. The songs. The image. The sound. They have the whole package. Think early Muse but with incredible Myles Kennedy like vocals. Even had people coming up to me after the show saying that they’d go watch Hey Jester play their own headline show, it was THAT good of a set. Frontman, Mirron Webb was pretty busy all night seeing as he featured in Phi Yaan Zek’s all star band…

Well, what can I say… it’s been 5 days after the show and I’m still speechless from Phi’s set. Incredible. With Phi playing electric/acoustic guitar and vocals, his backing band featured Steve Lawson on Bass (who actually stood up and played.. this was a surprise to say the least), Andy Edwards on Drums, Ola Olsson on Trumpet, Lalle Larson on Keyboard and Mirron Webb on Guitar. They kicked the show off with a new track off Reality Is My Play Thing called “Alive.” It’s fast and full of charisma. The week before the album launch, the band actually filmed a music video for Alive which features zombies… It’s rather mad. It will be released soon. Once the song was finished, there was a huge roar come from the crowd of praise towards the band and there’s no doubt that the momentum stayed all the way to the end of the gig as it truly did. The 3 minute song is filled with many notes to say the least. It’s in your face constantly and you can’t ignore it and why would you want too? It’s wonderful and hearing the song live really lived up to the expectation of the studio version. There were a few moments where Phi’s microphone feedbacked but the sound was sorted out quite quickly.

“Kindling” has a memorable chorus which I found myself singing when performed live. It’s the killer riff that is the most insane thing about the song. What an introductory to the band. I know that some of the band members had said that learning Phi’s songs has been one of the hardest things they’ve ever learnt, but my goodness, they pulled off a brilliant show. “Reunion” was a stand out track for the show. It’s a scary song anyway but seeing the musicians actually perform it was even scarier. Think Frank Zappa but slightly madder… it is possible as it’s Phi. The song was released on Phi’s 2007 album “Anomalies.” This song just put the cherry on the insanity cake. Wow.

“Frequency Calling” is another newbie and was performed near enough the exact same as the record. Starting off with Phi’s lyrics “no signal.. seems broken, your message is forgotten, so borrow this radio and allow your dreams to flow”, the song begins acoustically and even features a superb acoustic guitar solo from Phi. It then reaches it’s peak when the full band are introduced. I really enjoyed sitting back and seeing where this song takes me mentally. The interference of the song took the audience through a bizarre journey of accepting yourself and things around you.

Now… “Ecstasies of the Starlight Self” is completely prog down to a tee. It’s one of Phi’s best songs in my eyes because it’s just so unusual. The studio version is featured on Phi’s album with Marco Minneman “Dance with the Anima.” The band made the 1:51 track into an over 3 minute epic of solos coming out of solos. It’s Phi’s scat like vocals in the song which just makes it so much fun. The drum and bass style drum parts are so important in this song creating a fast pace.

The song makes you dance, just look at Phi in this video.

Starting off the next song with something different.. anyone for a game of I spy? Phi picked an audience member for a game of “I Phi” which lead into probably the funkiest song of the set. It’s Mirron’s rhythmical guitar part that sticks out straight away with a memorable wah effect added to the sound. This is a track where it was lovely to see the band wander into their own comfort zones and play their own, unique solos. I Phi was definitely one of the best tracks on the night with the audience applauding so loudly at the end that it actually hurt my ears! The genuine fretless bass sound was clear from the get go. Sometimes people just use programme effect on a pedal to get a fretless sound, but not with Steve Lawson, he has the real thing. 

One of my absolute favourites of Phi’s is “Wondrous Self” purely because of the chord progression. Harmonically, the song is clever and looks so easy to play very from all the musicians on the stage. They made every song look so easy to play which is completely inspiring. If I had a go at one Phi Yaan Zek song, I think my hands would fall off. The song seemed to have gone by quickly, probably because we all enjoyed it so much and they say time flies by when you’re having fun. The next track was simply put as a wash of all emotions… EVER. It’s angry. It’s happy. It’s a rollercoaster. It’s like a…. “Brainwash.” Off Phi’s debut album released over 21 years ago, the song reminds me of something along the lines of The Prodigy covering a Gentle Giant track. It’s dark but also so bright to listen too. 

Featuring Phi back on the acoustic guitar, “Subtle” is a faint movement towards a soft song. It’s always nice to hear a slow song after listening to complete madness of Phi’s other discography and Subtle just proves that he can write in different types of moods, making him a very versatile artist, which we already knew. Subtle featured an absolutely gorgeous bass solo from Steve Lawson, I was completely mesmerised. Swiftly onto the next song, “Break the Ice” let Phi sit back a bit with the guitar work ever so slightly and let Mirron take control with an impressive guitar solo. Break The Ice sits exactly in the middle of the first half of Phi’s latest album and it fitted pleasantly towards the end of the set. 

Let’s forget about the music for a moment, I just wanted to say how wonderful Phi’s interaction with the audience was. “Does anybody like Dragonflies? What about Dragonfly Medicine?” I think that’s Phi in a nutshell… random and weirdly wonderful. ‘Cause let’s be honest… only Phi would write a song about Dragonfly Medicine. It’s the second song of the new double album and it’s everything you want in an instrumental. The rhythm is strange and out of this world. It’s Lalle and Andy the audience are watching in complete awe for this track. Both dominated the rhythm and showed the song who’s boss. 

“Down from the Mountain” is a stand out track on Phi’s latest album, which featuring vocals from Phi, plus Mirron in the choruses making the section more noticeable and strong. The song deals with isolation and to not get stuck in your head. The lyrics are quite dark for such a happy sounding song. It’s the rhythm of the vocals over the lyrics that stand out to me as a songwriter. It’s imaginative and a different way to deliver vocals successfully. Next up in the live set just happens to be the very last song on the double album “Reality Is My Strange Thing” which takes us through so many influences. There’s part where it sounds like a jazz standard, the next it’s an uptempo ska track. It’s completely and utter bonkers but so enjoyable to listen too. 

The ‘last’ song of the set, you know the one before people go “MORE” and the band have to do one more… just happened to be “Abigail’s Place.” Phi released Abigail’s Place 3 months prior to the album launch and I’m so glad he did, because everyone in the audience, I mean EVERYONE was singing “We’re going, we’re going, we’re going, we’re going to Abigail’s Place.” A memorable moment of the whole show. It’s always amazing when one song can bring so many people together for that special moment and that surely was a lovely moment. What made the show so amazing was watching the musicians on stage thoroughly enjoy the whole set and they were certainly in their element. 

And we then thought that was the end, until the roar of the audience shone through. Phi then exclaimed “well… we’ll do one more then.” Another interaction moment was when Phi got an audience member on the stage to begin the encore with “I want to tell you about the puffball that ate my village…” and with that one lyric, we all knew we were going on another adventure inside Phi’s head. It was like Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Gentle Giant and Gong just jammed on stage to create this circus sound. Before we knew it, the evening came to an end and I for one definitely could have listened to another hour’s worth of material. What a night.

When’s the next gig, Phi?

https://www.facebook.com/phiyaanzekmusic/

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Valerio Lysander- We Are Like Coloured Moths Towards the Sunlight (Review)

Released on the 21st July, I’m finally getting round to reviewing Valerio Lysander’s wonderful album. The album was recorded in various locations across Rome and London with influences from Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and Sufjan Stevens to name a few. A little bit about Valerio first is that he’s a British based Italian artist who has performed all over Europe. He situates in the genres Baroque Pop, Indie Folk & Art Rock. Having performed at events for Pride, his music is travelling across the world and I’m so glad because it’s captivating. Are you ready for a rollercoaster ride?

First track on the album, “The Moon” tells a story about nobody understanding you and feeling a bit lost with what to do. Then you realise, why not just be like the moon? The moon’s main purpose is to give light in the darkness and that’s exactly what Valerio does with this song. He turns a negative feeling into a positive, metaphorically including the moon as his example. The production of the piano mixed with the string instruments; cello and violin, create this warm, historic moment for the start of what seems to be an emotional album.

When a relationship ends, it’s the hardest thing on earth. Valerio mirrors this emotion in “Feathers,” which is about struggling to keep a long distance relationship working when its actually run it’s course. The delicateness of Valerio’s voice pours out despair of his loss. The clever chord changes echo how things can change so quickly in a relationship and how even a feather can cause a tsunami effect, in other words, similar to the butterfly effect. 

“If you Were Me You Would Be” tells the struggles of an independent musician and I can relate so much. With lyrics such as “this isn’t magic, I spent money and time on this” explaining that as a musician, people expect things will just happen when really, it’s the biggest task of all to puzzle everything together on your own. This song deals with, you could say, two Valerio’s (one being the backing vocals), the man vocal is being positive and strong, whereas the second Valerio is being slightly more, well, like the voice in your head. The song is humorous and takes us through a waltzed arrangement. Quirky music video too.

Next is a very gentle number about The Great Gatsby. “A Little Fast” has a drowsy momentum which compliments the anxiety of the song perfectly. This track also features the album title “We Are Like Coloured Mothers Towards the Sunlight.” I personally really like when a song features “we” so as the listeners, we can relate with the music. This slow number is a tear-jerker and hits you right in the feels. Beautiful.

Success is a hard thing to achieve, everyone’s perspective on it is different too and I think we all realise that. Valerio certainly does in “The Prince.” This track is a little bit different compared to everything we’ve heard so far. It features interesting vocal phrases, complicated chord progressions and subtle but haunting harmonies. The song is upbeat and really blesses ”world” music, showing another influence in Valerio’s music.

“Comme Une Rivière” means like a river. Yes, this song is in French. What can Valerio NOT do? I can picture this song being in a cinematic, award-winning film just like Into the Wild or something. It’s absolutely stunning. The song deals with the difficulties a person gets when taking their first few steps towards reaching their dream. This whole song was just like living in a dream. The simplicity, the note perfect essence and atmosphere it gives off is absolutely spine tingling.

It’s always hard to define yourself and figure out who you are as a person. “Cotton” deals with the complications of this. We live in a world full of labels that put us into categories, that some of us don’t like, unfortunately. Cotton is the longest track on the entire album and in my eyes, it’s probably the most powerful one of all too. The music video is wonderful, featuring many faces of different colours, all colours then are blended onto Valerio’s. The song aches in troubles of conflicts and desire to make a statement with yourself.

“Ryan” is a fun, pop inspired composition reminding me slightly of a Mika style arrangement mixed with Brendon Urie-esque vocals. The song simulates the feeling of being stuck in the friend zone by someone you really like. It’s an amusing song with the last lyric cementing this in stone… “Would you please reply to my text… bitch.” “I’m Screwed” is another entertaining song with the first line plummeting “why do I keep falling like a dickhead?” The song is about liking someone out of boredom. We all have been there, where we are head over heels for that one person and you get a bit, blinded by love. When that bubble pops though, you release (if it wasn’t the person you’re “destined”  to be with) that you were an idiot. The song gives off an aura that Valerio is a bit of a stressful person and overthinks, but I guess, who doesn’t?

Another song about success is “Little People.” You mustn’t forget your purpose when trying to reach your goal, and that’s where people fall sometimes. They forget why they’re doing something or even just lose the passion and that’s life unfortunately, it throws weird and hard obstacles at us all the time. The song is inspired by Mozart’s Sonata in F Major. This classical influence from Mozart shines all throughout the song and adds a pleasant nostalgic feeling to the song.

“Fools” was apparently a failed christmas song that turned into a song about how the only thing in life that’s guaranteed is death. It’s morbid and upsetting to think of, but true. “Will there ever be one time, when we feel complete inside?” is an excruciating lyric, because it’s 100% right. We all worry about things and at the end of the day, they won’t matter when we’re gone. I feel that a lot of people don’t think of death enough, the best way to think about it, is to accept it, because there’s no getting out of it. If people get worried about death, there’s a famous quote that can help …

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Mark Twain

The second to last track, “Hymn” is a solo, piano song that Valerio plays with meaning. The theme is to be true to yourself and learning from your mistakes, plus accepting them. The track showcases Valerio’s vocal range reaching from high to low within a matter of seconds. The man lives for his music and it’s so amazing to hear.

“Le Stelle De Lu Cielu” is a traditional song from Rome which is a truly mesmerizing end to an exceptional album. To make things even more emotional, Valerio added a new verse into the song dedicated to his mother who sadly passed away in July 2017. I know for a fact, she’s looking down and feeling so proud of her son for releasing a truly, personal, heart-wrenching album.

Favourite Tracks: The Moon, Feathers, A Little Fast, Comme Une Rivière, Cotton, Fools, Le Stelle De Lu Cielu.
Score: 8/10

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Crosslight – Road to Recovery (Review)

Distorted guitars, harsh bass lines and drum patterns, Crosslight‘s music is full of angst. The band formed in early 2016 and have already toured around the UK. As well as playing shows, the band have spent a lot of time in the studio recording their debut album “Road to Recovery.”  The album was released on the 6th May 2018, and I’m finally getting round to sitting down and reviewing it. Crosslight are energetic and so passionate about their work and it completely shines through every word and chord. Their live shows showcase their talent to audiences through the ages and it certainly leaves people wanting more. The band consists of

The first track, “Recovery” begins with what sounds like a heart monitor in a hospital, sneakily involving the background noise of a waiting room. Before we know it, the song transitions into track number two; “Run Into Flowers.” This song has had a really good reception so far from fans with reaching over 1,000 plays on Spotify. Lead singer, Charlotte’s voice compliments the song also sounding heavily influenced from Hayley Williams of Paramore. Musically, the track is fast and upbeat, giving the album a good start off. Hopefully the momentum sticks all the way throughout. I find the guitar tone slightly a bit generic and not very creative for a pop metal song, but it still suits the song well. If you’re a fan of the nu-metal scene in the noughties, you probably will like this track.

“Clockwork” tells the story of what feels like a battle with a mental illness with this lyric indicating the struggle; “I’ve had enough, I’ll rid the curse be normal again.” Metal is hard to not fall into the category of sounding all the same because of its aggresion and similar rhythmical guitar patterns, but Charlotte really draws you in to listen to the story. I feel that the repetition of this track makes it actually more original.

The fourth track on the album, “Time Wasted” is a bit more electronic to begin with, adding another influence into Crosslight’s inspirations. It’s a short song which adds strength to embark on the next song “Karma.” Now, this song is heavy and deals with angst from, well, karma. What goes around comes around honey, we’ve all gone through it, wherever we’re watching someone go through karma or going through it ourselves. I find that the song itself has the same attitude of shrugging your shoulders, it’s simply put as a care free nature of “Whatever!” The chorus lyrics aren’t quite the normal, metal lyrics you’d get, it’s more of an Avril Lavigne tone which is really different. “You run around oh so careless honey, karma’s gonna catch up soon, I’m done with you.” The rhythm is slightly different compared to the other tracks on the album, but it still has a similar vibe to it all. Strongest track on he album so far for me.

“Fighting for What? falls into the same attitude as everything else so far, and as a listener, I’m longing for another influence in the band’s music to make it slightly more original. The drums are so programmed which makes the song feel forced. I think the band were definitely aiming towards an angry, powerful album instead of the music actually being more felt, which is definitely not a negative thing, it’s just a personal preference. I really admire the band for striving for something and getting the product done the way they wanted it.

Overdriven bass played by Daniel begins the next song “Poison” which creates a tone that Chris Wolstenholme defines in Muse. I feel that the song doesn’t dynamically go anywhere, it stays the same throughout. I’d really like to hear Charlotte sing different phrases/tones to make the songs slightly more interesting, but saying that, I do like the angry attitude in her voice. At the very end of the song, it’s really interesting how everything just completely stops and there’s just a slightly delay that comes after from Charlotte’s voice making it sound confusing as if there’s more to come, but there’s not… clever.

“100,000 Miles” begins with a ukulele which was very unexpected seeing as the album is so angry. The song does have a rhythmical metal sounding guitar part by Luke come swiftly in after the first verse, making the band go back to their roots. I think the band tried to make this a folk-metal track with the soft string instruments sitting in the back, but it doesn’t work as well as planned I personally think. I’ve noticed that in most of the songs on the album, it feels very stiff and mixed to the grid making it sound somewhat robotic. This is used a-lot in heavy metal music as it does add more power to the songs.

A heavy prog-esque riff dominates “Submerge” and automatically I thought to myself “this is more like it.” The tone is scary and makes you instantly want to move in someway, wherever it may be a foot twitch or a head bang. The guitar tone sounds similar to the sound that Queens of the Stone Age implicated on Songs for the Deaf, which is always a great compliment. I like how the band bring their own flavouring to this prog based song. It’s definitely my favourite on the album for sure.

“Just a Kiss” features Amal Birch, a freestyle rap artist. The song definitely has an influence of what Jay Z captured with 99 Problems; the rap rock element. The rap itself from Amal feels a bit too fixed and I really wish it was a bit more loose. The words are really well thought out though and fit the topic well. With the programmed drums, it’s just not quite as powerful as this song should be. I could be completely wrong about the drums being programmed, but the mix sounds like they have been edited quite a lot. I’m sure this song live will be really great to listen to with drummer, Joe, laying down some juicy drum fills. I feel that the topic of the track is about simply having a kiss with someone in, maybe a club, well that’s what it sounds like.

Once again, the next song doesn’t really go anywhere, and sometimes when that happens, it doesn’t take me to a place. Whereas songs that have a strong momentum all the way through, it makes people shift to another place where they can really relate to the song. Saying that, in “B.A.C.K”, you can feel the energy that the band bring in their music, they really do live for this stuff. One thing that people look for in new bands are charisma, talent & passion, Crosslight certainly do have that.

The guitars in “Kingdom is Mine” aren’t quite quantised to the same tempo as the drums in some parts making the guitars sound unfinished and sort of out of time. This song is once again nu-metal down to a tee. I feel the influences behind this song are Halestorm and Evanescence with all three bands having a strong female vocal. I like the path that the band go down with their music but like I’ve said before, it’s not really my personal preference to listen too.

Next up is actually an acoustic number, Charlotte sings “Drive On” with an American twang making it show that her voice is versatile and can sing through genres. This folk number feels slightly forced still and the harsh drum editing is more obvious than before as this song is so soft. I feel that the cymbals being played, more a less constantly make the song sound a bit messy. Overall though, the song is sweet and is also the longest track on the whole album.

The last track on the album “I’m Not Done” isn’t really a stand out track as much as the last of an album should be. The song does cover the band’s genre as a whole and connects the songs altogether to fit a nice pattern for the album. If you’re a fan of My Chemical Romance, The Used, Tonight Alive, then you should definitely check Crosslight out.  The band cover a wide range of influences in their music and make them fresh. The songs are good and the talent shines. Interested to see where the band may take their music in their next releases…

Favourite Tracks: Recovery, Run Into Flowers, Clockwork, Time Wasted, Karma, Submerge.

Score: 6.5/10

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https://www.crosslight.band/

Quill – Grey Goose Call (EP Review)

Quill are not only known for their unique musical style… they create a musical journey through the ages with their live set up. After listening to Grey Goose Call, it’s now a fact that they create the same energetic live essence throughout the studio recording. They sit comfortably within the celtic folk/rock genre and it’s safe to say, the latest line up have brought a fresh new sound to their music. With Grey Goose Call written by the band themselves, the 4 songs take us into a dark, but warming entrance to what feels like a new beginning.

The title track of the EP begins with a gentle goose calling, before strong harmonies that really remind of Fleetwood Mac’s tone’s enter. The band have adapted to their influences through time, but made sure their sound becomes so fresh to listen to. For a 6:12 minutes long song, it captivates you all the way through. As the song dynamically builds, the sound becomes quite diverse and intricate. The bass comfortably sits in the mix, but you can constantly hear the pulse repeating. I must say, the production is really intense and in your face with elements of Fairport Convention shining through. Having string instruments gives the song a complete different style. I personally feel if the strings weren’t in this track, it would sound more like a pop orientated track. Joy’s emotional vocals tell the story of simply hearing the “Grey Goose Call.” Maybe the goose is a symbolic structure of something? It could be a metaphor for a cry for help. In my opinion, the percussion and drums replicates the simplicity of the song, but by making it sound complex. The rhythm makes it sound kind of African and upbeat. This is a very strong song to set the bar quite high for what sounds like a warming welcome to the sound of Quill. The song ends just as it begins, indicating that yes, this is end, but it’s certainly not over yet.

“Elephant in the Room” begins with footsteps creeping up into a simple 4/4 beat. The guitars sound heavily influenced by old progressive rock tones, similar to bands like Genesis. Quill take a simple blues sounding song and subtle add tasty melodic guitar lines over the top, making it an extremely versatile song. The chorus is moody and has the ability to haunt anyone with the harmonies generating new, elegant parts throughout. An elephant in the room is a metaphor for an obvious problem in a room basically, and I really like how Quill can take a personal matter but make the problem not known. It leaves the audience asking “what is the actual problem?” Questioning an audience is a good thing in my opinion, because they are wanting to know more about your music, indicating them to keep on listening. I love how this song isn’t rushed and is played to indicate an emotion of love. When the instruments are all cut out to just the drums, it makes me feel that anything could happen next. The drums completely stop to just Joy singing “elephant in the room” which end with a subtle breath like sigh making the audience realise that after all this time, the actual problem and the elephant in the room, was simply the singer.

The subtly comes through this song with Joy’s vocals sounding exceptionally emotional. Having someone’s affection is the most warming feeling in the world and I really like how Quill have managed to replicate this feeling through “Skin on Skin.” This song is moody in the essence that it really grips you to hold onto every part of the song. All of the members of Quill have had a memorable history in music and I really like how they bring all their stories into one, creating a really big influence to their fans. This song would really be a lovely wedding dance for a couple, as the comfort of the song is so calming. There’s genuinely no negativity shining in this song, making it really a big moment on the EP. Dynamically, the song doesn’t build as much as the others on the EP, but it works so well to keep such a calming momentum.

The last track on the EP is a fist pump for wanting love. The whole EP is situated round love and the different aspects that you want. We have Skin on Skin which is the comfort of affection, whereas the vibe I’m getting from “Little Affection” is needing to be loved. It’s the longest track on the EP and it constantly builds with influences of world music being mirrored constantly. The rhythm of the song just makes you tap your feet and really dive into the music. “I forgotten what it felt like to fall in love” takes us into a new element of the song; really needing this love otherwise things could fall apart. I personally feel that the singer is needing this love to carry on, it’s her well-being and soul on the line, if she doesn’t get this love, something bad could happen. It makes me think; what is she actually in love with? could it be being in love with the meaning of love? a friend? a piece of music? It could be anything, which makes me like this a whole lot more. The sense of not knowing what the topic is throughout the EP makes me drawn to Quill’s music more. We never really know what the actual concept Joy is singing about which is great, we’re just left with the topic of love. This track is one that the whole band wrote together which strangely enough, makes the song so much bigger than the others on the track. It’s definitely the stand out, rock ballad of the EP. It’s proggy in the aspect that the concept is here, there and everywhere.

As a whole, the EP is truly wonderful. I’m lucky enough to be supporting Quill on the 8th June at the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove.

The musicians on the album consist of Joy Strachan-Brain on vocals, Kate McWilliam on violin and backing vocals, Abby Brant on keyboards and backing vocals, Tony Kelsey on guitars and backing vocals, Matt Worley on bass and backing vocals, Andy Edwards on the drums and the ELO legend, Bev Bevan on percussion… we now realise the secret behind Quill’s full sound, the extremely talented musicians behind the songs. 

Favourite Tracks: Elephant in the Room, Skin on Skin, Little Affection
Score: 7.5/10

https://quillbanduk.bandcamp.com/
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http://www.quilluk.com/

 

Junior Weeb, Coat of Many & Dan James Griffin live at The Copcut Elm, Droitwich – 11th May 2018 (Review)

As part of this review, I wanted to say a bit about Kidderminster College. I’ve been studying at Kidderminster College for 4 years now and my time is up in June. I’ve met some amazing musicians on the way who have turned into great friends. On the 11th May, I went to the Copcut Elm to see 3 college acts play a gig and even though, I don’t go into college as much as I’d like anymore, the college itself is amazing as it brings us musicians together. Without college, I may never have known about these lovely people. 

First to take the stage was Dan James Griffin, I reviewed Dan’s album 4am last year which you can read here. Still to this day, Dan’s music just completely blows my mind. His technique and love for his instrument shines through every single performance he showcases. He uses such versatile, tight rhythms that creates this prog- math rock & hip hop vibe to his songs. His bright tone glows throughout all of his performances creating another level of music. As Dan is more of an “online” artist, it’s always an honour to see him live and it’s definitely something you don’t want to miss. I must say though, the PA that was used for this event wasn’t suited for the pub as such and wasn’t as powerful as hoped, but each artist dealt with the sound and managed to pull off a brilliant performance anyway.

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Next up on the evening were a newly formed band, Coat of Many, and I swear to god, each time I see them, they get better and better. The chemistry they all have on stage delivers to create this lovely warm pop sound. The group are mainly composed by two songwriters; Ellie & Theone. Ellie is known for writing deep, meaningful love songs and Theone explains her love for the world with reggae, blues and even soul numbers. The two girls and their musical talents radiate off each other which truly inspires the listeners. I love how the band will take things down to quite slow beat tracks but still hold the audience’s attention throughout each song, whether it’s slow or fast tempo. The band as a whole have this charisma that every artist should inspire to have and my goodness, they sure do love what they do. As do the listeners. 

https://www.facebook.com/CoatOfMany/
https://www.instagram.com/coatofmanyuk/

The headline band of the night were the insanely talented, Junior Weeb. The band from Droitwich brought in a great crowd for the whole of the night which was so amazing to see people listen to mainly originals all night and enjoy it in a pub! The boys create a 90’s grunge, indie-funk sound with their music drawing inspirations from, what sounds like Sonic Youth, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Wolf Alice to name a few. The rhythm section: Max Killing (bass) and Quentin Hill (drums) deliver a solid effort throughout their performances with adding small fills that sound heavily influenced by jazz fusion artists; Weather Report. It was the first night I had seen Junior Weeb play in a while and they have improved so much to tighter their craft and deliverance. The inspirations from their performance were truly breathtaking with even them covering an old instrumental song “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny. This song saw Joe (lead guitar) and Max (bass) switch instruments, Joe took to bass and Max played a lap steel guitar. It was really nice to see the boys play something different for the audience to hear and it surely made them stand out even more. 

https://www.facebook.com/juniorweebband/
https://www.instagram.com/juniorweeb_/
https://soundcloud.com/juniorweeb

As a whole, the night was oozing with talent and I’m so proud to have these musicians as not only contacts but also friends. Do check out their music, you won’t be disappointed. 

Jeff Buckley – Grace (Review)

In my eyes, “Grace” is the best album of all time. Without Grace, my life would be so much more different to how it is now. When I first found Jeff Buckley’s music, it turned my life completely around and made me realise how much music means to me. It really opened my eyes to how much I want a career in music. There’s not really a day that goes by when I don’t listen to at least one song off Grace. Jeff has been my biggest inspiration in songwriting for about 4 years now and there’s so many things that I would have loved to ask him. He left this world far too soon and there will never be another artist like him.

“Mojo Pin” starts with angelic vocals from Jeff which makes us feel that this could be a perfectly soft song. When the percussion is slowly but surely added, the tension starts rising to make the audience believe “hey… this isn’t going to be soft at all, is it?” The lyrics explain a feeling of addiction, to either drugs or a person. Jeff also indicated once that the song was about a dream he had about a black woman. He also apparently invented the term “Mojo Pin” which makes it clear that it’s when you inject drugs into your arm. I feel if anxiety or even bipolar had a sound, it would be this song. The dynamics are constantly shifting up and down, whereas the vocals gradually build all the way through to the end with this refreshing power from Jeff. I personally feel that the song could be took in an unusual way too, perhaps Jeff was actually addicted to a person? He definitely wasn’t a drug addict or alcoholic, if he was ever addicted to something, it would have been love or music. As the song proceeds, it builds up making it sound that Jeff was getting frustrated with love for this woman. For such a gentle start to the album, Mojo Pin is simply put as an iconic song for Jeff. It showcases that he could be so soft and caring, but really show he meant business when he screamed of his pain at the same time.

I’ve always loved the imperfections of Jeff’s work, he never aimed to have things perfectly in time or sang correctly, he just performed the music to how it should be done, by felt. After the second chorus, a free, messy, jazz-fusion jam enters that’s totally unexpected but without it, the song wouldn’t have that tension yearning for release. As the jam comes to an end, we’re comforted by Jeff’s angelic vocals, singing a soft, melodic line that just sends shivers down my spine. Through Mojo Pin, it’s Jeff’s voice that just stuns the whole performance to make it such an amazing start to a debut album. The use of drug imagery in this song is so delicate and painful that it makes the audience feel like we’re on drugs too. Jeff’s love for this woman makes us feel that Jeff felt his problems would go away if he had love in his life. The change of rhythm from mid-beat to upbeat could prove more of his frustration for love. “The white horses flow, memories fire, the rhythms fall slow, black beauty I love you so” is a much deeper lyric than it sounds. White horse is another name for Heroin, Heroin affects your “memories”, and makes your heart beat slow. Plus black beauty is another word for speed. Like I said, his imagery of drugs is painfully amazing. It’s dark, twisted & stunning.

The title track, “Grace” was originally an instrumental song written by Gary Lucas and Jeff added the vocal melody and lyrics. The song begins with a complex guitar hook that’s memorable and is all about the rhythm more than the notes. It twinkles brightly and gives across a romantic vibe that makes you long for love too. The song is in the key of E minor, but uses chords that aren’t found in that scale, which makes the song sound hard to recognise what key it is actually in. Jeff wrote the lyrics inspired by saying goodbye to his girlfriend at an airport in the rain. The song is more about not feeling bad about yourself when you have true love by your side. Grace is about keeping alive and staying true to yourself even when you feel things may be going bad. Grace was the first Jeff Buckley song I ever listened too and it holds a very special place in my heart. “There’s the moon asking to stay” is terribly sad, as asking to stay could imply that death is sometimes closer than we think. “Long enough for the clouds to fly me away” indicates flying away to heaven. You could say that Jeff turned a negative feeling into a positive healing. “Well it’s my time coming, I’m not afraid, afraid to die”… I really hope that lyric was true.

In the second verse, Jeff’s guitar is in counterpoint with his lyrics “but she cries to the clicking of time, oh time” to add effect to the clicking of time. Another great thing about Jeff was that he was so intelligent too, he knew exactly how he wanted his songs to sound. Later in the song, it seems that he’s singing about drowning: “I feel them drown my name, so easy to know and forget with this kiss, I’m not afraid to go, but it goes so slow.” This is so upsetting, as that’s the way Jeff left us. The choruses famous “wait in the fire” is linked to a Sufi idea which isn’t surprising as Jeff loved Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Sufi’s often said that their love for God is like a fire that cleanses the soul. I must say that the vocal power in Grace is the one thing that just leaves me speechless every time I hear it. Jeff literally just screamed this one note for over 10 seconds, ending the vocal phrase with an even higher note. It showcases that he really was one of the best vocalists of all time with his range just frying my brain. The instrumentation of the song keeps the same chilling emotion throughout with the instruments sometimes making inhumane noises that sound like things that might linger in hell. I completely love the message that Jeff gave with this song. What’s the point in feeling scared of death? We know we will all become of it one day, but we’re living right now. Live here, in this moment, don’t long for death, because it will come eventually.

“Last Goodbye” starts with what sounds like it’s going to be a heavy, country rock song. The bass line plays what could be a vocal line or potentially a riff, but before to long, the drums indicate a new section of the song featuring a more acoustic chilled vibe before taking it back to the bass riff. When the song starts properly after the interesting introduction, it’s slightly less interesting to what we would have hoped for. The song is about a man who’s in love with a woman but still breaks things off with her for no reason at all, possibly feeling that he isn’t up to her expectations. I feel with the orchestral instruments on this song, it makes it sound like something that Page and Plant would have performed on their 1994 No Quarter tour. It’s a stunning arrangement, but it doesn’t feel as big as the first two songs on the album. It’s a love ballad prominently, Jeff definitely did have a lot of emotions to get out about love, which makes me feel sad, maybe he took most of it to the grave? The song features segments throughout of hard rock layers that causes more tension for the song. I really like how this song doesn’t really have a chorus, it just has the main hook line, which is short, sweet but still memorable. Overall, the song deals with feeling good about a break up but slowly regretting it.

The next track is the first of the three covers on Grace, “Lilac Wine.” Written by James Shelton, Jeff’s version is drowned in a delicious reverb that doesn’t have a strong delay to it either. It’s spacious, stunning and free. The lyrics are kindled around heartache of losing a lover and taking to drinking wine made from a lilac tree. It’s a mellow, pop ballad that completely drifts you off to another planet. I love the short silences in this song which creates a dynamic, tensed shift. Jeff certainly made everything his own. If you haven’t heard already, he did a cover of an old jazz song called Strange Fruit and it’s completely mesmerizing.

An elegant, guitar sequence is played at the beginning of “So Real” and then falls into a minor chord indicating the entrance to the first verse. So Real is a personal favourite of mine as it takes you through a dark mellow rollercoaster of isolation and love. This song could be the aftermath of Last Goodbye (the break up) and now living with the regret of ending a relationship that was actually good. “And I couldn’t awake from this nightmare, it sucked me in and pulled me under” is a horrific lyric about being fearful of drowning. Jeff Buckley fans always find it hard to listen to certain lyrics and that’s definitely one of them. As we get to the half way mark of the song, we get to a section that’s so scary. Jeff had a few songs in with sections that sounded exactly like monsters stalking earth for their prey.

I completely believe that with this song in particular, you have to be in a mind-set to listen to it to fully understand it. One time, I listened to the scary section and wasn’t in a listening mindset and ended up hearing a lawn mower which ruined that part for me for a short while. What I’m trying to say is, give that section a chance, you’ll even be petrified of it or find it funny, there’s not really an in-between. As the section comes to a close, everything goes silent, before Jeff enters with “I love you, but I’m afraid to love you.” The instruments start again but slightly slower than before, but the pace gradually picks up again. The song is truly stunning, the instrumentation is beautiful, but with the lyrics as a combination, it becomes a cry for help. The lyrics and music compliment each other so nicely that it leaves you completely stunned of what’s just happened after listening to it. Jeff’s vocal performance towards the end of the song becomes so historic that it leaves me with goosebumps every time I hear it. The song is completely real and the atmosphere brought to it is nerve-wracking. It’s lonely and isolated to the point where it makes you feel uneasy when listening to it alone. Jeff’s vocal ability always managed to reassure the listeners that everything’s going to be ok.

The most famous track in Jeff’s discography just happens to be a cover and the most beautiful cover to ever be released? It could well be. The sigh at the beginning of “Hallelujah” is so powerful yet so questionable. Why’s it there for? To mark a hard song is ahead? Possibly. That’s one thing that will be left untold. The song was written by Leonard Cohen who passed away in 2016, and it’s about a love which has gone stale and out of date. Cohen used a lot of religious imagery, referring to the bible. It also refers to how this woman is in charge of her man and that he can’t take control because of her feminine features. The whole performance by Jeff is purely electric guitar and vocals, it sure does keep you captivated the whole way through. The guitar work is intricate and states another argument… could Jeff Buckley have been one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived too? He could well be. Before the last verse, Jeff takes us into an instrumental break before ending the song dynamically powerful. He didn’t scream the vocals, but he did shout a bit to get his message across before ending with his pure angelic vocals. The longest track on the album at 6:52, and it’s definitely not a track that you’ll be skipping anytime soon. Jeff’s version makes the song of praise into a yearning for acceptance track. It gives the same simplicity of Lilac Wine does, but this cover is so raw that it leaves you cold and wanting warmth by listening to it on repeat.

Jeff realised and finally understood, that his life was full of failed relationships. In “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over”, he recognised that he had been too immature in a relationship, but figured out the girl he broke up with could have actually been the “one.” The song is entered with what sounds like interference before an accordion plays an irish style folk melody or something that you’d hear in a church. I think that Grace could be took as a love, concept album that deals with the processes of love – love, heartbreak, immaturity, regret to name a few. The most precious thing about Jeff was his originality. There was no one like him before and there will never be anyone like him again. He had influences and inspirations obviously, from Led Zeppelin, Django Reinhardt, but he shined through with his own sound which inspired many people around the world and still does do this day. The song takes us through a long, hard battle as she didn’t come over like he wanted her too, but if she ever was too, he would have always welcomed her back in open arms. If he was still alive today and she came back, maybe that would have had a long, happy life together. It’s so upsetting and heartbreaking to think what if.

The song has been covered by Jamie Cullum, John Mayer and Matt Corby to name a few, who all have Jeff Buckley as a strong influence in their music, especially Matt Corby. I’d personally say that this song isn’t quite up there with all the others on the album, but it still is in its own league. It’s important on this album because it keeps the love process, concept, real. No matter what we go through, we all have heart-break eventually, maybe that’s not necessarily a relationship breaking up, it’s the loss of someone. I couldn’t imagine what Jeff’s family felt like when he unexpectedly passed away.

“Corpus Christi Carol” is the last cover on the album and it’s a hymn from 1504, which Jeff sings completely like an angel. Jeff once said that the song is about a fairytale about a falcon who takes the singers love to an orchard. The singer goes searching for her and arrives at a chamber where his love lies next to a knight who’s bleeding, with a tomb next to him with Christ’s body in it. It’s a pretty dark song that sounds so beautiful from Jeff’s vocals which is blinding us of what’s actually happening. The song is the shortest track on the album at 2:57 and critics have said before “What’s the point of it even being on here?” but without it, we wouldn’t have heard Jeff’s vocal range took to a whole new level. I’m sure if anyone else in the 1990’s took a hymn like this, recorded it and put it on their album, they wouldn’t have pulled it off, but because Jeff was always on his own level and didn’t ever care what others thought, he pulled it off brilliantly.

The second to last track on the album, “Eternal Life” has been said to be heavily inspired by Led Zeppelin, but Jeff had his own refreshing sound that still sounds new after over 20 years later. The song is mainly about anger and that life’s way to short to care about what others think of you, your colour, religious beliefs etc. We are all different, let’s just except that. You can take this song as a protest song to be honest, because Jeff stood up for what he believed in and believed that everyone was unique in their own way. The main lyric that stands out to me is “There’s no time for hatred, only questions, where is love? where is happiness? what is life? where is peace?” which indicates that the only thing we see in the media is fear. We never see the happy. Jeff tried to get the message across that people need to be asking the questions he stated. What is life? What is the purpose of life if there’s no love or happiness? Still to this day, that message is so important. I wish more people would listen to Jeff and especially this song to understand that yes, it’s ok to not be ok, but question yourself more about the things that you do.

It’s political, but not in the aspect that he’s saying “you should vote for this person” which I adore. I don’t really like when artists state who to vote for and who to like, when again, we all have our own opinions so let’s stick to them and not follow what others think. As the song is angry, I really love how Jeff and his band let rip and let loose in this song. It’s an iconic moment for the Grace album. This track is quite Nirvana esque too. 

The last track on what is the most important album to ever exist to me is “Dream Brother.” The guitar refrain is quite a simple melody that doesn’t sound as original as I hoped it would have been when I first heard it, but it’s still so effective. The song was written by Jeff, bassist Mick and drummer Matt, and it was written about a friend of theirs, Chris Dowd, urging him to not walk out on his girlfriend who was pregnant at the time (which Jeff’s dad Tim Buckley did to him.) The song is quite moody and is definitely the definition of a 90’s indie track. The song is quite experimental too and a strong one in Jeff’s small catalogue. I must say though, for it being the last track on the album, it doesn’t really give off a happy send off, but it definitely leaves you wanting more songs. Which we never really got or never will get… It’s a deep and meaningful album that leaves us wanting to know answers. Plus, it’s an emotional goodbye to the legend that is, Jeff Buckley.

Grace will always hold a special place in my heart, as will Jeff Buckley entirely. The album captivates me from start to finish every time I listen to it. Wanting more and knowing there will never be anymore, makes Grace more special.

We miss you Jeff, hope you’re taking it easy wherever you are.

(This review is of the original track listing – Forget Her was released in 2004 on the 10 year anniversary of Grace reissue.)
Favourite Tracks: Mojo Pin, Grace, Last Goodbye, Lilac Wine, So Real, Hallelujah, Eternal Life, Dream Brother.

Score: 10/10

Ronald Maas – Aries (EP Review)

Ron’s been an important sideman for sometime now more than a frontman, but things have definitely changed with this new adventure. His first EP under his name, the four track EP, “Aries” is exciting and blends in all of Ron’s skills that he’s learnt so far. This doesn’t mean that he’ll stop being a sideman, he will still be honouring both positions. With his music being described as spaced out Supertramp, I couldn’t agree more.

The EP starts with a lovely song called “Too Close To See.” It’s quirky and features really clever chord changes throughout. The song topic is really interesting thought out as it could mean that sometimes, we are too blind to see what it’s front of us. It’s the famous saying that we all know. Some good things have been under our nose the whole time sometimes. The vocals are phrased in a way that it gives it more of a progressive feel to the song, creating a Porcupine Tree meets pop vibe. Vocals in any song don’t necessarily need to be powerful to get a message across and this song clearly delivers that. Ron’s vocals aren’t dynamically powerful, but they’re emotionally as he’s singing about something that he personally feels strong about. “Any of us could clearly understand it, but none of us are far enough to see” could mean that perhaps things are really easy to understand once you get your head around it, but sometimes we need to be further down the line to get the understanding understood. A wacky example of this could be; a child believing in the easer bunny, but as they grow up, they understand that it’s not real.

I’m getting Jamie Cullum vibes from the next track “Oh Darling Won’t You” with it being jazz influenced, with still the pop elements too. Contemporary pop is how I’d personally describe the pop side of Ron’s music, seeing as it’s definitely more elegant than chart pop music. It’s a sad love song which deals with suffering and gives off a “oh darling, won’t you please help me ease my pain” feel to the song. The vocal melody doesn’t change much throughout the verses which leaves it sounding more simple. I would have liked to have heard different verses sang differently. The choruses for any song should always be prominently shown to help the listeners remember, but I feel the chorus in this song isn’t as powerful as intended. Saying that, the song is still great, I just feel there could have been a lot more to it.

“Rustle in the Yard” starts off just like a normal pop track would, but then it goes to a prominent minor fall and it gives the song a whole new direction. This song has the same pop element throughout as the others have done so far, but the electric guitar in the background gives it more of a rich, jazz-blues tone to it, which is nice to hear another influence come through Ron’s music. It’s upbeat, energetic and fits nicely to the soundtrack of my day as I’m currently sat, reviewing this EP out in the garden on a sunny day, and it definitely fits the environment. I feel Ron intended the lyric “there’s a rustle in the yard” to be the hook line, but it appears to be more the lyric “you are wondering, that is what it starts with.” The intricate chord changes in this hook line really captures this major part of the song more and more each time you hear it.

The melodic and eerie piano carries throughout the same jazz/pop influence in “Lines in the Darkness” as all of the other tracks on the EP does. This is probably the best track on the whole EP purely because of the power behind it. Drawing lines in the darkness is such a clever topic to sing about because, how can we actually see lines in the darkness? Our eyes can’t adapt fully to being in the darkness. Do the lines ever end? It could be more about an endless, exhausting battle of trauma. The brass section in the song really gives it such a big sound making it have a more traditional, 1930’s jazz kind of sound to it. I really admire how Ron has done more of this EP by himself, except for the artwork, mixing, drums, trombone and trumpet. Lines in the Darkness is a really nice close to a great EP and a lovely debut for Ron’s frontman works.

Ron must be excited for the future and this EP could really put him on the map.

Favourite Tracks: Too Close To See, Rustle in the Yard, Lines in the Darkness
Score: 7/10

http://www.ronald-maas.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKddfbxRpGfEa1deXR8y1gQ