St Paul and the Broken Bones – a band formed by God herself

St Paul and the Broken Bones

I never believed I would hear another voice like Otis Redding’s until the day I heard St Paul and the Broken Bones.

St Paul and the Broken Bones
© St Paul and the Broken Bones // Facebook

Switching on Later with Jools Holland in October 2016, I caught the end of the Temptations singing one of their all time classics and decided to leave the program on for a while. Eventually, St Paul and the Broken Bones would start to play their original number ‘Burning Rome’ and I would be left in complete awe.

Frontman and vocalist Paul Janeway (apparently) looks like a bigger built version of Drew Carey, but you quickly forget what his may look like as soon as his mouth opens. Once his vocal cords begin to vibrate you are instantaneously transported into the depths of your internal soul. Born into a strict religious household on a diet of gospel, it’s not difficult to hear where Paul Janeway got his vocal training from. The man oozes 1960’s soul like a toothpaste tube stuffed full of The Big O’s own blood.

Backed by a 6 piece band, the recipe results in such an authentic sound that even with their own modern twist, it’s impossible not to get swept away to 1962. With the classic sound of the brass instruments, and the power of Paul Janeway’s voice, you’d be forgiven for thinking God herself was responsible for forming St Paul and the Broken Bones. Fate certainly seemed to play a part.

“It’s really difficult for me not to sing every time like it’s the last time I’m going to be on the planet,” Janeway said in a recent interview with npr.com.

As a singer myself, I have no idea how he hits those notes time and time again without his head exploding from the blood cells filling his upper back and neck.

If you like your music full of authentic Soul or if you just love good honest and powerful music, you need to check out St Paul and the Broken Bones. They’re coming to tour the UK in January 2017.

 

Richard Ayoade: finally there’s a reason to watch Great British Bake Off

Richard Ayoade

As rumours circles that Richard Ayoade may be the new presenter of Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off reboot, I suddenly found myself interested in the program for the first time since I switched off due to Mel and Sue’s trite attempts at sexually half-baked references.

For those of us who like sarcastic humour (who doesn’t?), Richard Ayoade seems the perfect candidate to replace Mel and Sue. Those who have ever watched him will already know that his  cutting prose is some of the best on British TV.

With his clever whit and extremely dry sarcasm, Ayoade made it to fame acting in programs including The Mighty Boosh, The IT Crowd and more recently a documentary called Travel Man; which saw him travel some of the worlds best places alongside other celebrities including Jo Brand and Johnny Vegas.

“Why have a pet hate? Why should it be confined? My hate is both wide ranging and total” – Richard Ayoade

 

Does Richard Ayoade enjoy baking?

I have no idea, but does it really matter? After Paul Hollywood sold his soul to Channel 4, we can let him worry about the soggy bottoms and let Ayoade do what he does best – slate the worst bread rolls and chocolate gateau’s without the contestants realising a thing. I don’t have the cognitive capacity to imagine how amazing his reviews of the contestants baked goods could be (it’s like trying to imagine the end of space) but you can be confident they will be very, very good.

 

Review: ‘Simply Swing’ Big Band

simply-swing-katey
Katey Robinson

Since it’s inception in the 1920’s, Swing music has continued to span generations, and it’s alive and kicking in the heart of Essex thanks to a new live show called ‘Simply Swing‘. The band was formed in 2015 by Richard Alcock who has had a life-long ambition to put together a big-band, and he hasn’t scrimped on the professionalism.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the venue in Braintree for a matinee performance but was very quickly tapping my feet and clicking my fingers to the music. Simply Swing isn’t just another set of songs thrown into 90 minutes of music. Instead, it’s a brief history of Swing from the 1920’s right up until today which are performed by some of the most talented musicians and singers in Essex. Although only a vocal cast of three, the performers have been chosen with excellent care and include Michael Hicks (who has been singing swing for over 15 years as ‘Mr Clementine’). I was especially drawn to the young lady who sang a number of songs, who looked and sounded as if she had just been plucked out of a 1930’s gig in New Orleans. She oozed the genre in every song she performed.

The Simply Swing Brass Section
The Simply Swing Brass Section

The show uses state of the art audio-visual effects on a back-of-stage big screen, and includes authentic narration to take you back to the beginning of the Swing genre eventually bringing you to the current day. You learn about artists including Bobby Darrin, Frank Sinatra, Glenn Miller and Peggy Lee in the first half of the show, and then progress into more current artistes such as Robbie Williams and Michael Buble for the second; all names associated with spreading Swing music across 9 decades. This is all directed and controlled by a man who has much experience in producing AV for theatre productions, and it shows.

michael-hicks-simply-swingAs well as vocal performances, Simply Swing also include a number of instrumentals. I was really struck by the quality of the performances. The band was tight and well rehearsed, but they added their own modern flair to the music. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Glenn Miller’s ‘Moonlight Serenade’ and later the excellent medley’s which were included. Nothing about the performances felt sterile…it was all very natural.

I’ve seen swing bands before, and Simply Swing has to be one of the best sounds for show made up of just 10 members. The musicians are versatile, with some of the brass section switching from saxophone to clarinet and the drummer, Paul Codling, was extremely solid. The same can be said for the rest of the band which is mainly made up of professionals who share a passion for good quality live music.

If you are at all interested in Swing music, of just fancy something a bit different, you need to see Simply Swing live at one of their gigs across East Anglia. It’s a five star experience for any age group and even older childen who are interested in live music will enjoy this show.

Credits: All photographs used in this article are copyright Dave Denby Photography

Top Gear branded ‘Flop Gear’ by BBC critics

Top Gear

The new BBC Top Gear has been branded ‘Flop Gear’ by critics who have heavily criticised the brand on social media.

Complaints included criticism of Chris Evans’ “shouty” style of presenting, Matt Le Blanc’s “awkward banter” with the show’s host and Evans’ attempts “to be Jeremy Clarkson”.

Like many, I was highly anticipating the new Top Gear, hoping that new presenters and a new producer would bring a new format. Sadly, what viewers received was a very poor copy of a once great show.

I wanted the new show to do well. I found the original line-up of Clarkson, May and Hammond funny, but I didn’t care that they had left. I was sure that the BBC would bring back the show bigger and better than before…they utterly failed.

Chris Evans was the wrong choice as main host

chris-evans-top-gearThe problem with Chris Evans splits into three main area – he tried to copy Clarkson, he shouted too much and he isn’t a journalist. Whilst Evans has a fleet of expensive classic cars (including a $6million 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder), and whilst he had previously spoken of his passion for fast cars, it was clear from the program that he was struggling to be himself.

At times, he was clearly attempting to mimic Jeremy Clarkson style of presenting, and it felt cheesy. He felt like a poor quality photocopy to listen to, and he shouted far too often. Add this to the new set which two-tiered standing, and you’d be forgiven for thinking this new show was TFI Friday meets Top Gear; two programs that should never be mixed.

Matt Le Blanc was slightly better

Matt Le Blanc is a self-confessed car nut and was decent enough at presenting the VT’s, but his banter with Chris Evans was awkward to watch. The two men couldn’t be any further apart when it comes to presenting. Le Blanc was quieter and more self-controlled but at times it felt as if he was struggling to remember the script. Lots of dead air.

Where were the women?

Vicki Butler-Henderson would have been a great choice as a host
Vicki Butler-Henderson would have been a great choice as a host

Other than a quick VT featuring Top Gear regular Sabine Schmitz, the BBC clearly missed a great opportunity to get a woman into the show as a main producer. There were plenty of choices available to the BBC, including Former F1 driver Suzie Wolff, car nut and 5th Gear host Vicki Butler-Henderson, or even former BBC F1 host Suzi Perry.

There simply aren’t enough women presenting car-related programs on television and the BBC missed out on an opportunity to change that. If we’re going to get young women into engineering and motorracing then we need more women role models for them to look up to.

Why was Chris Harris relegated to the spin-off show ‘Extra Gear’?

Anyone who has watched Chris Harris on Youtube knows he’s an excellent presenter. He really understands cars. He’s a racing driver. His style of presenting is much better suited to the Top Gear format. He should have been a main host.

The BBC missed an opportunity to completely re-boot Top Gear

The BBC could have made the new Top Gear different, but instead have tried to hold on to the money-spinner which was Top Gear of old. They, like me, have to accept that it just isn’t the same without Clarkson, Hammond and May. I doubt the program will make another series.

Time to switch over to Amazon Prime and get ready for the new Clarkson show ‘The Grand Tour’, released Autumn 2016.

Songs you probably didn’t know were written by Prince

The late great Prince was an amazing singer-songwriter, but many people don’t realise that he also wrote a number of chart-topping hits for other artistes including Celine Dion and Chaka Khan. So I’ve put together a list of songs you probably didn’t know were written by Prince.

Here’s a list of just a few. Let’s be honest, once you’ve heard most of them it’s pretty easy to hear the Prince-esq vocal arrangements and electronica mixed with electric guitar:

Alicia Keys – ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me’

Released in 2002, Alicia Keys’ version of this song was a moderate success and reached the top 30 in the USA. It kicks off my list of Songs you probably didn’t know were written by Prince.

 

 

Apollonia 6 – ‘Sex Shooter’

Sex Shooter reached number 7 in the US R&B charts in 1984.

 

 

Celine Dion – ‘With this tear’

 

 

Chaka Khan – ‘I Feel For You’

This song has son much of prince in it, it’s difficult to image how anyone could expect it NOT to have been written by him.

 

 

Cyndi Lauper – ‘When You Were Mine’

 

Madonna – ‘Hung Up’

 

 

Martika – ‘Love… Thy Will Be Done’

 

 

Sheila E. – ‘The Glamorous life’

 

 

Sheena Easton – ‘Sugar Walls’

 

 

Sinéad O’Connor – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’

Released in January 1990, this Prince-written song was a huge success. It spent 4 weeks at number 1 in the US and had teenage girls crying for months.

 

 

The Bangles – ‘Manic Monday’

Manic MOnday reached number 2 in the UK and US Top 40.

Glastonbury 2016: is this the best line-up ever?

The lineup of bands and musicians has been announced today for the 2016 Glastonbury Festival, and it’s a good ‘en. In fact, it might just be the best line up the festival has ever seen.

As well as the predictable acts such as Adele and Coldplay, festival goers will also be able to turn back time and see legendary acts such as Madness, rockers ZZ Top, Jeff Lynne’s ELO and the awesome Earth, Wind and Fire.

For those want something a little more up-to-date there will be performances by Jess Glynne, LCD Soundsystem, M83, Bastille and numerous others. And in the usual Glasto twist, there will be a performance by the Syrian National Orchestra (who performed alongside Damon Albarn and Gorillaz in 2010 before war broke out in the country in 2011).

A mixed reception

As usual, fans (or not) of the festival have been letting their feelings be known on Twitter. The general reception is positive but a few people are less than impressed. All I would say to the people who aren’t impressed is this: stay away.

The 2016 Glastonbury Festivals lineup - image (c) Glastonbury Festivals Ltd.
The 2016 Glastonbury Festivals lineup – image (c) Glastonbury Festivals Ltd.

 

 

Bradley Walsh singing at Hemsby Beach holiday park

Bradley Walsh singing

It was the summer of 2007 and I was performing at Hemsby Beach holiday park as part of my Blues Brothers tribute. We’d just finished our first set and were having a cigarette back-stage (one month before the smoking ban came in) and little did I know that I would soon see Bradley Walsh singing.

Suddenly, the door opened and in walked actor and gameshow host Bradley Walsh. We were a little surprised to say the least. Bradley asked if it would be OK for him to sing a couple of songs, which naturally we agreed to, as we definitely hadn’t expected to hear Bradley Walsh singing at a caravan park in Norfolk that night. He went on to sing a Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra number and I recall that he was actually very good.

It’s no surprise that Bradley Walsh has released an album, which you can buy here.

The next morning we popped for breakfast at Del’s Cafe just down the road (which is a great little food house officially called ‘Two Ways Cafe‘). Turns out that Brad is brother-in-law to the owner. Also turns out that there’s a West Ham -v- Arsenal battle between the pair.

I was just going through some old photos on a backup drive and found this photo of him which I took at the time.

Bradley Walsh Singing
Bradley Walsh singing at Hemsby Beach holiday park

 

Vince Gilligan and AMC: PLEASE bring back Breaking Bad

As the final scene of ‘Felina’ (the final episode of Breaking Bad) ended, I couldn’t believe there would never been another episode. With Walt left dying and Jesse driving away from the scene in a crazed scream of relief that it was all over, I felt a deep sense of loss. It was almost like a sensation of greif. That was it. The end. No more.

And it hurt.

Eventually, Vince Gilligan and AMC would release a kind of sequal to the Breaking Bad series, ‘Better Call Saul’, and whilst it was a great prologue to the Breaking Bad series, it wasn’t a patch on BB. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, but it just wasn’t Walt and Jesse good.

Since Breaking Bad I’ve never watch another program on TV which compares and I wonder if I ever will.

We don’t actually know walt is actually dead, so I’m pleading – begging infact – for Vince Gilligan and AMC to bring back Breaking Bad.

Some people say it’s impossible as Walt is dead. But is he? Sure, we saw him dying on the floor in an overhead shot surrounded by armed police, but how do we know that he wasn’t saved just moments after by paramedics to live up to his crimes and face the legal system?

How do we know that, after months of recovery, Walt was perhaps incarcerated for 20 years behind bars?

How do we know that he doesn’t get involved in a mafia ring and make promises to cook again?

It’s all possible and I won’t hear that Walt is 100% dead. I refuse to accept it. So, Vince Gilligan and AMC: PLEASE bring back Breaking Bad…you can do it!

 

Interview with Jonathan Woodrow, author of ‘Wasteland Gods’

Jonathan Woodrow

Wasteland Gods is the long awaited novel by British-Canadian author Jonathan Woodrow. Jonathan, who moved from England with his wife to Toronto Ontario in 2007 and began writing, is a father of three and family man with a passion for writing dark stories. Wasteland Gods will be his first major novel and will be published by Horrific Tales Publishing.

The story is centered around Billy Kingston, an alcoholic who is consumed with thoughts of revenge after the brutal murder of his son is broadcast on the internet. Billy moves to a remote town – Benton Lake – to escape his current situation and escape the clutches of a divine being, Dr Verity. But little does Billy know that Verity has plans for him and plans he can’t escape.

I was lucky enough to be invited to interview the inspiring author ahead of the release of Wasteland Gods. Here’s a transcript:

 

What inspired you to start writing?

Writing stories is something I’ve always done, to a certain degree. I recall putting together a short Dracula story when I was about seven or eight years old and trying to sell it to my parents. I designed a cool cover and everything. Then later on, at college, I wrote a couple of scripts that never went anywhere, of course. It’s really only been during the last ten years or so I’ve started to take fiction-writing more seriously. I kept it largely to myself at first, at least until I started receiving those acceptances, and now I have a novel coming out in a little over a month, which is overwhelming.

In answer to your question, though, I don’t really know what inspired me at first. There must have been something. I’ve always loved movies, books, opera, and theatre—anything that tells a good story. I can tell you what inspires me now, and continues to do so, and that is my love of the process. Every part of this job excites me. From the initial development stage, to getting to know my characters, to ploughing through that first draft, then tearing it apart again for the second and third.

In the case of Wasteland Gods, the structural editor gave a brutal analysis of sections of the book that had to go—entire plotlines and characters. All things that I had failed to see were dragging the story down. Hearing that at first was hard (they don’t call it killing your darlings for nothing) but after making the cuts I stood back and for the first time was able to see a lean, streamlined story that flowed at a good, steady pace. The whole thing was liberating, and the book wouldn’t be what it is now had it not been for her.

 

Which authors would you say most influence your work and why?

I grew up with horror. From an incredibly early age I would scour the TV guide and set the VCR to record anything with a title that even remotely suggested horror. Of course my parents would regulate this a little, but without total prohibition. What I ended up with was pretty much the entire Hammer Horror Collection. Films about Dracula, Werewolves, Witches, and all kinds of other monsters. They may seem dated now but at the time they were most terrifying movies I’d ever seen.

The authors who have influenced me the most haven’t always been horror writers. I read a lot of Clive Barker and Stephen King when I was much younger and I suppose the two of them have influenced me the most. I read a wide variety of books in all different genres and I probably take away a little something from all of them. My two favourite genres would be horror and mystery/thriller, and you can probably find elements from both in Wasteland Gods.

 

You’re married and have three children. How do you find the time to write as well?

Two answers there: With great difficulty; and because I have an amazing, supportive wife. Seriously though, I’ve found that you can always make time for something if you’re serious enough about doing it. Even if it’s just an hour or two a day. I finished my first draft of Wasteland Gods around November 2012. I had been trying to develop it for some time without much success, and I eventually just sat down one day and started writing it.

In the industry they say there are two ways a writer can write: pantsing or plotting. Some folks can sit down and outline and entire novel, scene-by-scene, then write it. And their finished product will hardly deviate from that original plan at all. They’re called plotters. Others, like me, can’t do that. Their muse doesn’t make an appearance until they’re actually writing something. So they sit down, start writing, and hope that they’re going in the right direction. Flying by the seat of their pants, so to speak. They’re called pantsers.

I found that when I sat down and started writing, I was able to hit a couple thousand words a day and was finished with the first draft in a little over two months. Plot ideas and future scenes came to me as I was working. Of course, I then tore it to shreds in the editing/redrafting process but at least I had something to work with.

What do you have planned next for your career in writing? Have you started another novel yet?

I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. A couple of novels still in the early development stages and one I’m actively working on right now. I’m hesitant to divulge any details (mostly because it could change quite drastically before I’m finished), but needless to say, it’ll be dark.

Wasteland Gods is available now to pre-order now on Kindle Edition.