Taylor Swift – Wembley Stadium 22/6/18 notes

It is easy to write off modern pop music when you are buried beneath records from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It’s all the same type of electronic noise, the same tempo, the same message.

I thought the same way for a long time, too. Then, one day when I was flicking through a music magazine, I found an interview with Neil Young. He reeled off a list of artists and mentioned Taylor Swift, praising her songwriting ability. I listened to a few of her records, and after several listens, got what he meant: she could really write a great song.

The show she put on at Wembley Stadium would have been exactly what the fans would have wanted: glamour, fireworks, flames. But the bit that struck me the most was when she strapped on an acoustic guitar and played two songs (Dancing With Our Hands Tied, So It Goes…) alone.

Playing the songs in this way showed the audience the bare bones. Each moving part was laid out. There was no hiding behind pyrotechnics and stage lighting, the music just stood there under the microscope. And it really worked.

Maybe one day we’ll hear all of these songs stripped back.

Chuck – Chuck Berry (review)

Chuck Berry. The name means so much: rock and roll, some of the finest guitar playing known, inventive and playful songs. 

To think that everyone from Buddy Holly to The Beatles covered his songs is mind-blowing. Without Chuck Berry the world would be a different place. 

I was lucky enough to see Chuck Berry live on one of his later trips to London. Even in old age, he played the guitar like no one else, attacking the strings, duck-walking and bouncing off of the audience reaction. 

I was thrilled to write a review of his last album, Chuck, for Songwriting Magazine. Read it here.

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Bob Dylan: Chronologically 

The other day, I was speaking to someone about Michael Connelly, the fantastic crime writer who has a new book out called The Late Show. 

‘Where should I start?’ they asked, after considering my suggestion. 

This got me thinking. 

Michael Connelly has created a parrel Los Angeles. Often, characters from different books appear in different places: a long forgotten detective can appear in a new book without warning. His most famous creation, Harry Bosch, is now featured in an Amazon Prime show called Bosch

The first Michael Connelly book I read was The Poet, which doesn’t feature Harry Bosch. When it came to reading the Bosch books, I read these out of sequence. 

Ultimately, my answer was ‘start at the beginning.’ (Which was advice I admittedly did not follow). In this case, start with the first of the Harry Bosch book series – The Black Echo. You will then see how the character – and writer – develops. 

So what does this have to do with Bob Dylan?

I’ve been a lifelong Bob Dylan fan. Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad playing Dylan records for me. They formed a part of my childhood, like nursery rhymes, I suppose. However, I’d never listened to Bob Dylan’s albums in chronological order. Maybe this would enable me to see how Bob Dylan develops as a songwriter? 

If you’re a Dylan fan, some of his albums you’ll have listened to reluctantly, or avoided completely. I want to give each of these albums the same amount of time, in the correct order. Maybe I’ll learn something.

I will be listening to studio albums only – which means no Bootleg Series – in order of the UK date of release. 

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James Holt – Whatever Happened to John?

James Holt’s new song, Whatever Happened to John? is a Dylan-esque whirlwind. There is a clear nod to John Lennon too, with the bridge sounding reminiscent of Revolver era Beatles.

Holt is clearly an artist to watch out for. He provides the lead and backing vocals, as well as playing all of the instruments featured on the song.

Whatever Happened to John? takes us to a parallel universe. As Holt says: “The inspiration came from a Sky Arts TV programme set in an alternate reality in which John Lennon walked out of the Beatles before their fame in the mid-60s. It’s a fusion of thoughts and ideas and also bears references to George Orwell’s 1984.”

The song, starting out as a blues rocker, leads quickly to a psychedelic meltdown, before taking us back onto the initial riff.

Aside from the Dylan and Lennon comparisons, lines will also be drawn to Fionn Regan’s second album The Shadow of an Empire.

Take a listen to the track below, and be sure to keep a lookout for James Holt in the future.

 

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Hot Electrolytes – Love Ssega

Love Ssega was paying attention as he rifled through his fathers record collections. Listening to his latest single, Hot Electrolytes, is like piecing together a who’s who of pop music. There are echoes and nods to various artists, past and present.

I included Hot Electrolytes in my recent playlist, which you can listen to here.

Read my review here.
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