Posts Tagged ‘vocal’



[Picture of the Grace album cover]I love it when you see something by chance on the TV, that stops you in your tracks — and you just have to have more.  This is exactly what happened with the video promo for “Grace” by Jeff Buckley.

I immediately went out and bought the album “Grace“. Thing is, he’d recently died (by accidental drowning in the Wolf River in Memphis USA), so there would be no further wonderfully crafted original music from Scotty Moorehead (his “real” name).  I think there’s a Chet Baker legacy for the quieter ballads, but in the rock music side of things, Buckley is out there on his own — perhaps influenced by Robert Plant, but with lots of added extra influences, possibly black women such as Aretha Franklin.  You listen, you decide!

Over the years I have rediscovered Grace” again and again for the usual reasons — switching from CD to a computer file, the renewed interest in the media (mainly around “Hallelujah” and Cohen, Elisa, Burke etc) a couple of years ago.  But  I have no idea why I didn’t think of looking up YouTube until now.

[Embedded video clip from YouTube of The Last Goodbye]

His voice can give me chills and thrills, and he never plays it safe — the element of right on the edge vocals brings such amazement to me, really — I’ve sung live, I’ve taken chances and they have (luckily) paid off to my eternal immense relief — but to see someone totally risk everything, to squeeze every last drop of emotion, to face public disgrace and humiliation by singing flat or sharp or out of time (or all of the above). OMG. Just wow. It’s crazy, it’s wild, it’s utterly Buckley.

[Embedded video clip from YouTube of Grace – Live]

What a voice — what a guitar player, and what a song-writer!  Clearly Buckley has been a huge influence on Gregory Hoskins and loads more, such as The Antlers.  I can’t listen to “So Real” without thinking of Grizzly Bear, it’s the chords, the mood or something, y’know? But this guy is the original.  I saw a TV documentary about him a couple of years ago — and they reckon he was a blend of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page — now THAT’S an absolutely massive compliment right there, and possibly the best epitaph, I’ll leave it there.




On of my favourite all-time pieces is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 37, Всенощное бдение, Vsenoshchnoe bdenie, or “All-Night Vigil”. It is useful to know that this is very often just called “Vespers”, but purists get annoyed by this.

If you can get a chance to hear this live, then jump at it.  It is all voice, all vocal or choral or a cappella. It is not Gregorian Chanting in ancient and cavernous monasteries; it was written in a  fortnight in 1915 to raise funds for the war effort, and despite being a big hit, it was banned along with all religious music by the second of the three Russian Revolutions. It is modern and fresh — but still religious.

If you like Samuel Barber, you will most likely enjoy All-Night Vigil.  If, like me, you enjoy all choral music, from Eric Whitacre to Handel’s “Messiah”, you will perhaps appreciate the importance and sheer beauty of the work.

The recording I have seems to have become unavailable; I cannot track it down.  It is by the Tambov Chamber Choir under the artistic direction of Professor Vladimir Kozlyakov — who conducted my recording from 2003. Rachmaninoff was from Tambov, and the choir was started in 1993 by lecturers and students past and present at Derzhavin (Tambov State) University. The last track (#15) is actually a piano piece played by P. Kushnir — Variations On A Theme Of Corelli opus 42. The other 14 tracks are in Westernised Russian, but it doesn’t really matter terribly much whether “Bogorodice Devo, raduisya” means “Hail, Virgin, Mother of God” or not, I do wonder what happened to track 15 (according to YouTube it is “Troparion – Hail, Theotokos”, which Amazon has as “Hymn to the Mother of God”)! It’s pretty difficult looking for stuff when the Conductor might be spelled V. Kozlyakov or W. Kozlyakoff (and variations), Rachmaninoff can be Rachmaninov, Sergei, Sergey, and The All-Night Vigil can be Vespers! Tough One.  Luckily the music — when you find it — is wonderful trance-chill stuff.

Whatever version you get, it is perfect for Christmas mood making!

M ER Y       C RS M A S




[Picture of Danielle de Niese]I have been really busy lately; not merely the usual flat-out binge of a deadline killer, but also because I am moving office premises again!

As I love Opera, so I made time to watch the BBC Four Opera Season, starting with Tony Pappano’s “Opera Italia” on Monday night. Two things made me sit up and take note.

First was that Stephen Fry’s Wagner programme was next up in the BBC Four Season. Back in August I was following Mr Fry on Twitter as he made this programme, so it was nice to finally get to see it. Fry’s tweets in this regard encouraged me to post on RICHARD WAGNER on this very site.

Secondly, Tony Pappano’s programme had a singer that caught me on a lovely bit of Handel.  Now I have always been a sucker for Baroque and Handel, but this woman had a great voice.  Really good, with a distinctive warmth and rich quality.

I looked up and was surprised to see a good-looking lass called Danielle de Niese. So immediately I became a fan — of course; what’s not to like?  It’s all there — the whole package.  She’s young enough to be around for some time, so I can relax a bit knowing the future’s in good hands!  She kind-of reminded me, looks-wise, like our own Nicola Benedetti (even though Nicola is Scottish/Italian)!

[Embedded Video clip of “Lascia ch’io pianga” from Handel’s “Rinaldofrom YouTube]

Anyway, she was on again tonight — a programme called “Diva Diaries” — and it was superb; lots of insights into that world, and into Danielle’s personality as well.

I immediately checked her out on-line: she’s got a MySpace page (, and official website (, she’s on Wikipedia (, and she tweets on twitter (

[Embedded Video clip from YouTube]

Please go check her out. She’s what opera’s all about these days — youthful, good-looking, mixed race and truly global. Part Sri Lankan, Ms. de Niese was raised in Australia before moving to the United States of America.

Please also check out the BBC television season on Opera — Antonio Pappano was the youngest conductor to lead the orchestra of the Royal Opera House in London — where he is now the Musical Director. Monday night for a few more weeks, and I’ll bet there are more new finds to come.  Ooo, bring it on!




This is so strange, but earlier this year, May or early June I think, we flagged a black cab on Clyde street.  I can’t remember where we were going or anything, but I do remember that the cabbie was all in black.  We got chatting — as y’do — it’s always the same in taxis, isn’t it? Anyway, the chap had noticed the guitar cases and said that he’d just been to a funeral.  I think he said it was his sister’s brother or something like that. He said that his deceased relative was a musician, but he didn’t think we’d have heard of him.

He said he was big in the ’states, but almost unknown back home here in Glasgow.  I said

“Try me”

Jimmy Dewar” he said, turning the cab past the Clutha Vaults.

“Oh yes, the singer and bassist with Robin Trower?”

“Eh? You’ve heard of him then?”

“Oh aye, he had a BRILLIANT voice, bit like Paul Rogers — you know ‘Free’?, dark chocolate or whisky and cigarettes.  Oh what a shame! I didn’t know he’d died.”

“Aye, that’s him”

“Jings, he couldn’t have been that old, what was it he died of?”

“Complications after surgery I think, and naw, he wasn’t that old, you’re right enough”

“Aw, man, the more I think about it, the more gutted I am; you’d have thought the papers or telly or somthing would have made more of a bit deal.  Jeez!”

“It was a right celebrity funeral though”

“Oh was it?”

“Oh aye, stars galore!  And that wee tramp Lulu was there as well”

“Eh? Lulu? A tramp? You have to be kiddin’!”

“Whit? Where have you been hidin’ ?  You must be the only person in Glasgow who’s not shagged her, or at least the only person in Glasgow that’s not heard about it.  She’s well known for being like that.”

“Bloody hell, what a life-changing taxi ride this is” I said as he pulled up to a halt.

I handed over the money shown on the meter plus the usual pound on top of the “keep the change” tip, and he drove off.

Who knew?  Lulu was “a raver”, and Jimmy Dewar had died.  I mentioned this to some folks, and yes, it seemed that everyone in the town knew what Lulu was like — although not many even knew who Jimmy Dewar was. But he old timers remembered Jimmy from the strange “Burns Howff” era of Glasgow musical history — Maggie Bell, Alex Harvey, Simple Minds, Stone the Crows, and Frankie Miller.

I guess it was a scene of sorts. I was too young for that scene, and I am not really into that kind of music, but I do feel that it is a shame that we don’t recognise these people better.

I DID like Robin Trower, and I really did like Jimmy’s vocals and bass lines… goodness it got me through school, and I definitely would have bought a ticket had they gigged (so many old timers are still gigging), so it is a personal loss of sorts.

For a long time I played in a trio — and so I have always been attentive to successful trios, and The Police, Cream, Hendrix and Trower are all up there as shining examples to follow.

One chap in a bar we played in over in Woodlands tonight (during one of our Sunday sessions with Chic Henderson) said that he was pretty sure Jimmy Dewar started off his career as Lulu’s bass player.  I was relieved to hear this; it meant that it was possible that the link between Lulu and the great Jimmy Dewar could be JUST musical/ professional!