fri 22/01/2021

New Music Buzz

Red Bull Music Academy: a caffeine boost for the music industry?

joe Muggs

I almost feel duty bound to make a declaration of interest here. I have done several pieces of paid writing for the Red Bull Music Academy, including a piece of course material for this year's Academy, and a few days ago I went to Madrid to see the Academy for the first time on their tab.

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Guitarist Hubert Sumlin, 1931-2011

Kieron Tyler

Without Hubert Sumlin there would have been no Yardbirds, Captain Beefheart, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex or White Stripes. He was also an essential ingredient for The Rolling Stones. As Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist, his straightforward power was the perfect foil to Wolf’s guttural vocal roar. The combination of Sumlin’s razor-wire distortion and bouncy riffing was irresistible and prefigured – influenced – the hard rock which evolved in the late Sixties.

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Hats off to Randy Newman

graeme Thomson

There are many reasons to love the music of Randy Newman, who turns 68 today. For starters he’s a renowned ironist and a caustic wit who is nevertheless capable of being as emotionally straight as any heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter. The man who wrote “I Think it’s Going to Rain Today”, now a bona fide American standard, “I Miss You” and “Real Emotional Girl” could hardly be said to be all surface and no feeling.

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Josh T Pearson: the man comes to town

Russ Coffey

“My first album was a personal love letter to God,” Josh T Pearson tells me, looking like a cross between Johnny Cash and Moses. No wonder, then, that it took him 10 years to record another. On this year's release, Pearson had moved on, talking failed love like a punk Leonard Cohen stranded in the wilderness. Face to face, Pearson is, however, quite the Southern gent: the Last of the Country Gentlemen, as he calls himself in the title of the new album. In a west-London café...

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Bob Dylan: return of the never-ending tour

Adam Sweeting

What the hell is wrong with Bob Dylan? As the Sage of Minnesota rolls back into London with Mark Knopfler in tow, I took a detour round YouTube to see what they've been up to on their recent European dates.

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Jackie Leven: 1950-2011

graeme Thomson

The passing of Jackie Leven, who died last night from cancer, comes with a sense of real sadness. One of our most distinctive and original singer-songwriters, the Fifer maintained a doggedly low commercial profile throughout almost four decades spent weaving his rich, rather brave musical tapestry.  

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KT Tunstall: the fine art of downsizing

graeme Thomson

Spinal Tap’s hapless manager had a great phrase for it. “Their appeal,” he said, “is becoming more selective.” There are other words which cover more or less the same waterfront: “stripped back”, “scaled down”, “raw”, “intimate”. All tend to be euphemisms for the plain fact that an act is no longer shifting the kind of units they used to.

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Charles Bradley, 'Top Boy' soulman

Adam Sweeting

Not only was Channel 4's Top Boy a brilliant slice of TV drama, but it delivered a neat little pay-off over the closing credits with Charles Bradley's track "The World (Is Going Up in Flames)".  An anguished chunk of classic soul, sung by Bradley in a gutsy James Brown-style rasp, it sounded at least 40 years old, but in fact it was only released in 2007 on Daptone Records' subsidiary, Dunham.

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Pete Townshend: the internet is killing music

theartsdesk

Earlier this week Pete Townshend asked whether “John Peelism”, the ethos of supporting and celebrating small, independent artists at a grass-roots level, could survive the internet. His implied answer was clearly "no". Townshend levelled the accusation that Apple, the owner of iTunes, is “a digital vampire Northern Rock” which doesn’t support or invest in the musicians whose work they sell, particularly the more independently minded ones, but rather sucks them dry before moving on.

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Fac.Dance: Celebrating the Beat of Factory Records

Kieron Tyler

New Order’s “Blue Monday” might be the bestselling 12” single ever. It might not be. Either way, Factory Records released it on the 12” format only and it was given dry runs by club DJs. Although Factory had an overriding visual aesthetic, it was a wilful label with little musical coherence and no set way of doing things. Dance music, though, was central to Factory, and the new compilation Fac.Dance celebrates that in a way that was impossible in the scattershot Eighties.

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