mon 10/08/2020

New Music Features

Interview: 10 Questions for Russell Watson

Adam Sweeting

A Salford lad who used to work as a bolt-cutter by day and sing in working men's clubs at night, Russell Watson started out in showbiz by singing popular hits by Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond or Simon & Garfunkel alongside a few belters from famous musicals. One night the patron of the Wigan Road Working Men's Club suggested he should have a go at Puccini's "Nessun Dorma".

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George Harrison: Something in the Vaults

graeme Thomson

My, what strange and wondrous treasures await the record producer given exclusive access to the private vaults of a Beatle. He will, for instance, find entire radio programmes preserved on multi-track tape, and recordings of F1 cars roaring past at some unspecified race track. He will stumble upon a humbled Fab being given his very first sitar lesson by Ravi Shankar, and be privy to a brief musical moment beamed in across the decades from a room at the Jaipur Palace Hotel.

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Levon Helm: 1940-2012

graeme Thomson

Levon Helm, who died yesterday from cancer at the age of 71, was not only the drummer in The Band, one of the load-bearing beams of American roots rock. He was also an astonishingly soulful singer, whether as lead or harmony, with a voice that seemed to imbue everything he sang with an unfussy yet absolute truth, as inescapable and essential as the earth.

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theartsdesk at the Laugharne Weekend

Dylan Moore

The Laugharne Weekend has become a fixture in the crowded calendar of festivals that now punctuates not just high days and holidays but the whole six months that make up British Summer Time. Carving a niche for itself as a halfway house between literature and music, Laugharne’s success is built on two key factors.

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theartsdesk at the Busara Festival: Africa's long song of defiance

Thembi Mutch

The 18th-century Omani fort in Zanzibar is silhouetted against a clear African night. Nneka, a bird-like Nigerian female artist in shabby leggings, is hammering out “Vagabonds in Power” on an open-air stage inside the fort, just metres from a sea of entranced faces. The song is a poke at Africa’s leaders, specifically their part in the Niger Delta mismanagement and related death and corruption scandals.

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Gavin Bryars on The Sinking of the Titanic

Peter Culshaw

You may be feeling Titanic fatigue by now, the last straw being the so-so Julian Fellowes TV romp which heads, as Adam Sweeting points out elsewhere, “an epidemic of TV programmes” this week.

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theartsdesk in Estonia: Tallinn Music Week

Kieron Tyler

It began with a warning. Opening the fourth Tallinn Music Week, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves cautioned, “In a free society, it’s risk-free. In an un-free society, it’s not risk-free. It’s not all fun.” From behind a hotel conference room lectern, he then began rolling a video of Russia’s Pussy Riot being arrested in Moscow a few days earlier. Not everyone can make their point, make their music, choose how they want to get it across.

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Popcorn and Polymorphia: Jonny Greenwood meets Penderecki

Adam Sweeting

Krzysztof Penderecki's Polymorphia for 48 string instruments dates back to 1962, and still stands as one of the grand milestones of the avant-garde. It epitomised the Polish composer's technique of "timbre organisation", in which the plucking and bowing of strings was merely a small part of an astounding array of effects.

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theASHtray: Homeland, Kings of Leon, and we need to talk about Aïda

ASH Smyth

So Homeland is here, and mid-ranking-CIA-operative Claire Danes is chasing Marine-Sergeant-and-possible-al-Qaeda-double-agent Damian Lewis all over the shop (but really only in their heads, so far), and neither of them is getting anywhere fast, so Claire goes home for a kip and sticks on some relaxing music, and would you Adam ‘n’ Eve it? – another bloody jazz nerd!

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theartsdesk in Oslo: by:Larm Festival 2012 and the Nordic Music Prize

Kieron Tyler

Although the four days of Norway’s 15th by:Larm Festival were dominated by the presentation of the second annual Nordic Music Prize, there were plenty of other distractions: a sobering tour of Norwegian black metal’s infamous sites, a talk by legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, what felt like millions of shows in millions of venues, and weather confounding all expectations of what Oslo ought to be like in February.

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