Monthly Archives: October 2014

Lady Gaga – artRAVE – The ARTPOP Ball – Glasgow

Artpop [Explicit]

Lady Gaga’s artRave (the ARTPOP Ball) The SSE Hydro, Glasgow 19/10/2014

Lady Gaga’s return to Glasgow for “the artRave tour” was nothing short of spectacular. This woman has carved out a reputation for dazzling live performances, elaborate if somewhat bizarre costumes and stunning stage sets and this tour proved to be no exception. The “Artpop” album was met with lukewarm critical response and poor sales when it was released over a year ago and it was clear from the beginning of the show, Gaga was a woman somewhat irked by the misunderstanding towards what she regards to be, one of her most personal pieces of work. It would be fair to say that “the artRave tour” was her very public statement of defiance to the critics who’ve mauled the album and her celebration of damn fine music with her hardcore adoring fanbase of monsters.

The setlist consists mainly of songs from the Artpop album with the classic hits thrown in. Although I am a big fan of the new album, I think the live show could have benefited from one or two of the weaker songs been dropped and a couple of old favourites from previous albums been thrown in to please the crowd. I always think when artists play large venues like the SSE Hydro, they need to be more inclusive in their setlist and I think most of the crowd would have preferred “Love Game” or “Marry the Night” to “MANiCURE” or “GUY” but that’s just personal opinion. My other grumble with the otherwise excellent concert, was the long monologues in-between songs which sailed dangerously close to Bono territory and could possibly have bored the crowd.

These are minor grumbles about, from an otherwise outstanding night of entertainment. From the moment Gaga walked on stage, she enchanted the audience with her conviction and magnetism. Powering her way through a high voltage set of new songs and hits, she sang, danced and played the piano and boy that woman can sing. From start to finish, Gaga worked the crowd feeding of the adoration of a Hydro packed with little monsters who loved every minute of this showbiz fantasy, fashion and glamour.

All the songs took a life of their own and came alive particularly the material from “Artpop” seemed much more vibrant. Songs like “Artpop”, “Venus” and “Swine” were outstanding and every bit as worthy of inclusion in the live show as the classic hits like “Judas”, “You and I” or “Paparazzi”.

Leaving the concert, I got the feeling Gaga is an artist on the cusp of change. The diversity of material in the show was outstanding and maybe the artistic and commercial success of the “Cheek to Cheek” album with Tony Bennett has given her new found confidence in her ability to experiment, but it will be fascinating to see where she goes next. I for one, will be first in the queue for a ticket to the next “Monster Ball”.


Artpop [Explicit]
Cheek To Cheek
The Fame Monster (UK Deluxe)
Born This Way (International Standard Version)

Bright Light Bright Light – Life is Easy

Life Is Easy

One of the most eagerly awaited albums of 2014 for me was “Bright Light Bright Light” second album “Life is Easy”. I first heard Rod Thomas whose stage name is “Bright Light Bright Light” on a miserable night in Glasgow when he was supporting the Scissor Sister at the Barrowlands. After 3 songs I was completely hooked on a set of well crafted joyous pop songs. Since then his debut album “Make Me Believe in Hope” has been one of my most played records of the last few years.

Finally in 2014, his second album “Life is Easy” was released on his own “Self Raising” record label and it’s been well worth the wait. Again “Bright Light Bright Light” has mined a rich tradition of disco and dance music littering the album with songs with infectious tunes and great grooves. However to suggest this is a simple pop record would be greatly misleading as Rod Thomas is developing into one of the finest lyric writers of his generation.

The sentiment in this album is heavy with reflection on failed relationships, loss and moving on but never becoming defeatist or negative. In the end, the resistant feeling of optimism and hope for a brighter future leaves the listener quite intoxicated. There are many stand out tracks on this album, my particular favourites are the pulsing “An Open Heart” and optimistic battle cry of “There Are No Miracles” or aching melancholy of “Happiness”

In the impersonal age of streaming and digital download, Rod Thomas is an artist steeped in understanding of the heritage of record making like Jack Whyte. “Life is Easy” works best when listened to as a complete piece not as rag bag for the digital age where the lazy listener picks the one or two songs they like.

Comparisons are lazy and something I intensely dislike usually, but if you long for intelligent heartfelt pop music of the like of “behaviour” by the Pet Shop Boys, I would strongly recommend investigating “Life is Easy”.


Life Is Easy


Wild Beasts – Present Tense (Special Edition)

Present Tense (Special Edition)

Present Tense is the fourth album from the Kendal band Wild Beasts which was released to critical acclaim on 24th of February this year. The album peaked at no.10 in the UK album chart supported by the release of three excellent singles “Wanderlust”, “A Simple Beautiful Truth” and the sublime “Mecca”. Now Domino Records have decided to release a “Special Edition” of the album with a bonus disc of 9 remixes. The bonus disc includes previous available remixes of the first 3 singles plus 2 new mixes of “Palace”.

I must admit I approached the bonus disc with a slight trepidation as I think “Present Tense” is probably one of the most outstanding albums of the last 5 years and I could not see how remixes would improve on the beauty of the original versions. I have to say that I feel many of the remixes have fallen flat on their faces and add little to the original brilliance of songs.

The guiltiest of all is the extremely clumsy remix of Mecca by Juan Atkins which I find deeply jarring compared to the sublime beauty of the original song and the same can be said about the Factory Floor remix of “Wanderlust”. I’m a huge fan of Factory Floor but I found the remix extremely pointless, bearing absolutely no resemblance to the originaland going nowhere.

However Sohn’s gorgeous remix of Mecca is a pleasure to behold. He has managed to embrace all the beauty of the original whilst adding his own soundscape, making this quite a remarkable collaboration. Another outstanding moment is the Foals dark pulsing remix of “Palace” which has only been released on a white label 12” single before now. Another remix worth a listen is the East India Youth, Remix of “A Simple Beautiful Truth” which again manages to maintain some of the original beauty whilst adding new rhythms and textures.

None of the remixes come close to sublime genius and beauty of the original songs but then it would be an impossible task to compete with such a complete masterpiece. However if the listener treats the bonus disc as companion volume, they find themselves pleasantly surpised. Anyway no music fan can have too many copies of “Present Tense”

Present Tense (Special Edition)
Limbo, Panto

Prince – Art Official Age – Plectrumelectrum


Prince albums are like buses, you wait ages for the one you want and two arrive at the same time. Since “The Gold Experience” in 1995, I must admit I have struggled to maintain any real enthusiasm for his output. Without a doubt, there have been some killer tracks released during this period; however I found most of his albums unfocused ego ridden messes lacking any of the songs and diversity that made his earlier albums so outstanding

Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum may not achieve the breathtaking heights of “Sign O’ The Times” or “Purple Rain” but what is offered to the listener are a pair of albums playing to all his strengths of bloody good tunes and charismatic performances without the ego driven fillers that have plagued recent releases.

“Art Official Age” is the more futuristic of the two albums mining urban/house/funk and soul to dizzy heights. It’s a very satisfying listen from start to finish and has one of the most beautiful songs Prince has ever gifted the world in the shape of “Breakdown” which is simply breathtaking every single listen. Other outstanding moments on this album are the funky “The Gold Standard” and the blissful “Time” It may have taken him almost 20 years to recover his muse but these songs make it almost worth the wait.

“Plectrumelectrum” with 3Rdeyegirl showcases the more rock side of Prince’s musical DNA and it’s outstanding. However in the purple world, there is never going to a plain rock album and Prince continues to surprise, channelling Led Zeppelin on one track then rap and hip hop on the next. Again this album contains some outstanding moments including “WOW” and “Pretzelbodylogic” and makes a consistently good listen.

Both albums showcase the talents of one of the most interesting and unpredictable artists in popular music so now here’s to a tour.



The Very Best Of Prince
Purple Rain [Explicit]

1999 [Explicit]
Parade - Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon

Kaz Hawkins – UK Tour 2014 – Shetland Blues Festival


On the 13th of September 2014, in a location every bit as stunning as it was remote, Belfast based International Singer-Songwriter Kaz Hawkins and her “Band O’ Men” took to the stage of The Vidlin Hall, impeccably styled and ready for action. This was Saturday night after all, headlining at the 11th Shetland Blues Festival, the first night of her UK Tour and the realization of a dream.

Opening with “Don’t make Momma cry” the overwhelming powers of Kaz Hawkins seduction began, with a set list comprising mostly of songs from her highly acclaimed début album “Get Ready”, one or two new arrangements and a couple of covers performed the “Kaz” way. Describing how her life experiences were the very seeds to her song writing, Kaz bared her heart and magically channelled her incredible voice.

Emoting love, loss, hurt and sadness in equal measures, this powerful songstress armed with her phenomenal vocal range, unleashed her more wild and ferocious side. Lyrics of empowerment, freedom, peace, strength and determination were all over these songs. Alongside all The Blues and Soul, musically we travelled seamlessly much more up tempo. “Shake”, for example, is impossible to remain still to, and “Cos You” has a wonderful disco sound. Kaz hit all those infamous high notes with ease and reached for her lows. Just over half way through this vision of “vintage pin-up polka-dot perfection”, Kaz Hawkins ripped the pretty red ribbon from her bright blue hair, kicked off her shoes, had a drum-off and even took to the dance floor at one point for a good boogie, as her “Band O’ Men” happily played on.

Kaz Hawkins is a performer, a woman who has an almighty stage presence, oozing sensuality with every note she sings. Although very familiar with the album “Get Ready” and her repertoire of songs, nothing could have prepared me for experiencing Kaz Hawkins live. I hadn’t antisipated or expected the explosion of energy, the penetrating wall of sound, the personal and intimate interaction Kaz orchestrated with her audience, nor the adrenaline I felt watching and listening to this spectacle unfold before my eyes.


Check out the links below for more information on Kaz Hawkins, her music and tour dates.

For more information on Kaz Hawkins, upcoming gigs, music store and videos, visit her website.

Get Ready

Better Days

The Valkarys – Scott William Dunlop Interview



When you first hear The Valkarys perform any one of their tracks, be it live or in your earphones – you get it, almost instantly. They have that signature sound which comes from diligent years of biological evolution and an unwavering artistic vision – they never deviate from the desire to involve the listener in timeless authentic, independent music.
Over the years the line-up may have changed but the fundamental essence of the group remains unchanged and that is down to the tireless effort and passion of one soul.
I caught up with The Valks front man SWD from his hotel suite in Paris for a brief lowdown on the bands incoming new album (just like) flying with God.

“Hi Scott!”
“How are you?”

“I’m very well thanks, how are you?”

“I’m excellent, thanks.”

“How are you enjoying the new line up?”

“.I’m pretty happy with the new line up, we all seem to be on the same page and everyone is good at what they do so things are going well at the moment”

“And how is the new album coming along? When will we be able to hear it?”

“We have almost finished recording.
We should have everything down by 19th of this month (October 2014). It’s just a case of deciding if I want to make it a ten track, or a twelve track album.
I’ll send it to my friend in London to mix and master, we will send files back and forward until I’m happy with it then hopefully release it at the beginning of next year.”

Exciting times

“Your last album was met with critical acclaim and supported by some of the indie circuits most respected movers and shakers – is this album in a similar style to your debut or from an absolute different angle?”

“This album I think is more in the style of the first one. In between we have released two EP’s that are a bit more – out there. I suppose this record is more psych pop than straight out psych.”

“You’re in France as we speak – will there be an accompanying tour to the album next year at all? Do you have any confirmed dates or an idea of where are you hoping to take things?”

“Yeah I came over to Paris for a little break and to see some friends we are planning a UK tour to support the album and hopefully some shows in France and Italy. We also have a contact in Russia we are in talks with about playing there so fingers crossed.”
“And Leith. Obviously.”

“Can you give any unsigned indie bands starting out there any advice?”

“Definitely. I would say never listen to anyone except yourself. You know better than anyone what you want to do and what you want to sound like. Never sell out. Always wear cool clothes and smoke lots of cigarettes. Never give up and never ever, ever, stop believing in yourself. And don’t under any circumstance, play a Strat. Ever. That’s very important.”

“I’ve noticed your penchant for old silent movie animations on your promo videos on YouTube and remember some talk of an official video in the pipe-line, is that happening?”

“Yeah I love the idea of taking cool clips of movies and putting our music to it and seeing if that works. I would like to get into movie soundtracks in the future – I’ve been waiting on Tarantino calling me for about six years now.
We have made a video for our song “meraki” which will be on the album. The video is in the final edit stage now it’s worked out really well. We need to start playing that song live. I would love to make a documentary about the band, it’s just finding the right person to do it.”
“I may know a guy…”
“Thanks for your time, Scott – enjoy your break and I’ll catch up with you upon your return.”
“No worries, will do! Thanks, Andy.”

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The Average Can Blind You to the Excellent [Explicit]


Robb Murphy – Sleep Tonight – Album Release –


The launch of Robb Murphy’s second album ‘Sleep Tonight’  is taking place on the 5th of March 2015, during the ‘11th United Airlines Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival’. We have updated the link to his website and added a couple of photographsWe would like to take this opportunity to wish Robb great success with this album and all future projects.

Sleep Tonight

It’s a crisp October morning and I am awaking to the sound of rain patting lightly on my window pane. This is a familiar start to an Edinburgh morning, one that musician Robb Murphy is all too familiar with. I first stumbled across Robb through a friend who had the privilege of seeing him play at one of Edinburgh’s timeless music venues “Whistle Binkies”, a firm favourite with both open mic crowds and established acts alike.


Photo by Hans Shoo Photography

Already familiar with Scotland, Robb spent a year in Edinburgh where many of his songs from his first album “Take a Stand” were written. The inspiration for many of the songs from his debut album were born in Edinburgh, being led by the history and myths of the capital city, its buildings, cobbled streets, its landscapes and of course its music scene. Although Robb had always been involved in music growing up it was in Edinburgh that he really immersed himself in music. He made great use of a dictaphone to record ideas as well as different sounds that he found interesting in Edinburgh’s bustling environment.

Taking a different musical direction on his second album, Robb has spent two summer’s in Italy, recording “Sleep Tonight”, the title of his new album. For one month he lived in a remote house and went back to basics with no WIFI or modern gadgets. He only had minimal equipment to record demos, all of which he features in his blog which you can find here Robb’s Blog.

After listening to demos and snippets of new material for his new album, alongside watching his live acoustic recordings on Youtube, it is evidently clear that Robb’s talent just keeps on growing. His new album “Sleep Tonight’ will be out in early 2015, in which you will be able to hear Robb’s new creative direction, his exciting exploration of new sounds, delivered in that wonderful poetic signature style that we have come to expect from Robb. Some personal favourites/highlights from the “Take a Stand” album include “What Do I Say” and “Love In Abundance”. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Robb’s music it is also well worth checking out “Never Letting You Go” and “On My Side” to get you started on this very talented Northern Irish singer. Robb has gained a strong international following this early on in his musical career and I can only see this increasing as his musical songbook expands.

Photo by Hans Shoo Photography

Photo by
Hans Shoo Photography

Links to all of Robb Murphy’s music, youtube and social media are available from


First Aid Kit – Mandela Hall, Belfast

Johanna and Klara Söderberg on stage at the Mandela Hall, Belfast, 17th September 2014

Johanna and Klara Söderberg on stage at the Mandela Hall, Belfast, 17th September 2014

On 17th September, the Swedish duo Johanna and Klara Söderberg, aged only 24 and 21 walked on stage looking like 2014’s answer to modern day Abba. Johanna with her long legs draped in metallic gold flares and long blond hair and Klara with her long brunette hair and retro fringe. Accompanied on stage by their drummer and guitarist also playing the ukulele, electric guitar and slide guitar. Klara played her semiacoustic throughout and Johanna her keyboard, which also looked like something straight from 1976.

They displayed nothing but professionalism on stage, like they had been there for years. They began to sing and the quality of their vocal chords wooed the crowd from the outset. The harmonies they produce are nothing short of perfection. At one point during the performance they asked the audience to be quiet, as they wanted to sing a song together with zero amplification. This, I thought, was a very brave act bearing in mind there were up to 1000 people in the audience. They both moved forward and began to sing Ghost Town from their album The Big Black and the Blue. The Mandela Hall was captivated and there were no shushes throughout the song only people joining them in the sweet melody.

Not only do they tap in to your soulful, melancholic side but also have the ability to get you rocking out with their head-banging chorus such that comes from the song The Lions Roar.

I believe there is much more to come from this band – this is only the beginning. They currently have 3 albums, The Big Black and the Blue, The Lions Roar and their latest Stay Gold, now available for purchase.

Watch out World The Lion is Roaring.

Stay Gold
The Lion's Roar

David Bowie – Sound + Vision

Sound + Vision
Does the world need yet another reissue of a David Bowie compilation?   I lost count around about 20 Bowie compilations released already from the excellent “1974-1979”  or the soundtrack of “Christiane F” to the pointless “Fame and Fashion” or “Golden Years” which were just nasty cash-ins by RCA during the “Let’s Dance” period.
One of the latest is the reissue of “Sound + Vision” in a traditional jewel case.   I find this compilation particularly frustrating because it is such a lost opportunity. “Sound + Vision” is neither a greatest hits for the causal listener nor a second stage for people wanting to explore the great man’s back catalogue or collection of rarities and outtakes for the hardcore fan.  “Sound + Vision” tries to be all and falls miserably between the stools as an unfocused mess, floundering for direction and purpose
The compilations “1969 to 1974” and “1974 to 1979” offer the explorer a much more well rounded introduction into Bowie’s legacy with a mix of hit singles and essential albums tracks, and greatest hits albums like the “Best of Bowie” or “Changesbowie”  offer the casual listener all the hits.  So what is the point of “Sound + Vision”?
Sadly, I think there is no point to “Sound + Vision” apart from an opportunity by the record companies to part die-hard Bowie fans with their money with the offer of a few out-takes and demos. This  is such a wasted opportunity that could have offered Bowie fans a truly remarkable collection of CDs, brought together many of the difficult-to-get bonus tracks from “Sound + Vision“, reissues of his classic albums in 1991, alongside other material from his recording career.  Instead, this compilation offers a bit of this and a bit of that, and ends up a complete mess instead of a testament to one of the greatest artists ever living.

Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar

When Robert Plant sprung into international fame back in 1968, he was a young inexperienced 19 year old lad from the Midlands. His luscious locks and powerful stage performance took the world by storm, and fame and fortune made Led Zeppelin one of the most successful groups of all time, proving to be an inspiration to future generations of musicians and earning their rightful place in Rock’n’Roll history.

When Led Zeppelin finished, Robert did not, instead he carved out a solo career which in itself spans over three decades. Now at 66 years of age, he still has the luscious locks, still has the voice, and is still making fantastic music, and is a man who never seems to remain still or fixated with the past, always looking forward.

Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar” is his tenth solo album and his first with his band “The Sensational Space Shifters”. With this new volume of work, I wasn’t disappointed with what I heard. Robert Plant’s voice has mellowed over the years; however his creative ability as a singer/songwriter has not.

The opening track “Little Maggie” has a afro-Celtic pulse running through with a hint of folk thrown in for good measure and sets the listener up for what is the come.

Rainbow” leads on from this, another rich and atmospheric tune which reminded me of the 2005 “Mighty Rearranger” album, and we get the first “ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh” which, let’s be honest, you would expect from Mr Plant.

The eastern sounds of “Pocketful of Golden” give a subtle nod back to the Zeppelin days, in particular to “Thank you”, one of Roberts’s first major self-penned contributions.

The instrumental build up on “Embrace Another Fall”, along with the cameo Celtic folk vocals of Julie Murphy and strong guitar throughout make this a firm favorite for me.

The more I listen, the more I realise how each track is unlike any he has done previously and even though I may pick up on very small similarities or connections to something of the past, they are minute.

A Stolen Kiss” is the softest composition on the album and Roberts’s low tones seem filled with mournfulness and sorrow. It’s this song which gives the album its title. Definitely an emotional one!

Somebody there” is another beautiful soft composition which then leads onto “Poor Howard”, a more upbeat banjo song, one which wouldn’t seem out of place being played in an Irish thatched pub with the fire blazing and the “craic a flowing”.

The straightforward and pleasant “House of Love” was more powerful instrumentally than it was vocally, yet fits perfectly into the album, I felt.

Coming towards the end of the album, “Up on The Hollow Hill” gives a wonderful combination of eastern sounding guitars with low vocals and a strong rhythm section.

The finale song “Arbadden (Maggie’s Babby)” is essentially a shorter reprise of the opening track with a healthy eastern style added for good measure.

Robert Plant has never been, and most likely never will be, able to completely distance himself from the magic of Led Zeppelin and his work will always be compared to that which he did so long ago.

But I have to admire a man who has not bowed to relive the pressures of glories past or let such notions hinder his creative journey. Both Robert and The Sensational Space Shifters have produced a new volume of music that any musician would be proud to call their own. I continue to enjoy his music and always look forward to what the “Golden God” will come up with next, never quite sure what direction he will take. Sure as he famously once sang “Yes, there are two paths that you can go by, but in the long run, There’s still time to change the road you’re on”, he’s tried many in his musical career. Over the past ten years I have been very fortunate to have seen Robert Plant perform live on eight occasions. Next months gig in Dublin, Eire will make it nine. I’m eagerly looking forward to this intimate show and can feel the adrenaline bubbling already!!

Robert Plant – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar:  A definite one to add to the collection.

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