Category Archives: Malcolm

James Grant

James Grant



BeardedRadio caught up with singer/songwriter James Grant before his concert on the 21st May 2016 at the Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline.  James Grant has been a prolific figure of the Scottish music scene since his days of fronting the critically acclaimed “Love and Money” through to his solo albums and collaborations with Karen Matheson of Capercaillie.   This September, James Grant will release his first album since “Strange Flowers” in 2009 and play a concert with “The Hallelujah Strings” at Glasgow City Hall on the 23rd of September.  BeardedRadio had the opportunity to talk to James about working with “The Hallelujah Strings”, the new album, song writing, the current climate in the music industry and his feelings about the passing of David Bowie.


Working with “The Hallelujah Strings”

There is something of a vanity project for musicians like myself but there’s almost something like kind of holy about when they make their sound and you can’t no matter how good your software is, recreate that, it’s a completely unique thing.   When we did the two concerts it was like a complete sort of communion between band and audience.  It might sound pretentious but I’m just been honest.   It was just absolutely amazing because I want it so much for so long and when it actually happened I just absolutely wanted to nail it.  To make sure everyone had the best time.   It was just really fantastic and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

I have got arrangements for “I Can’t Stop Bleeding”; it sort of gives it another dimension.  “I can’t stop bleeding”  I really like it but it’s very restrained, what the strings seem to do is it almost seems like  Dusty Springfield, who I love. It’s very Bacharach with major seventh chords and it just gave it a new dimension.  I felt like I could float on it and yeah it’s an amazing thing and  for songs like “you’re not the only one” it’s sort of emotionally underscored it.  It brought out the dark shadows of the songs and maybe emphasized them so I totally loved it.   The strings brought “I Can’t Stop Bleeding” back to life for me, it became this Bacharach type of thing, there was more grandeur and it wasn’t so reticent and miserable but it became an anthem and I thought that was amazing.

The new album and likelihood of vinyl reissues of the classic albums 

I think there is going to be vinyl and going be available on download.   There is a plan to do it on vinyl and is a sort of best of with some of the strings stuff and a few kinds of surprises in there as well.    It should be released hopefully in September, were getting it ready now.  It’s a good way of selling things when you have punters actually there because the process of selling is a long tiresome extraordinary complicated thing that starts with almost begging someone to actually just listen and that starts the process.   It’s just different to what it used to be, it’s so unnecessarily complicated but that’s modern life and I’m shite at it.   I think a vinyl release of “Dogs In The Traffic” would be really good but I don’t want to have to facilitate it.  It’s a job in itself curating all of that.  It’s never really been my thing, I have to be honest.  I don’t have old photographs of myself.  Its just because I have never been a collector, I tend to just move on to the next thing.


On song writing

I wrote “You’re Not The Only One” in a night at my old flat and I can remember writing it.  At that point I was just writing all the time.  I’m not like that know, I just live a different kind of life.  There are other songs that take me longer, “My Father’s Coat” (From the solo album “Strange Flowers”) took me about a year to write.  I had the idea which I thought was a really good idea, basically I had this old mohair coat and when it rained it used to smell of the previous owner.  Then I thought about my dad and how you could always spot him with his jacket and how if you were estranged from your father and saw that coat hanging up somewhere, I saw it kind of like a movie or a play, thinking the son would know his father is dead because he would not be separated from his coat.  I was sitting watching telly one night and the idea came to me so I wrote down the idea then I had the idea of breaking down the time frame, which is quite complex.  It took me an awful long time and it wasn’t until I came across a particular tuning that everything fell into place.  I had the idea, I had the song but I just could not find a way of doing it.  It was like the idea for “Papa Death”, I had this idea but I could not find the way of executing it and every-time we played it in the band it sounded terrible until I decided to turn things on its head a bit and experiment and find a way of doing it.

You’re Not The Only One”, I wrote in a night but it took us an awful long time to record it.  There is a demo of it that I would not want anybody to hear and it’s like a really bad Eagles cover band.  If you look at the song, it’s really just a simple country song if you like and that’s how we recorded it initially but I put this big pedal steel sound on it and it sounded really shite.   We all sort of knew it was a good song but we could not get to grips with it.   Its one thing writing a good song but making a good record is another.  The songs, it all varies; “Does It All Add Up To Nothing” (from the album “My Thrawn Glory”) took me a long time to write although it’s incredibly simple.  My wording is quite complex and I remember struggling with it for months and sweating over particular lines and writing and rewriting them and I probably have about a hundred different versions of it


On music streaming

Artist make jack from streaming, there is an interesting case on Spotify right now, the guy who wrote “it’s all about bass” which is a massive worldwide hit which made a lot of money but he made something like £40.000 from Spotify that would have been something like a billion plays so that does not seem like the right level of remuneration for that amount of plays, it doesn’t seem right.  It is what it is and he will have money.  He will have alternate revenues but if that’s it for you, Spotify for me is 15 quid a couple of times a year, it’s practically nothing so I’m not engaged with that, I would probably listen to an album or a CD or whatever so I am an anachronism as I don’t feel part of it.


The change in the way we listen to music

I don’t think we give music the space it had in our lives.   I think that is a hard thing to argue with.  Because there is so much else, if you look at a classic record shop, this is maybe a good analogy like HMV, music will in the third floor past the play station games and DVDs or whatever else, music is almost a subsidiary in the public consciousness.  I don’t think just music but it’s my area of expertise, there is a guy called Bill Drummond who done KLF and he is a bit of genius, I don’t really know him but he had a really great idea I thought a few years ago and that was to have a national day with no music so you would not be able to hear any music in the shops.  Obviously you would not be able to impose it but I thought it was a brilliant idea, when people asked him why do you want to do it he said it might teach us the value of music.  We might realise what we are missing, if you walk down Buchannan Street in Glasgow you are bombarded with background music, it’s just maelstrom of noise.  I just remember it been so precious and you been so precious about it.   When you had an album, you took it home and you went into your bedroom and you put the album on and you listened to it but I don’t think people do things in the same way to that degree now, there is too much else to do, you know snapchat, need to take another photograph of myself, maintain my twitter whatever, life is very complicated now


What music he is currently listening to

Sharon Van Etten (Are We There) or the Caribou album (Our Love).   There is something about that (Caribou) record that got to me.  I can’t really put my finger on it but it’s all programmed but it sounds like they are playing it.   It’s so quirky and the mixes are so brilliant and there is a couple of things I suppose is left-field that took me by surprise there was big vogue within dance music, there are vogues like fucking up the bass so much so that its distorting or leaving it out for three verses then there is a massive mad drop but I don’t know the terms and I’m going to sound like somebody’s granddad if I try to talk about it.   There was vogue for detuning, completely detuning to a certain degree which I thought was really cool and on that record there is one track that it almost makes you sick listening to it, the way they detune a piano but there is something really brilliant about it and you think I have not heard that before or I had not heard it before.   This isn’t the underground, The Caribou project was really popular but it was something that opened my ears, it was one of those records I thought this was really cool, I get why people are into this, it really opened my mind up.    The Sharon Van Etten record is for the reason you buy Nick Cave records, it’s just good songs and good singing and quite simple good productions.  I’m not active listener but I’m always involved but it’s just a question of time.


On David Bowie

He was my hero; I was really upset in ways that you don’t think you will be.  It was quite strange because I’m a real Bowie fan and spoken about it before.  The day he died they repeated a programme I had done and I was basically eulogising about him and they asked me in that night and I had managed not to hear anything and as they introduced me, they played a wee medley and it just broke me up.  When they woman started speaking to me I had to say sorry, that’s completely thrown me, I just haven’t heard it before today  so was totally welling up.   It’s funny; it’s still hard to think of him as dead, we are always thinking what will he do next?   Bowie taught people to be brave and trust themselves, a lot of artists are racked with self doubt and I’m no different but he always seemed to be up for taking chances.  Going places he hadn’t gone before doing things he had not done before and I absolutely think there is a lesson to be learnt.


Then we bid our farewells as James Grant had to prepare for the concert including ironing a shirt.   Around 7.30pm he took the stage with only an acoustic guitar and held the audience transfixed for the next two hours.  The set list was mixture of the “Love and Money” classics and songs from his outstanding solo albums intermixed with anecdotes about his father, growing up in Glasgow and recording in the studio next to the late great “Prince”.  As always James Grant is an entertaining but deeply profound live experience and I can’t wait to hear him live with “The Hallelujah Strings” in Glasgow this September.

For upcoming concert dates, tickets, music store, videos and links to social media and his journal visit


ABC- The Lexicon of Love II


Click image to listen on spotify

Since ABC first burst on the music scene in 1982 with their classic album “The Lexicon of Love”, they have remained one of pops most fascinating groups constantly reinventing themselves with each album.  Instead of playing safe after the success of their first album, ABC continued to change their musical template and to challenge their listener.  Following up the successful debut album with the a more guitar based sound difficult second album “Beauty Stab”, ABC failed to capture the public in the same way.  Instead of been intimidated by this response ABC continued to evolve and change from the club sound of “How to be a Zillionaire” to the soul groove of “Alphabet City” , ABC were always a band in a state of flux constant in their reinvention of their sound and image.

Recent years have seen ABC consist of only lead vocalist Martin Fry after the final member of the classic line up, Mark White having left in 1992. This version of ABC have spent recent years playing 80’s revival festivals like “Rewind” in the UK and touring “The Lexicon of Love”.  Some were suspicious when in late 2015; Martin Fry announced he intended to record a sequel to their classic debut album.  Many became even more apprehensive when it was announced that Trevor Horn would have no involvement in the project.  Many credited the lush production of Horn to be one of the main reasons for the huge success of the first “Lexicon of Love” album.

On the 27th of May “The Lexicon of Love II” was released on the world and I must admit I was slightly apprehensive about the album myself.  However my concerns were totally unfounded.   “The Lexicon of Love II” is not only a worthy successor to its classic predecessor but I would go as far and likely commit pop heresy in the eyes of many  by  saying it’s actually a better album.   Anne Dudley does a magnificent job of filling Trevor Horn’s shoes with her sublimely beautiful arrangements and I think there is actually a much stronger collection of songs on this album than on any previous ABC album including the first “Lexicon of Love” album.

Particular highlights for me are “Kiss Me Goodbye”, “Ten below Zero” and “The Ship of the Seasick Sailor” but all the songs on the album are excellent.   This is a constantly good album that should be played from start to finish without skipping tracks.  In the age of streaming and downloading a selection of the album which I believe undermines the value of an album as complete work of art. “The Lexicon of Love II” presents the listener with a celebration of the revival of the album as complete work that should be listened to in its eternity.

I doubt “The Lexicon of Love II” will make many new converts but for fans of the original album or people who just enjoy good music, I would suggest you would not go wrong investing some time and money in this outstanding new album.  Viva The Lexicon of Love II.


A-ha At The SSE Hydro, Glasgow

imageA-ha made a welcome return to Glasgow on the 28th of March 2016 to play the SSE as part of the “Cast In Steel” tour. It’s hard to believe that A-ha’s debut album “Hunting High and Low” is more than 30 years old but yet as their latest studio release “Cast in Steel” has proven, they have maintained their ability to write and perform a damn fine selection of songs.

A-ha are not a band resting on their laurels who are regurgitating out the same greatest hits to arena crowds. One of the pleasing things about this concert was that risks were taken, hits were missed out instead album tracks were included in the set list. It would be very easy for the band to remain on ‘autopilot’ and tread on past glories but here is a band still at their creative peak with their new material holding its own against the classic hits in their live set.

Opening with the hits “I’ve Been Losing You” and “Cry Wolf”, it was obvious, A-ha were on top form and throughout the whole concert, they remained as vibrant and emotive as ever.

Morten Harket may slightly struggle to reach the higher notes these days but he remains one of the finest vocalists in the history of pop music. During songs like “Stay on These Roads”, “Hunting High And Low” and especially the outstanding “Under the Make Up”,  his vocals brought a tingling shiver down my spine.

After a more down tempo emotionally reflective middle section, A-ha demonstrated they had lost none of their ability to thrill an audience as they rolled out hit after hit. “The Sun Always Shines On TV”, “The Living Daylights” and final encore “Take on Me” had the Glasgow crowd on their feet. The band seem vague about future plans to record and tour again but I personally hope it won’t be too long before I get the opportunity to see them again.


“Cast In Steel” by a-ha

Image from

Image from

In 2009Norwegian group a-ha announced to the world that they intended to split up after the tour of their outstanding ninth album “Foot of the Mountain”. We fast forward to 2015 and see the very welcome return of the legendary band with new album “Cast In Steel“,  one of their strongest albums to date.

One of the strengths of “Cast in Steel” is creative input by the entire band. All three members of a-ha contributed to the writing and production of various songs. The album doesn’t  feel fragmented by the various collaborations and from start to finish it has that unmistakable a-ha feel of quality.

The new album see a-ha reunited on three songs with their early producer Alan Tarney. However this album is not an attempt to recapture the past and I would argue that songs produced by Tarney are some of the lesser remarkable moments on the album. I’m not for a moment suggesting that they are bad songs but I did have a slight disappointment that the material did not have the same impact as those on the classic “Scoundrel Days” album.

a-ha have had at many times expressed their admiration for ‘Dépêche Mode’ including covering “A Question of Lust” on Radio 2 and I have always felt that both bands shared the same musical DNA. Two of the highlights on the new album, “Giving up the Ghost” and “Mythomania” are further evidence of these shared musical influences. These two songs written by Magne Furuholmen and co-produced by Erik Ljunggren find a-ha gifting the listener with their most vibrant and interesting material since “Minor Earth, Major Sky” in 2000.

“Cast in Steel” is also a showcase for the vocal talents of Morten Harket. He is easily one of the most criminally underrated vocalists in the history of modern music. The emotional depth and quality of his vocal on “Cast in Steel” is sheer perfection. The first single “Under the Make Up” is a fine example of the conviction and passion that he brings to every single song that he does.

So 30 years since their big break through with “Take on Me” and their debut  “Hunting High and Low”, a-ha have returned strongly.  I personally think it would be very sad if this were to be their last work together because they continue to consistently deliver outstanding and coherent albums with every new release.

For all the latest news, tour information, music, videos, merchandise and links to social media, visit


James Grant – Edinburgh

James Grant at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh 29th of May 2015.



James Grant has been a force to be reckoned with on the Scottish music scene for decades now. Love and Money released four outstanding albums from 1986 to 1993 including the classics “Strange Kind of Love” (1988) and “Dogs in the Traffic” (1991) before splitting up in 1994. James Grant’s first outstanding solo album “Sawdust in My Veins” was released in 1998 and since then he has released four other albums including the essential “Strange Flowers” in 2009. In 2011, Love and Money reformed for a one off show during the Celtic Connection festival in Glasgow but due to the success of the event, the band carried on to release a new album called “The Devil’s Debt” in 2012 and “Strange Kind Of Love (Live in Glasgow 2011) in 2013. Since then James Grant has continued to tour as a solo artist and released sporadic tracks on download including the beautiful “Work of Art” in 2013.

On the 29th of May 2015, James Grant returned to the Queen’s Hall to delight a crowd with songs from his solo albums and Love and Money’s back catalogue. As always, James Grant is a charismatic performer and gifted musician who enraptured the audience with his humorist storytelling and dry Glasgow wit. However at the core of any James Grant concert is the exquisite songs. Without a doubt, he is one of Scotland’s finest and most underrated song writers. The audience responded to each song like a reunion with a dear old friend. This is not surprising when you consider many of these songs have been part of people’s lives for years. The songs have become the soundtrack to the hopes, dreams and disappointments experienced by his fans. An evening with James Grant can become a truly cathartic experience, allowing the listener to enter a space where the aspiration of youth and cynicism of experience are reflected on but you still leave the concert hall with a warm comforting glow.

During both parts of the concert, James Grant treated the audience to some jewels from his solo albums including the beautiful but bleak “My Father’s Coat” from 2009 “Strange Flowers” and “Jacqueline’s Shoes” from 2006 “My Thrawn Glory”. He also opened with the sublime 2013 single “Work of Art”. The concert also featured many of the classic Love and Money songs including “Halleluiah Man”, “Walk the Last Mile”, “Jocelyn Square” and the title track from 1988 classic album “Strange Kind Of Love”. Songs from the outstanding album “Dogs in the traffic” were also featured heavily in the show including “Winter”, “Whisky Dream” and the divine “Lips Like Ether” which still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Hearing the songs presented in this stripped back form made me realise just how bloody good they are. With just his voice and an acoustic guitar these songs managed to entrance you throughout the whole show.

Like a fine malt whisky, James Grant just keeps getting better and better with age. I can’t recommend investigating his back catalogue or catching him live highly enough. As a music fan, these are songs you live to hear and the concerts that make you remember why music has become a truly spiritual and emotional experience to you.


For upcoming concert dates, tickets, music store, videos and links to social media and his journal visit

Nick Cave – Live In Concert

Nick Cave

Click image for tickets.


Nick Cave’s ‘Live In Concert’ was one of the most highly anticipated musical events of the year for me and I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to see him at a sold out Edinburgh Playhouse on 28th of April 2015. I went to the show with extremely high expectations yet was still utterly blown away by the sheer musical genius I witnessed on stage that night.

The set list spanned most eras from his career but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the excellent last album “Push The Sky Away” featured heavily in the show. Material from other albums such as “No More Shall We Part (2001)”, “The Boatman’s Call (1997)” and “From Her To Eternity (1984)” sounded just as dramatic and exciting performed live. One of the highlights of the night for me was the stripped back version of “The Mercy Seat” from the “Tender Prey (1988)” album which was simply spine tingling in its pared back form.

Prowling the stage like Dracula’s achingly cool love child, Nick Cave hypnotised the audience from the moment he walked on the stage until the final note. While singing the songs, he transformed into this intimidating commanding character, often staring the audience down, while in-between songs appearing witty and charming. The four musicians backing him, including his long time collaborator Warren Ellis, are intuitive musicians with a clear understanding of the cinematic feel of the music. Being a musical fan, to witness such talent and craftsmanship on stage has left me almost speechless to this day and I still struggle to find the words to do Nick Cave’s talent justice.

The Nick Cave concert was a master class in story telling. During the songs, he appears to become possessed by the characters he is singing about and has the ability to pull the audience into their bleak cinematic world almost like voyeurs. Nick Cave is one of those artists who have the ability to evolve music and performance onto a higher plane. What he writes and performs is not just entertainment, it’s a form of dazzling and breath-taking art with every word and note creating these fascinating but tragic worlds that we briefly inhabit while the song lasts. In many moments throughout this concert I found myself stunned by sheer genius and hearing “Jubilee Street” in its dramatic live form will be something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

I think it’s fair to say that most people left the concert hall absolutely awestruck by an artist who has been recording since 1979 yet continues to reach a new artistic peak with each new album. Make sure you put seeing Nick Cave live to the top of your ‘bucket list’.


Get tickets, all the latest news, music, videos, social media and store, visit the Nick Cave website.

Take That – Live 2015 – Glasgow

Take That 2015 Tour

The week commencing the 27th of April 2015 saw the triumphant return of “Take That” to Scotland playing 5 nights at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow. The loss of Jason Orange and Robbie Williams has not appeared to have had an adverse effect on their career with the “These Days” single and the new album “III” both reaching no.1 in the British charts and tickets to their latest arena tour snapped up like hotcakes by their adoring female fans.

The night was about pure showbiz entertainment from start to finish. The concert must have been one of the most elaborate stage shows I have ever seen. From massive video screens to flying bikes, from flame throwers to acrobats, Take That aimed to thrill and entertain the audience and they certainly did. In fact there was so much going on during the concert, I’m going to have to watch the DVD to full appreciate the staging of the event.

The remaining three members of the band appeared to be having a great time on stage and were obviously delighted at the ecstatic response from the mainly female audience. To their credit, each member of the band worked very hard to make sure everyone in the arena felt included in the show.

Drawing heavily off the new album III, I felt this was a band keen to prove that the tour was not just about nostalgia but a band keen to assert a new identity and more mature adult sound. Not that the past wasn’t celebrated from the boy band era, there was their first top ten hit “Could It Be Magic” and the classic No.1 single “Pray” plus a gloriously OTT version of “Relight My Fire” to thrill the crowd. Most of the material featured in the set came from 2006 onwards with the comeback hits “Patience”, “Shine”, “Rule The World” and “Greatest Day” receiving an equally ecstatic welcome as the early hits. The new material was surprisingly strong live too especially “Let In The Sun” and “These Days”

Take That offered their fans an evening of pure escapism and entertainment and I would challenge anybody not to leave the arena smiling and many of the men in the arena can take comfort from the fact, Gary still can’t dance (bless him).


Get tickets, all the latest news, music, videos, social media and store, visit the Take That Website.