Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Ant & Dec Christmas

As is my wont every year, I've been listening to almost no Christmas music. Actually, yesterday I put on a piano Christmas CD... and switched it out for The Greatest Folksingers of the Sixties shortly afterward. Yet, for some reason I do a token Christmas post every year. No idea why. But I do love this season, after all.

Actually, I have been watching/listening to one holiday themed video. Not because it's seasonally appropriate, but because it makes me grin and I adore the lads it features: Ant & Dec.

Ant & Dec (Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly) are two Geordies who have had a prodigious career together as actors, presenters, entertainers, and even *cough*singers*cough* (as they would say). But above all, they are best mates. They don't seem to be very well known here in the U.S. which is a shame. It was only recently I grew to love them through watching old clips of the "children's" show they used to present, SM:TV Live. (Many thanks to a British blogging friend for introducing me!) Before I started watching SMTV I had only seen them once, to my memory, in Susan Boyle's audition for Britain's Got Talent as that is a show they present. Even then, till I re-watched it, I didn't remember them.

The video I'm posting is from the 2009 Christmas episode of Saturday Night Takeaway, one of their many shows. With British singer Robbie Williams, they perform an festive medley that turns into a battle of choirs. All I can say is, it always makes me smile. These two are simply the best!

I wish a very joyous, blessed Christmas to everyone reading! And even to those of you who aren't reading. ;)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stranger on the Shore

Well, I promised I'd do something different in light of the fact last post was #100 and well, who could get more different than this singer?

Oh, look... it's me!

Though I thought a picture of me with a musical instrument would be appropriate, this photo is rather a joke since my guitar skills are abysmal. The picture was taken Summer 2010 when I had resolved to learn to play the guitar since I was becoming frustrated with songwriting on the piano. I soon discovered that the guitar really wasn't a better medium and the piano was truly my forte. (Ha! Ha! Little musical pun for you there.)

First, allow me a little backstory: Years ago, while in my grandparent's basement, I ran across an old piano book of my uncle's. In this book was the sheet music for a song called 'Stranger on the Shore'. I had never heard the song before, but as soon as I played it, I knew it would be a favourite.

'Stranger on the Shore' was written by Mr. Acker Bilk and recorded by him as an instrumental piece in 1961. Actually, before Acker Bilk released it as a single, the song was originally named 'Jenny'. Its title was changed after it was used as the theme song for a series called, what? Yup! Stranger on the Shore. (Also, amazingly enough, as a predecessor to the British Invasion, it was the first British song to top the US charts!)
Here's the thing, though: I've always thought the song's lyrics were more suited to be sung from a girl's perspective; but, I swear, I have not heard a version that was not instrumental or sung by a male. On top of that, the song seems to be little more than completely forgotten.

Today I am here to change that; I am posting a recording of myself singing 'Stranger on the Shore'.

This recording of the song was done this past January, and since there are many things wrong with it, I would love to re-record it except I can't for the recorder on my computer is broken. So I can only apologize for what is wrong with it and move on. Firstly, my piano playing on this song is quite atrocious. The sheet music is simple so I embellish the left hand while playing and apparently, doing that while singing crosses over the line into multi-tasking mayhem.
Secondly, my voice... is not exactly great. The song is not in my best key. Also, we have a love-hate relationship, my voice and I; but this is not the time or place to go into that. The recording quality isn't great either. But still, I hope you can hear at least a little how beautiful this song is. I really love it and, despite my shortcomings, love playing and singing it. My version doesn't do the song proper justice, but at least it's not instrumental and at least I'm a girl!

(The lyrics are included underneath, as you can see.)

Here I stand
Watching the tide go out
So all alone and blue
Just dreaming dreams of you

I watched your ship
As it sailed out to sea
Taking all my dreams
And taking all of me

The sighing of waves
The wailing of the wind
The tears in my eyes burn
Pleading, "My love return."

Why, oh why
Must I go on like this?
Shall I just be a lonely
Stranger on the shore?

Well, there you have it: my 101st post. I hope it's not too horrible. I debated with myself a while about whether to post this or not. Guess which I chose...!

(Supplemental link, for anyone interested: if you want to hear me sing a song I composed myself click this link: 'Dangling my Legs Off the Moon'.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Laura Nyro

For anyone who reads my other blog, the fact that I've picked Laura Nyro for artist of the month should come as no surprise.

As I stated in the post previously linked, her music has been the soundtrack to my November. (Of course, I started loving her music too late in the month to make her the artist for November.) I've been fangirl gushing about her for weeks now, so I'm not even sure what to say or where to start now...

A few weeks ago, I checked out Michele Kort's biography of Laura from the library: Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro. It was excellent and I would certainly recommend it to any Laura fans, or even people who like to read well-written biographies. (I know they exist! I'm one of them! :P) I thought I'd include my goodreads "review" of it since it's not really a review and I've been in such a blue funk for the past three weeks that writing this post has been unnecessarily hard.

My review[of sorts]:

Although Laura Nyro has been on my radar for over two years, I only recently downloaded one of her albums.
That album was New York Tendaberry and, let's put it this way: if I had it on vinyl, it would never leave my turntable

My [now] 13 year old brother who hangs around me a lot, detests her; he identifies her as "the woman who wails." And, while it's a bit of an exaggeration, he's right - she's a wailer! But that's what I love about her: how she sings her heart out. I have a great admiration for singers who convey a lot of power and emotion in their singing. As someone who expresses herself through the medium of singing/songwriting, I would love and strive to have that sort of emotional strength in my voice, and even lyrics. I don't, though. Or at least, I feel like I don't. Sure, nice adjectives have been used to describe my voice, but something in me wants to have a rough, emotive voice like, say, Janis Joplin. So I'm going to take up drugs and alcohol and see where that gets me.

Anyway, I tell my entirely too-judgmental brother that Laura is an acquired taste, and I suppose she is. For a while, even I was ambivalent about whether I liked her or not. But I kept an open mind and now I'm basically in love with her. So there you go!

All this to say, this biography was mahvelous; an excellent look on Laura's life and her groundbreaking musical influences. This book has further fueled my passion for all things Laura Nyro; I am resisting the urge to go out and buy her entire discography.

My favourite photograph in the book of the lovely Laura:

[Caption: Nyro taking a dance break during New York Tendaberry recording sessions, 1969. (Photo by Stephen Paley, courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives)]

Since writing that review, I have downloaded her 1968 album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, and while it's fast becoming a favourite, I don't love it as wholly as New York Tendaberry.
It really is a shame that, while other artists had hits singing Laura's songs, she never had one singing one of her songs. To me, covers of her songs are unnecessary. No one sings her music the way she does; each song seems to come straight from her soul. Anyway, I shall wrap this up by saying that Laura Nyro is amazing. I've not had an emotional reaction to music like the one I've had to hers in a long time. Many don't like her because of her voice or the "unevenness" of her songs, but that's alright. I love her. The end.

Listen to 'Sweet Lovin' Baby', my favourite song from New York Tendaberry:

{Supplemental link: Watch Laura singing my favourite song off of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession ('Poverty Train') live at the Monterey Pop Festival here.}

Ooh, look at that! This is my 100th post! Hmmm... I'm thinking about doing something a little different for my next post. So, be on the look out for that...