Tag Archive: phil cooper


January’s Musical Musings

73320216_3227727390587092_1165816366524006400_nIt’s odd writing a What’s On guide for January this in early December (such is the nature of the deadlines and stuff) but I guess it is the closest I will ever get to time travel. So by the time you read this the floor will be covered in Christmas Tree needles, there will only be a quart of turkey curry still to get through and we will have already had to endure enough jokes about 2020 vision and the like from tabloid headline writers to last a lunchtime.You can always distract yourself from such niggles by checking out some live music, which is, understandably, a bit thin on the ground but what there is is certainly worth the effort.

It may be a new decade but some things never change and if you head to The Rolleston on 11th for a slice of Hamsters From Hell there are plenty of guarantees. On the one hand there will be blue humour, swearing, toilet references and the sort of raw R&B that can strip wall paper. On the other hand there will be a surprisingly fine plethora of musicians (looks are deceiving) a wonderfully raucous night out to be had and …well, the sort of raw R&B that can strip wall paper.

At the same venue on 17th Innes Sibun will be delivering his trademark blend of searing rock and roll and soulful blues. There is a reason why none other than Classic Rock magazine dubbed him “The best kept secret in British blues, “ pop along and find out why.

Rock is also on tap at the Victoria on 23rd as Scarlet Rebels and Revival Black bring their Rising Tour to town. They may sound like a couple of pints from the more expensive end of a craft ale bar but the former infuse Therapy? style punch with the suppleness of Muse and the latter have one foot firmly in the classic 70’s rock sound…which is why they get to call none other than Whitesnake tour buddies!

On 23rd The Tuppenny gets back in business with a wonderful double header. Both Phil Cooper and Jamie R. Hawkins (pictured) channel classic acoustic sounds, from James Taylor to Crowded House. Whilst they are often found on stage with Tamsin Quin, this is a chance to remind yourself what fantastic players and songwriters each of them is in his own right.

If something more weighty is to your taste then Bots at The Victoria on the very same evening offer some jaunty indie tempered with some solid rock riffs. A newish local band, so go along and support your scene why don’t you?

And moving along into February, Still Marillion return to Level III on the first of the month. Okay, I don’t normally talk about tributes in this column but I spent my formative years watching the real deal and still have a soft spot for their proggy ways.

Finally on 6th Feb head along to The Tuppenny for a stripped back take on Raze*Rebuild’s usually soaring punky Americana. They say that the true test of whether a  song is any good is if it sounds okay on an acoustic guitar. Let’s find out shall we? Support comes from the ubiquitous Charlie Miles and a musical cohort who go by the name of New Bedlam Asylum…which sounds perfectly ambient and reserved…dontcha think?

11133786_10153234946553064_9116099339198896169_n-1Finally, a Christmas song I can get behind. Okay, there have been a few that have tickled the old seasonal baubles before…Fairytale of New York (currently the subject of its own PC hyperbole due to MacGowan’s typical choice words, God knows what would happen if anyone in power really looked into some of his songs,) Stop The Cavalry and Give Peace a Chance (with their anti-war messages) are most of the short list which work for me. So the fact that Phil Cooper, in his usual deft and deliberate fashion, has side-stepped the schmaltz and sentiment that normally infects such sonic fare and with tongue firmly in cheek has tackled the click bait mentality of tabloid journalism and those who (knowingly?) fall for it, means that it can be added to that very short list.

Rocking out in full band mode for change is a great move, it all adds a bit of weight to the message. Making it brilliantly singalong and musically infectious doesn’t hurt either. But it is, as is often the way in Phil’s world, the words which are paramount. As he points out, no one is trying to stop you celebrating Christmas, or any other significant day, as you would like. No-one is bowing down to other cultures, communities or creeds; health and safety isn’t ruining your fun and political correctness isn’t a problem unless you choose it to be. Newspaper headlines and clickbait journalism, instead, are the real problem, but in a world where people’s attention span seems to be measured in scales normally used only in Quantum Physics, people love to let a headline not only ruin their day but colour their world view.

A great song, a great sentiment and I didn’t even mention Brexit or The Daily Mail once!

Damn!

And then there were three…

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image.pngIt feels almost like getting the full set. I’ve recently had music in from both Tamsin Quin and Phil Cooper and as this little pop-folk triptych seem to swirl around in various matched and mixed combinations popping up on each others records or playing in each others bands, it seem entirely right that I have something in from Jamie too.

It’s always hard to make heartfelt music sound sincere, many artists, presumably with the best intentions, fail because they end up resorting to cliche or schmaltz or just suffer from not having a deft enough step to navigate such difficult territory. Jamie has always wandered such pathways with ease. A combination of clean-limbed but clever guitar work and a masterful choice of words deliver the perfect tones of raw honesty that such songs require,  and Thank You, Friend, like many of his songs, drips with exactly the right sentiment. You can fake many things in music, and indeed life, but sincerity is not one of them.

Blending pop accessibility with folk earnestness, intimacy with a universally relatable message, a hint of retreating darkness in a brightening future, a clever mix of dexterous playing with resonant weight,  Thank You, Friend is Jamie doing what he seems to do so  honestly, so exquisitely well, so charmingly and somehow, so effortlessly.

11133786_10153234946553064_9116099339198896169_n-1Even though it is demonstrably not true, I have been tarred with a reputation for hating covers of songs and those who make them. But I will say that if you are going to attempt a song already in the popular canon, especially one as well known as this, then you need to be either breathing new life into it, giving it a new sonic space to exist in, new musical pastures to frolic in, or you need to be understanding of what makes the song live, its essence and pay tribute to that. And this rather masterful rendition of Crowded House’s most elegant opus (forget all that Weather With You nonsense, this is the real deal) is very much the latter, a tribute.

And who better to take on such a task? Phil always shared certain sonic DNA with Neil Finn, and Neil Finn sits at the right hand of Our Lord Mike Scott so already there is a certain pedigree at work here. I used to book both Phil, and Jamie R Hawkins who is the second vocal which you can hear adding some wonderful harmonic grace to the proceedings, and so even before things kick off the very notion of what is going on here is pretty exciting.

As I said, this is a very faithful rendition, but then again to me, and probably to Phil too, this is hallowed ground so why subvert it when you can pay tribute to it, and pay tribute it does. There is the same elegant dexterity to the guitar work and even without trying to sound like the great man himself, you notice that Phil has exactly the right voice for the job plus Jamie’s  added vocal weight is perfect. Succinct, spacious, eloquent, charming, just like the original.

Not many cover versions live up to the standards set by the original, how could they, but I would say that when you set this next to that glorious single, there isn’t a lot of light shining through the gap and how could you ask for more than that? Okay, a Neil Finn house show, but until that happens…

 

Pre-save for 4th October release

27503378_1049985821809631_747397107544723842_o.jpgIt’s a controversial issue for sure and at the risk of sounding like one of these music snobs that you always hear about, I am going to raise the point anyway. You could consider covers and tributes as the mass entertainment of the live gigging circuit and original music as the way to ensure that things keep moving forward. Both are required. The former largely keeps venues and music pubs in business these days, the latter feeds into the wider music system and bigger, further flung venues to keep musical evolution a going concern. I only mention this because this week I have been unable to find many original gigs to fill this column and that does beg the question that without that input of new creativity what does the future look like? Is new music taking place outside the traditional live venue circuit? Are we locked into a rose-tinted era of comfort and familiarity? Where will new music come from if not the small, grassroots venues? Enough speculation, on to business.

Blues is on the menu at The Beehive tonight as Built For Comfort offer up the sound of traditional Chicago blues with a few detours through the Memphis and New Orleans scene, expect sultry guitars, organ flourishes (steady) and some solid grooving music. Also following a traditional route but this time down an English folk pathway Splat The Rat take rustic songs from the days of yore and update them for the modern audience at The Victoria.

The one totally original show I could find this week takes place at The Tuppenny and features the welcome return of Phil Cooper (pictured) as he promotes his most excellent and highly recommended new album Thoughts and Observations. He blends the likes of Crowded House and David Gray’s deft pop through his own enlightening songs. Also on the bill is Sarah C. Ryan and her own take on folk and roots infused guitar pop.

Friday sees two helpings of old-school rock for your enjoyment. Firstly at The Victoria Rorke’s Drift and Black Rose line up a set of iconic numbers from the halcyon days of the genre delivered with all the power and the glory of those original bands. Those of a less nervous disposition might wish to head over to The Swiss Chalet for a slice of The Chaos Brothers. They aim to “play the Three Chords of Freedom to an unsuspecting and largely uncaring world” but the reality is that they generally play punk, rock, glam and metal to a rowdy and drunken gathering.

If something smoother and more considered is required then The Soul Man at The Grove’s Company Inn is the gig for you, especially if the golden age of soul, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, The Drifters and the like is your cup of honeyed sonic tea. The Ultimate Band bring the wide appeal of the function band and a diverse and infectious mix of music to The Queen’s Tap whilst Monkey Dolls at The Castle play songs which you probably know but are less likely to hear from your average cover band.

Nuttyness pay tribute to Camden Town’s finest skanking, 2-tone revivalists, Madness, at The Victoria on Saturday so expect a night of ska-pop fun and frolics and all the hits and iconic songs that you know and love. Also playing some groovesome and accessible tunes is Felix and the Funk who will be filling the Haydon Wick Club with all the iconic sonic moments from funk (natch) pop, soul, reggae, dance and disco. Rugs will be cut, wigs will be flipped and dance floors filled.

Funk and rock pair up at The Queen’s Tap as Patsy Gamble and Wishbone Ash’s Muddy Manninen mix up groove, blues, funk, rock and soul into covers and originals at The Queen’s Tap as they lead Hipkiss through their musical moves, Penfold break out the party tunes at The Castle and Stripped take things down a notch or two with acoustic renditions of all your favourites at The Manor.

The Coleview Community Centre starts two days of music with Locarno Beat’s 60’s hits package followed by Get Carter’s pop rock and indie covers on Sunday. Also on Sunday The Revolvers will be bringing a touch of ska to The Duke of Edinburgh.

2016_chuck_mosley_picWe seem to have witnessed a steady trickle of bigger names and more intriguing live bookings heading in to town over the last few weeks and there are plenty more to come in the shape of various blasts from the past, happening acts, festival favourites and other unexpected additions to the circuit regulars. And this week offers three more acts that fall squarely into that exclusive bracket. One of which can be found tonight at The Victoria.

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13770448_10153879878179422_708032630940904024_nWith the rise of the Pokémon Go madness, I’ve had a great idea of how to invigorate the local music scene. Pokeband Go. Same concept but the avatars of the local bands and artists that you have to capture can only be found in the bar or venue that they are playing in. You can then take them to a “gym” – normally a music or record shop – to battle with other players. You get awarded candies for buying band merchandise and stardust signing up to their mailing list. What do you reckon? If imaginary Japanese cartoon creatures can become a worldwide phenomena, surely this has a chance. Right? Maybe not.

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12711199_1028505133857289_4581950497514981152_oMany people think that Swindon is a bit of a back water when it comes to culture, particularly music, and that the only time you really hear much about the town on TV is when some witty, pre-scripted comedian uses it as a punch-line on Mock The Week to our aesthetic detriment. But, if you look at the listings carefully you will notice 3 international bands playing gigs this week plus the Swindon Shuffle starts its smaller fringe events as a precursor to its tenth year celebrating local, original music. That doesn’t sound like a back water to me.

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