Today I'd like to share with you the latest single (out today) by Antonia Kirby whose"Labour of Love" appears on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Two'.
After her last diptych of singles in December: "Fool" and "Fool (Funk)" (which of course we covered in the magazine), "Icarus" returns to the more spare acoustic style of Antonia's ‘The View From Here' EP from four years ago albeit with its own often jaunty air which counterpoints the message in the words.
It is a reflective piece and centres, as you'd imagine from its title, upon the central narrator's feeling that they'd flown too close to the sun & were experiencing the consequences: something many people, in equally many different ways, might associate with. This in turn has led to a sense of "shame" and hence a desire for some sort of redemption. Apparently Antonia wrote this last year after a period of writer's block and after the birth of her son, which is intriguing as you'd expect the two to stimulate in very different ways and the latter certainly not to have given rise to a song like this. Plausibly (just), one might see the words as wondering whether the blockage was possibly retribution for some transgression but even the slight anticipation of hope in "Icarus" is not consistent with the level of joy in having had a baby so I expect that the birth & subsequent song writing were coincident and not necessarily lyrically consequent.
What I like about the single is how Antonia keeps it simple: that helps the feeling of honesty which come through but also indicates her strength & confidence in writing (blockage notwithstanding): no need to hide behind contrivances or distractions and the arrangement emphasises this. It is a special skill to do this: it must require confidence in your own song & in your delivery but the end result is much more impactful than many lesser songs which dazzle us with showboating, production tricks & other shiny baubles to stop us spotting weakness in the composition. I must give credit at this point to Tom Haines who though not a formal co-writer on "Icarus" as he has previously been in working with Antonia, encouraged & guided her with the song & whose support in these respects she is very appreciative of.
Make you mine, the first solo release from Dean Dovey, is a big, big romantic ballad. Delivered with warmth and conviction, it builds from a delicate piano-tinged introduction to a powerful orchestral arrangement.
Listen carefully and you'll hear some serious songwriting chops. Here's an example, "When the pain is gone, the batttle's won, I see your surrender in the whites of your eyes." There's more craftsmanship in the production with subtle dynamics, a memorable hook, sensitive piano work and bold string arrangements.
Here's what Dean has to say:
My first solo release is here! "Make You Mine" produced, mixed and mastered with Jason Edwards of Majestic Splendour Studio and also features Kris Halpin on piano. Footage shot around Pooley Country Park #KeepingItLocal
The lockdown has given me the opportunity to have a second look back over my favourite gigs/memories from the Assembly, along with a selection of my images from these shows (many unpublished).
Hope you enjoy going back in time with me to some of my best Assembly nights and some of my all time favourite artists.
MARILLION - 2014
One of the bands famous christmas shows this one had just about everything from the glorious, zippy opener ‘Gazpacho', a trip through the Fish years with ‘Clutching at Straws' ‘Warm Wet Circles' and ‘That Time of the Night' and right up to date with the uplifting ‘Power' from the bands (at the time) new album Sounds That Can't Be Made.
Other highlights (the first one possibly just for me) my Marillion "guilty pleasure" the beautiful and heartfelt ‘No One Can' just awash with emotion, and there was still room in the set for ‘Easter' always a show standout with it's a strong positive message, crowd participation and one of Mr Rothery's greatest guitar solos.
We had Christmas treats with a glorious ‘Seasons End', with lyrics including "sledging on a hill" and "it may never snow again in England" and Mr Hogarth adorned in a festive flashing waistcoat smiled his way through ‘The Christmas Song', and with snow falling over the stage and crowd the bands take on John Lennon's ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)'.
The night ended in party mode with ‘The Release' followed by one of their more unusual numbers the fantastically weird and spaced out ‘Cannibal Surf Babe' with its Beach Boys vibe.
What a show, what an audience, what a venue and as always what a band.
MOSTLY AUTUMN - 2010
This was a very special gig as it was the last performance with Mostly Autumn for lead vocalist Heather Findlay who was leaving to launch a solo career.
The band visited most of their albums in the show delivering 2 sets of musical excellence starting (with it's atmospheric intro) 'Fading Colours' and last to take the stage dressed in a stylish red dress and black hat with a short veil and to a huge reception, the lady of the moment Heather.
The first set also included rockers ‘Caught in a Fold',a foot tapping ‘Flowers for Guns' with quality harmony singing by Olivia Sparnenn and Anne-Marie Helder, and ‘Unoriginal Sin' with its slow burning heavy main riff and fretboard fireworks by Bryan Josh.
There was very welcome return for the (greatly missed) Liam Davison's stunning lead intro to ‘The Spirit of Autumn Past (part 2)', and a show stopping performance of Heather's showpiece "Shrinking Violet'.
The second set began with ‘Carpe Diem' the moving track written about the tragic Boxing Day tsunamis of 2004 - you could hear a pin drop during the quieter moments, in contrast powerful drumming from Gavin Griffiths on the stirring ‘Winter Mountain' followed by the one-two punch of ‘The Dark Before the Dawn' and ‘Answer the Question' the latter two even had me head banging in the photo pit.
Back to where it all started with ‘Nowhere to Hide (close my eyes)' from their debut album followed by the gentle ‘Half the Mountain' and to close the main set we had the classic ‘Heroes Never Die' dedicated to Robert Josh.
Encore time began with just Heather accompanied by keyboards for the delicate ‘Above the Blue', another showcase for her wonderful voice along with Iain and Anne-Marie's keyboard magic, I could not put it better than the single call at the end of the track from the crowd "that was beautiful" and finally the majestic ‘Evergreen' starting gently with exquisite vocals before the track turns into a Bryan Josh showpiece with incredible solo work and of course the centre stage set piece of bass player Andy Smith and Heather back to back and rocking the house.
Alongside the usual end of set bows we had an emotional speech by Heather and the band presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers followed by her saying goodbye to all the band members individually, plenty of tears but what great memories we have.
What a night - two stunning sets, all the classics, band all playing a storm (never seen Bryan's hands move so fast), a big enthusiastic crowd and a great venue and to finish, Heather of course came out along with Bryan to mingle with the fans.
DR FEELGOOD - 2011
There was definitely something in the air on this night as our very own local boy and lead guitarist extraordinaire Steve Walwyn performed at The Assembly for the first time with his band Dr Feelgood.
They hit the stage firing on all cylinders with 'She Does It Right', and the set list was top draw and full of the bands classic numbers along with well chosen blues/r&b standards.
Hit after hit 'Roxette', 'Baby Jane', 'Back in the Night', 'Down At the Doctors' and of course 'Milk And Alcohol'.
Quality covers 'I Can Tell', a show stopping 'Route 66' and Steve's guitar showpiece at this show was his take on Muddy Water's 'Rollin' and Tumblin'.
Tonight the band were on fire, one of the tightest rhythm sections in music Kevin Morris on drums and Phil Mitchell on bass, on vocals/harmonica Robert Kane giving his all, and Steve letting rip with solos and rocking rhythm guitar all set long.
Encore time 2 more covers to end the night both given that Dr Feelgood treatment Larry Williams classic 'Bony Maronie' and the party vibe of ‘Tequila'.
What a night.
VOODOO VEGAS - 2012
Voodoo Vegas, the rocking pride of Bournemouth played here supporting tribute band The Doors Alive.
Rock and Roll really works when you have someone with the stage craft and showmanship of vocalist Lawrence Case up front, the band's very own Mick Fleetwood (but without the drums!) towered over the front rows, geeing the audience up all set, vocally on top form and looking every inch the rock star.
The rest of the band at this time the twin lead guitar attack of Nick and Meryl, head banging bass player Ash and Matt on drums (Nick & Matt have since left the line-up)
The set opened with the catchy 'No More', followed by the monster riffs of ‘Out There' (which reminded me of vintage Areosmith), rockers 'King Without a Crown' and 'Cheeky Riff' with it's pounding bass work .
This show was before they released their debut album which would include most of the nights set including the final two numbers 'Mary Jane' a hard rocker that would not have been out of place on 'Appetite for Destruction' and another future live classic 'So Unkind' a number full of bite and passion.
HAYSEED DIXIE - 2017
You know what you are going to get with Hayseed Dixie, iconic rock numbers given that Hayseed bluegrass treatment, hilarious originals, plenty of stage antics and the wit and wisdom of Barley Scotch.
We had a triple bill of AC/DC classics ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap', ‘Touch Too Much' and ‘Highway To Hell' covers of Motorhead anthem ‘Ace of Spades' ,Sabbath's ‘War Pigs' with the stage bathed in red light and the whole band on vocal duties for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody', all of course given that Dixie magic.
The best of the band originals was the hilarious (if messy) ‘I'm Keeping Your Poop' and there is much to see and enjoy on the visual side with mandolin player Hippy Joe Hymas in particular an absolute firebrand pulling faces and making gestures all set long and playing the main joker.
A Hayseed Dixie gig really is a show and a half, great music and side splitting moments as well as top draw musicians who seem to be having as much fun as the audience.
MAGNUM - 2018
Bob Catley, (songwriter/guitars) Tony Clarkin (vocals), Al Barrow (bass), Rick Benton (keyboards), Lee Morris (drums) the line-up of Magnum for this 2018 show in support of the bands ‘Lost On The Road To Eternity' album.
Delivering that trademark Magnum sound, majestic and rocking for the most part while at other times subtle and beautiful but always full of the most glorious melodies.
Golden oldie classics included ‘All England's Eyes', How Far Jerusalem' and ‘Vigilante', and from that recently released album (future classics!) ‘Peaches And Cream' a hook driven rocker of the finest quality and ‘Without Love' a catchy, polished rocker.
The final number of the main set evoked a spooky, atmospheric mood ‘Don't Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young)'. and the encores another evergreen classic ‘The Spirit' with its medieval intro and finally ‘When The World Comes Down' closing yet another class set by one of the countries most enduring rock bands.
THE IRON MAIDENS - 2017
This Californian based all female tribute to the mighty Iron Maiden really did justice to the mighty Maiden name.
As with the real thing they hit the stage to the intro tape of UFO classic Doctor Doctor and the show includes plenty of spectacle smoke, explosions and even their very own Eddie making numerous appearances in different guises.
The sound of the band has to be heard to be believed, of course thunderous at times (bass and drum work solid as a rock) but wonderfully melodic when required with the twin guitar work a delight.
Highlights included roaring opener ‘Aces High', my all time fav Maiden number ‘Wasted Years', and ‘The Trooper'.
The crowds reaction and interaction throughout singing along especially on an epic ‘Fear Of The Dark', and jumping up and down and head banging throughout the show turned the night into a real event.
The run in was a belter ‘The Number Of The Beast', ‘Running Free' and ‘Iron Maiden' the latter with Eddie in full flow.
CANNED HEAT - 2018
One of the shorter sets I have witnessed but fab to see this iconic American rock/blues band in action, they played at the original Woodstock Festival and the line-up still had two members from that prestigious event in drummer Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra and bassist Larry "The Mole" Taylor (sadly passed away in 2019).
The word classic is over used but this band sure had them so we had plenty of boogie in the shape of ‘On The Road Again Time', ‘Going Up The Country' and ‘Let's Work Together'.
There was an authentic train-a-rollin blues style ‘Rollin' And Tumblin' a blues tune dating back to the 1920's, and the encores included the instrumental ‘Boogie' which alongside a driving blues riff gave all members a chance to shine on their individual instruments.
This show was a piece of rock and roll history and I felt privileged to be there.
THIN LIZZY - 2012
The time had arrived for my first live Thin Lizzy experience since the Thunder and Lighting tour hit The Coventry Theatre many years ago, and as the lights dimmed you could sense the atmosphere change in the hall and the anticipation rise as the band walked on and straight into surely one of the best set openers ever (also asking a question I am sure they knew the answer to by the audience reception) 'Are You Ready'.
After the explosive opener we had the double header of all time classics 'Jailbreak' and 'Don't Believe a Word', already we have had three from the Live and Dangerous album (one of the greatest live albums ever) and plenty more where that came from including the funky 'Dancing in the Moonlight', ' Still In Love With You' and 'Cowboy Song'.
While everyone in the hall still of course missed the legendary Phil Lynott (myself included) Ricky Warwick's voice suited the band really well, powerful and with a good touch of Phil's singing style.
Scott Gorham surely one of the coolest guitar slingers in rock was on top form reeling off his trade mark solos (so cool to be in the photo pit with Mr Gorham in my sights) and I was also really impressed with the dynamic axe work of Damon Johnson on the 2nd lead guitar, the current line-up is completed by original powerhouse drummer Brian Downey who excelled all night particularly on the many Celtic tinged numbers, Darren Wharton on keyboards and on the bass Marco Mendoza.
Away from that famous live album we had Darren Wharton's show piece, the atmospheric and ominous 'Angel of Death', dark rocker 'Killer On the Loose'
‘Waiting For An Alibi' and a glorious ‘Whisky In the Jar'
Things really heated up for the encores with a monstrously heavy 'Emerald', followed by the Bob Seger number Lizzy have almost made their own 'Rosalie' and finally in keeping with the band's Irish roots a stunning 'Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) A Rock Legend'.
It was for sure one of the great The Assembly performances.
There you have it another collection of my standout Leamington Assembly gigs with a few of my photos many unpublished, let us hope that the venue returns one day.
Did you enjoy the sumptuous, popular & acclaimed track "Just You & Me" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three'? If, like me, you did, you'll be delighted to learn that Bethany Dyson has managed to release a new single "Open Your Eyes", beating lockdown to record it.
As a follow up to "Just You & Me" (which was her last single as well as appearing on our local showcase of the finest talent in Coventry & Warwickshire), the new song (written by Bethany with guitarist/keyboard player Chris Hague) also features Joel White on piano, Style Councillor Steve White on drums & bass player David Glover and was produced by Chris and David, the mastering being courtesy of Simon Francis.
As "Just You & Me" turned its gaze upon issues of mental well being, "Open Your Eyes" inhabits a similarly compassionate world and at this point it is worth saying that Bethany's words in this respect are greatly enhanced by her choice of delivery style. A few too many singers with obvious natural ability choose to use songs as showcase vehicles for their range, power & tricks (I'm sorry but in my experience the term "diva" was far from being some sort of compliment necessarily): Bethany is emphatically not one of these. I'm not quite sure I'd go with the "raw" description of her work (her writing is as polished as her warm vocal tones) but I'd most definitely agree with "straight talking" and "honest" and such virtues as I say are as inherent in how she sings this song as what she says in it.
As with the previous single, you can't really ignore the pedigree of the musicians she is fortunate enough to work with (and I'm sure they would not choose to work with Bethany unless they admired and respected her work as I do) but the result is not some sort of high end professional piece, all gloss & little substance, but the work of players who have also played with artists of the unquestionable integrity of Paul Weller, Pulp, Finlay Quaye etc. Let's hope Bethany's eventual commercial success matches some of those.
As before, I'm glad that we can use "cross genre" about her work as this song is styled to its own meaning & not a rigid stylistic classification. Elements of blues & jazz lurk agreeably but I'd say that in this instance soul possibly has the upper hand with strong echoes of early 1970s versions of that style.
It all works very well as "an irresistible piece of dreamy and soulful pop" yet I think that it is so much more than that & I'm sure Bethany intends it to be so. It exhorts us to rise to the challenges around us and to use a pathway of honesty & truth to do so. Clearly viewing the world in such a way is vital to this, but we should not forget that we are part of that world & we should examine ourselves just as objectively.
As I say, it's not just what Bethany writes & sings, however beautiful & uplifting a first listen might be. Listen again (and again) please and really take onboard her deeper meanings & the spirit in which she performs the song. Then go out and live your way as she recommends. It's for the best.
Check out also the charming video Bethany again just managed to get completed with Paul Newbold of Lightspark Music Photography while such things were still possible: it's at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puYGxBYreNY&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR28IkNlOYzG95IqEc3eA52GxRT7JlA9DyRMJFxKXdtxJxmcXtn7UvrwKMY
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