Thursday, 25 September 2014

The new U2 album, Songs of Innocence

I've been a U2 fan for many years - I think The Joshua Tree is a great album, certainly one of the best of the 1980s.

I also embraced Achtung Baby, which was a change of direction musically for the band, and One is probably one of my favourite songs.

But I was more than a little annoyed with Bono and the boys last week when they gave away their latest album, Songs of Innocence. 

Not that I mind them giving away their music - that's completely up to them.  No, it was the fact that they gave it away on iTunes, and I don't have an iTunes account!

I'm one of those Luddites who prefers to still have actual CDs.  I even trundle off to record shops to buy them, rather than having them delivered (how quaint and old-fashioned I hear you cry!)

I appreciate that this perhaps puts me in a minority.  But I personally don't own an MP3 player of any variety.  Instead I have numerous CD players and like to play music on those.

I also study the artwork on the cover of the CD and read the sleeve notes.  I like reading the lyrics of songs - invariably I've mis-heard them and would be singing along to my own variation were it not for the fact I can discover what they're actually saying.

I was in a local town centre the other Saturday morning and I took a notion that I'd like to buy The Pierces or Ward Thomas's albums - perhaps I was feeling influenced by the Yeehaw! festival at Rockingham Castle.

Sadly, there wasn't anywhere I could go to make this purchase. All the record shops in this particular town have closed down. Thankfully there's still a HMV in Kettering, and I will head there soon.

As for the new U2 album, I believe it's on general release from 13th October.  But will anyone buy it?  I'm not sure I will - if they can give it away to iTunes customers, many of whom didn't even want it, why not give it to fans who do?

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The X Factor 2014

You know it's definitely Autumn and Christmas is just around the corner when The X Factor appears back on our TV screens.

Time to put away the barbecue, perhaps purchase a takeaway and settle down with the family to hear about people's journeys, emotional rollercoasters, dying hamsters, how they were born to do this, how they're not going to let anyone down, and are going to give a mathematically improbable 110% etc. 

I'm not knocking it though - I'm already hooked.  This year is a bit special though, isn't it?  We have the return of Mr Cowell, career creator and hope-dasher extraordinaire.  Can I just ask though, what's with the shirts open to the navel Simon?  Button up or you'll get a chill - you're in England now, not L.A.!

Also back is Cheryl, who was Tweedy, then Cole, and is now Fernandez-Versini, but is just known by her first name, in the same style as Madonna and Kylie.

Into this mix arrives Melanie Brown, Scary Spice in a previous life.  She's very blunt, but I do like her honesty.  Then there's Louis, good old reliable Louis.  He's been in every series apart from a brief blip a few years ago, but he soon returned and is now part of the show's furniture. 

It'll be interesting to see how the chemistry of the new panel progresses - I'm expecting some fireworks given Simon and Cheryl's history.

I love watching the audition stages, but, and I say this every year, I cannot believe how deluded some people are when it comes to their singing voices!

Do they not have partners/friends/parents/neighbours who could have a quiet word and tell them that their singing really isn't that great?  Is public humiliation on prime-time Saturday night TV really the best way to go?

New for this year is having the closed-room auditions beamed into the contestants' waiting room, which is great as some of the reactions and conversations between the people watching are priceless. 

I particularly liked the ones discussing the 'posh' girl, who said they thought she'd celebrate getting through to the next round with caviar, Champagne and asparagus.  I have to say, it seemed an unusual and unlikely combo to me!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Vacuum cleaner frenzy

I'm proud to announce that I didn't get swept up in the latest craze - I'm not talking about the ice-bucket challenge, although I did get nominated for that but chose instead to give a donation to the Air Ambulance.  No, I mean the craze for panic-buying vacuum cleaners.

The thought never even occurred to me.  I heard about it on the news, and at first assumed it was a joke, but they had photographic evidence of people loading the soon-to-be-banned high powered devices into the back of their cars in a frenzied fashion.

Now, I'm not a professional cleaner - I prefer to maintain my amateur status in case it ever becomes an Olympic sport - so perhaps I don't fully appreciate the complexity of the cleaning-power required.

In truth, I don't even know the wattage of my current machine - it was purchased from Clearance Bargains a few years ago, it does the job, and I'm not really bothered - it is not a status symbol.  It's a household appliance which lives in the garage or utility room and only makes an appearance when nobody else is present. 

Unless of course I'm missing something?  If you've got a high-powered, limited edition, fancy make, do you wheel it out in company so your friends can marvel at it?  Do people have parties where they bring along their vacuums and compare features?  Perhaps there's a whole other world of domestic appliance envy out there of which I have no knowledge and play no part!

Joking apart though, I guess if you've got family members with allergies a better quality machine becomes more important, but for the vast majority of us I'm sure the lower-powered versions we can still legally purchase are adequate.

But this discussion did lead me to consider the items I would perhaps consider panic buying should the EU decide to ban them.

Cadbury's chocolate heads the list, followed by tea bags and Marmite.  I'm fairly sure a ban on these items is highly unlikely, but should it ever occur don't be surprised if you see me on the news loading up my car, or a van, or perhaps a lorry, or even two lorries...

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Goosebump moments

I had a couple of 'goosebump' moments over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

The first was at the Gretton Music Festival, watching the Youth BUSkers event on the Corby Radio Bus.

A young girl performed the operatic piece 'O Mio Babbino Caro' (O My Beloved Father) by Puccini, which I remember from the Merchant Ivory film 'A Room With A View'.

It was amazing, the whole crowd fell silent and listened intently.  She was brilliant - I think we could have another Faryl Smith in the making!

In fact, all the young performers were excellent and should be congratulated - it takes a lot of courage to stand on a stage and perform.  Well done to you all.

The music festival was a big success and was well attended. I also enjoyed the live bands, sadly I couldn't see them all, but Point Blank were very good, and performed a range of rock music including songs by Kings of Leon and the Stereophonics.

Then on Sunday I danced the night away to Jive Honey, a ten-piece band with three lady vocalists, horn and rhythm sections, who played a wide range of soul, funk, pop and rock.  They were fabulous, a great party band that also included Mike Wedderburn, the Sky Sports presenter, on keyboards!

Before the Jive Honey gig on Sunday, we had headed to Stamford for a charity car show in The Meadows.

At 3pm I had my other 'goosebump' moment when the last two flying Lancasters in the world - Vera and Thumper - flew overhead.

It was a fantastic sight and sound - the roar of the Rolls Royce Merlin engines as they went over is something that I won't forget. 

We had been due to see them the week before at the Sywell airshow, but they couldn't attend due to high winds.  I just wish we could have seen a bit more of them as they just did the flypast and then headed off to their next destination.  But they were worth the wait, and I feel privileged that I eventually got to see them both - it's unlikely that I'll get the chance again.