Mary Irvine’s Blog: Musical Musings

jimmy webb

As I believe I’ve mentioned before Xmas does not involve me in decorations, cards or present buying to any extent so I find I have some ten days in which to catch up on writing related tasks – for myself! A sort of mental tidying up. I wrote down five ‘things to do’ during those ten days and one of them was catch up on blogs. The first was to format a booklet – done. The second, (also done), was to write up notes for a talk on Rabbie Burns for Jan 25th – and me English as well as female. Think he’d have approved of the female component.

My first offering for your delectation is about music.


Musical Musings

Music is a big part of my life. On the whole I have a very eclectic taste but do have a particular leaning towards singer song-writers, which only came to full realisation when I noted the pile of cds next to my Bose. Warren Zevon, Tom Rush, Leon Russell, Tim Hardin, Randy Newman, Richie Havens, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Stephen Stills (greatest guitarist ever!),  the actual list is much longer –  all waiting to be returned to their shelf places. I recently discovered a new singer-songwriter, Gregory Porter, thanks to a present sent through the post from my friends who had heard one of the tracks from his cd, ‘Liquid Spirit’ and just knew I would appreciate him. And I do. In particular ‘No Love Dying Here’, ‘Water Under Bridges’ and ‘Musical Genocide’. His arrangement and rendition of Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’ is well worth the listening.

 I’ve written before of seeing some of the above people (and I am aware they are all male) but one I’ve neglected is Jimmy Webb who recently appeared at the RCH, Glasgow, with his tribute tour ‘The Glen Campbell Years’. Webb is one of those songwriters of whom people tend to say ‘Who? Never heard of him’. But when I reel off some of the long list of songs they immediately come up with ‘Oh, Glen Campbell’. But Webb was so much more than that. A prolific song-writer with many hits by top artists, quite apart from Glen Campbell. For me there is something special about a song-writer singing his own songs so was pleased when Webb started so-doing. His version of Galveston reflects a poignancy in its interpretation not present in that of Campbell’s.    

jimmy webb

But back to the actual show. It was in the RCH’s new auditorium, well designed as far as lighting, acoustics and slightly sloping floor concerned but no where near sufficient leg room, a foot board prevented anyone stretching out their legs. The ‘warm-up’ act was one David Scott who me thought displayed influences not only of Jimmy Webb but also of Jackson Browne. A word here about and to those people who only arrive in time for the main act. Not only do they cause disturbance for people already seated it is also rude to the artist performing. In addition they may lose the opportunity to hear very good singing and musicianship. Remember many now top acts were once ‘warm-ups’. So I was pleased the RCH ‘ushers’ held late-comers back until the actual singing/playing wasn’t interrupted.

A brief mention of the increasing practice of allowing alcohol in the auditorium. This causes more disruption as people find it necessary to visit the toilet and/or go to buy yet more alcohol.  I am not anti alcohol in any respect but surely there is a time and place…

An efficient stage crew ensured a smooth transition of equipment for Jimmy Webb. A grand piano was sited to the left of the stage giving full view to everyone of what proved to be a very important part of the presentation – a screen.
We travelled with Webb, a committed Christian, through his life and career in word and song with emphasis on the collaboration with Campbell. Although he did struggle to reach the high notes the mixed age audience still appreciated the talent behind the craft. The ending was a very moving accompaniment by Webb, on stage, to a live show, on screen, of he and Glen Campbell together playing ‘MacArthur Park’. Eleven minutes of sheer genius and bliss. I had never before appreciated Glen Campbell’s guitar playing -couldn’t get past the ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ image. Never too late to admit to an error!
A fitting ending to a great performance.
PS Whilst talking of singer-songwriters my favourite Jim Byrne song to date is ‘The Handle’s Broken on My Cup’ but it may be challenged by a couple of songs from ‘Ten Authors Telling Lies’ which I hope will be available soon…

sensational sixties experience

And Now for Something Completely Different

I now have an apology to make to the two ladies who added to my enjoyment of the ‘Sixties Night’ at the RCH. I normally avoid live concerts where the majority of the audience like to ‘sing-a-long’. Nothing wrong with that but I find the majority expect only the hits or commercial productions and are disappointed when newer compositions are aired. Musicians DO develop, experiment, grow, re-invent themselves accordingly. Anyone remember Dylan being booed offstage when he went electric? Or abandoning Neil Young when he started experimenting with synclavier and vocoder?    

Yes, there are singers/ groups doing the rounds and cashing in on past glories but others are still progressing, even into their ‘twilight years’. However, when I saw the line-up of the ‘Sixties night’ I decided I too would take a trip down memory lane* –  not some thing in which I normally indulge as I believe you can never recreate the past – and was fully prepared for the sing-a-long brigade – a legitimate enjoyment on this night.

First up was Wayne Fontana, minus the Mindbenders. The hits came, as expected and I thoroughly enjoyed the nostalgia but I  personally felt the self-deprecating jokes were embarrassing although the majority of the audience enjoyed them’ next up was PJ Proby, still PJ Proby and one of my favourite singers for a short while. I was very fickle in those days. I did copy his hairstyle and I could actually remember dancing to ‘Hold Me’ at a Bangor Uni Saturday ‘Hop’. His singing was interspaced with sniffing so I presume he had a cold.

The thought did cross my mind that both of these might have been miming at one point in each’s performance but wasn’t near enough the stage to make a more informed decision.

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, at least two of the original, I believe, finished the first half. A very polished performance and their offer to sign programmes of any other memorabilia during the interval resulted in a long queue for the popular meet and greet. Good to see singers/musicians acknowledging the fans without whom they would not have had the success the enjoyed.
 At this point I must pay due appreciation of the session/backing musicians who performed superbly during the first half.
Gary Puckett, without the Union Gap opened the second half and gave an exceptionally professional and accomplished set. I enjoyed his spiel/explanation but my two new best friends thought he was talking too much and insisted I put that in my write-up (they’d seen me scribbling notes and thought I was a real reviewer) so there you are girls and I do hope you got home safely!

A quick change-over of the musical set up and the Searchers took over. What can one say. A group that never went away or ‘had a break’. One of the many groups who came from Liverpool over 50 years ago and still as good as ever. Their back catalogue must be amongst the best ever. A ‘reet gud neet’ all round and I’m sure everyone there thoroughly enjoyed the return to the sixties. My NBFs did and so did I. Thank you girls for including me in your ‘girls’ night out!’
* The title of a track on Van Morrison’s latest cd ‘Keep Me Singing’. Highly recommended and will be reviewing it later…

Mary Irvine, December, 2016

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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