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Thursday, January 1, 2009


Final column from Bev Pulé.

In her final column for ArtSmart, Bev touches on the talents of two contemporary musicians, then moves along to muse on a crop of Christmas Crackers she’d suggest for those with a, shall we say, slightly HIGHER (musical) brow!

If by any chance you’ve not yet expanded your contemporary collection with anything by the Mellifluous Miss Melua, do NOT miss out on The Katie Melua Collection on the shelves just in time for Christmas 2008, containing as it does almost ALL her previous releases but, in addition, four to five brand new songs, including the charming Two Bare Feet and also an extremely pretty number, When you Taught Me How to Dance which was used on the soundtrack of the delightful Miss Potter, as it emanated from a music box which Beatrix opens in her bedroom, as she and her publisher do a few turns in each other’s arms, after she’s shown him a collection of her charming animal sketches adorning the walls.

Katie Melua visited our shores not too many months back and I would love to have seen her performing live but it was a typically ubiquitous raining-in-Durban-night-because-there’s-a-big-star-in-town – and it was, of course, an open-air venue, as was the case with Lionel Richie and Rod Stewart! However, my daughter travelled to Cape Town for Katie’s live performance in the stunningly beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens a few years back, and said it was a totally unforgettable experience (AND it did NOT rain!).

Another recent release I’d recommend is Simply Red 25 –The Greatest Hits, and I was fortunate enough to catch a brief documentary on the now legendary red-haired Mick Hucknall (their front singer) on SABC3 one Saturday in November when the scheduled cricket had concluded earlier than anticipated (hoorah!) and very informative it was, too. I discovered that this talented musician – rather like classical AND contemporary singer, Russell Watson, one of my VERY favourite artists – also started out singing in pubs and clubs in the north of England, mostly churning out covers to begin with.

It was only when his band achieved an unexpectedly sudden smash hit with Money’s Too Tight To Mention (a social commentary on the times) that a bleak period of almost four years of unemployment came to an end for Mick, and before he could say (sing?) Bob’s Your Uncle the freckled feller with the sparkling gold front tooth found himself at the Grammy awards and such-like frequently. He reckons his success in the US (particularly what he referred to as Black America) was a great thrill to him. He also confided that his song A New Flame was, in fact, a dedication to his model girlfriend at the time (who he met in Japan), for whom he wrote the big hit number If You Don’t Know Me By Now.

He feels he has a good nose for what he terms commerciality but that at the height of the success of The Beatles was working on his own and was, in fact, quite insecure and lonely. However, that was probably because, from 1985 to1993, he was mostly off touring somewhere in between stops to record. He was at his peak when he decided to give up covers and concentrate instead on his own writing – his great hit Stars being a case in point – and only felt secure when he was at home. Poignant indeed was the telling of how his not having a mother formed his initial insecurities – in fact, he went on to opine that it’s not your father but your mother who gives you courage, and thus he reflected that his relationships (chasing women constantly) were his way of seeking as much love as possible from the opposite sex. He went on to quote some give-away lines that, he says, were really cries for help… For example, I’d Give It All Up For You.

Fairground was his first UK No. 1 and his reaction, he says, was Finally! - but after that he felt it was time to do something else.

He recalled that the years 1994 to 1996 are a bit of a blank in his memory or, as he put it, a black hole, a period when he had no inner happiness, but went on to tell how he then discovered a wonderful rural property with a recording studio in back which provided a great venue for him (and his band) to work on a more low-key basis, and that their music began to reach a new generation with their new label at that point. However, he reckons all the partying he did in those days, living the stereotypical Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle, caused him to gain weight, and that he only got out of his hole, as he put it, around 2003 to 2005. By 2007, he says he finally felt he’d reached stability – a period with a daughter he adored and living a more normal lifestyle.

Mick Hucknall wants to leave a legacy of strong lyrics that strike a chord that people can relate to. I reckon that taking a careful listen to the words of all the wonderful songs on this album may just have you feeling that that wish has already been fulfilled.

And now on to the composer of the song White Flag. Does the singer’s name spring to your lips right away? Yup, Dido is the moniker she goes by in the music world. And here is yet another silky-voiced female songwriter who is possibly underrated if all you know of her is hearing her occasional hits played on radio. Hearing her sound engineers talk about her many and varied talents - she plays not only piano, guitar, drums and a whole lot more – they reveal that she is extremely keen to learn the actual engineering side of the recording business and is constantly improving her techniques by working in the legendary Abbey Road studios with the best in the business. This gal is sure to go from strength to strength, so next time you hear HER poignant lyrics, give a thought to just how much time goes into working on just one song – you really have no idea if you missed the splendid mini-documentary on THIS recording artist! (Well done to SABC3 with continually bringing us these interesting snippets, and keep ‘em coming, say I!)

However, for those with a slightly higher (music) brow, allow me to close by dropping in your ear a few more whispers for Xmas Prezzie ideas for someone you love! Apart from Natasha Marsh, mentioned last month, the albums I’d suggest you go out and investigate this Festive Season are Sarah Brightman’s A Winter Symphony (mostly Christmas-inspired songs but not ALL); then there’s Katherine Jenkins with her Sacred Arias (all the well-known ones are there AND more!); the four male hunks comprising Il Divo have brought out The Promise (just as good as all their forerunners); and Andrea Bocelli stuns and delights, as always, with Incanto, which includes two delightful duets, introducing to me two new sopranos, namely Veronica Berti and Anna Bonitatibus. This means I shall have to explore them further, along with Kathleen Battle, who I mentioned last time as appearing at the American Music Awards and blowing me away when she lent an operatic air to pop song Superwoman as performed by Alicia Keys, joined by Queen Latifah.

All that’s left in signing off what will be my last piece is for me to thank Caroline Smart for the opportunity to write for her column these past couple of years and share my opinions on life and, more often, on music. But there is now a NEW life that has entered my family, in the form of my first grandchild, and it’s going to be both a thrill and a challenge to focus my attention not only on much baby-sitting but also in attempting to inspire in him the same love for music that I have enjoyed for around sixty years! Should you ever hear that a lad named Jordan Daniel Steyn has some sort of claim to fame (for his music) by the time I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, perhaps you’ll allow Baboushka Bev a little of the credit?

May I end with a few words I once heard from Oprah’s lips (though I think they came from the pen of Maya Angelou!) which go like this:

May God hold you always in the palm of His hand – but never squeeze TOO tightly!

Adieu! - Bev Pulé (December 2008)

All credit to Bev Pulé, a former radio personality, for rising to the challenge and writing a column instead of broadcasting one. We wish her and her family all the very best for the future and offer our thanks for her interesting Meanderings. Caroline Smart (Editor: artSMart)