July 2022 Favourites

Well, it’s fair to say that this past month will go down in the history books for quite a variety of reasons, some better than others. Boris Johnson’s long overdue resignation has left our government in disarray as they hunt for a new leader, and our record-breaking heatwave in the UK resulted in several fires in London, even if it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as in Europe. But, as is often the case, sport has come along to lift the nation’s spirits, as I’ll mention during this post – we all know what the main headline is there!

As for me, work is very busy, with people wanting to get as many jobs done as they can before my redundancy kicks in next month! I’ve had lots of lovely messages and good wishes from colleagues already, which is very flattering. And thank you so much to all of my other friends and followers for their messages of support as well, including relevant vacancies and volunteering opportunities that people are already starting to bring to my attention, please do keep those coming. I won’t apply for everything that people send me of course, but they’re all giving me food for thought for my future career path.

I still feel quite calm about it all so far, because I have strong foundations from my current job and volunteering work that I can build on – and I’ve had a nice surprise in relation to the latter that I’ll mention next month. Plus I’m fortunate not to have major financial worries at the moment – although I have taken the opportunity to cut back on a few subscriptions that I can live without for a while, as saving a few quid here and there each month soon adds up. It also appears there are one or two paid research opportunities that could be of some benefit.

In any case, my plan is still to have a bit of a well-earned break, in order to sort out some stuff at home, while we consider whether to move house, as well as get out and about more as I have various things booked in the next few months. But I’m continuing to keep a close eye out for job and volunteering opportunities as well, as you never know what’ll come up.

Aside from all that though, I have been enjoying my leisure time as usual of course, and you’ll know about the shows I’ve been to see recently if you’ve been keeping up to date with my posts. So here’s my latest roundup of outings, sport, comedy and music that I’ve got into this month. As always, none of it’s sponsored or gifted, and I hope you enjoy!

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Parties At The Palace – Part 2

I’m delighted that the Platinum Jubilee was such a success this weekend, with lots of events taking place all over the country, and the weather holding out for the central celebrations in London. If you attended any events during the holiday, I hope you had a good time!

In my previous post I reviewed the Golden & Diamond Jubilee Concerts from 2002 and 2012 respectively. So in this post I’m going to discuss my highlights from this year’s concert, after briefly mentioning some of the other coverage that my mother and I have been tuning into. So I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – Jazz

Following News Of The World, an album of raw energy that spawned the mega-hits We Will Rock You & We Are The Champions, on top of their previous successes, was always going to be a very tall order for Queen. But, as always, they weren’t deterred by that, and opted to explore a variety of musical styles on their 7th album (though not including jazz itself as the title might suggest). And it didn’t do them any harm, as the LP peaked at Number 2 in the UK charts (held off the top spot by the Grease soundtrack), and Number 6 on the US Billboard Chart, going Platinum in both countries.

Overall the album perhaps isn’t as stunning as some of their previous work, but only because of the incredibly high bar they’d set themselves, and it’s still really good in its own right. For a start, it gave us their well-loved songs Fat Bottomed Girls, Bicycle Race and Don’t Stop Me Now, a trio that makes it worth the price of entry alone (although surprisingly the latter wasn’t a big hit to begin with). And the other ten tracks are an enjoyable mixture too, with some relatively obscure gems amongst them as usual.

The heavy criticism it received in the music press at the time was certainly unwarranted, with the band even being described as “fascist” and “creeps” with “polluting ideas” by Rolling Stone reviewer Dave Marsh. But it was often fashionable for music critics to bash the band, and reviewers tended to be thrown off guard whenever Queen tried something different (which was always), not knowing how to react to it and simply not ‘getting it’. Queen’s humour and sense of fun often went over journalists’ heads.

Hindsight has been kinder though, with retrospective reviews often being more favourable, such as Loudersound ranking it as their 4th best album, and Rolling Stone magazine admitting they were wrong. It is now rightly acknowledged that the album is rather underrated, as it’s never had as much attention as some of their earlier work.

And so, as the latest instalment in my Queen At 50 series, this post is my personal run-through of all the tracks on the Jazz album, including the usual mixture of alternate versions, live performances, covers and more. I hope you enjoy!

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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 2 – Rocky Horror Soundtracks

Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that rock and roll! The legendary songs from The Rocky Horror Show, including the legendary Time Warp, are a crucial part of its joy and appeal, as they’re catchy, funny and occasionally moving. Richard O’Brien actually wrote some of the songs before he came up with the idea of Rocky Horror, and found that he was able to slot some of them in.

So as the second part of my Halloween trilogy – after discussing the film and related productions, and before I talk about my recent experience at the live show – I thought I’d do some brief reviews of the relevant albums and songs I have in my music collection, and a few of the other recordings I’m aware of, as it’s always interesting to hear different interpretations. I certainly haven’t mentioned all of the music that has ever been released in relation to Rocky Horror, but I have covered most of the commercially available releases. So I hope you enjoy!

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Science Fiction, Triple Feature – Part 1 – Rocky Horror Films & Productions

There’s a light in the darkness of everybody’s life. And during the pandemic, one such beacon for me has been the impending return of musical theatre. So when things finally did open up again, I was delighted to see an audio described performance had become available for a show that I’ve been eager to see for ages. And so last weekend I finally saw The Rocky Horror Show live in person. Suffice to say, it was well worth the wait!

I’ll tell you all about that on Halloween itself. But to build up to that, and to turn this into a special Halloween trilogy, I thought I would take a deep dive into my love of Rocky Horror first, by talking about the film, stage productions and other remakes in this post, and then tomorrow I’ll share my Rocky Horror music collection. I was going through all of that stuff in preparation for seeing the live show anyway – not that I needed any excuse to enjoy it all yet again in the first place – so I figured I may as well write about it too. So allow me to take you on a strange journey, and I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – News Of The World

1977 could have been the year that Queen’s reign came to an end. With punk rock very much in the ascendancy, having gained traction over the previous few years, there was a greater appetite for raw power and simplicity in rock music, rather than elaborate and fancy progressive rock. And Queen’s last album, A Day At The Races, despite being an excellent collection of songs, hadn’t sold quite as well as its behemoth predecessor A Night At The Opera, with some critics and fans feeling that it was more of the same without any notable improvement. So it was going to seem too repetitive if they did the same kind of thing yet again.

The band were perfectly happy to adapt and take on the challenge though, and indeed were already keen to try something different from the multi-layered, complex productions they felt they’d done enough of by this point anyway. So even without the emerging competition from the punk scene, it was already the evolutionary path they were heading down.

As a result, News Of The World marked a shift towards a purer hard rock sound, and took just 2 months to record (compared to 5 for A Day At The Races). The tracks still had some beautifully arranged harmonies and instrumentation thrown in, but not as lavishly and prominently as before. There was also a change in how evenly the writing credits were distributed, with 4 tracks now written by Brian, just 3 by Freddie, and an increase to 2 each for Roger and John. And the band produced the album themselves, with assistance from engineer Mike Stone, now they had the experience and confidence to do so themselves.

It all worked out very well, resulting in another great selection of songs. And so, as you’ll be accustomed to by now if you’ve followed my posts to date, this is my personal review of each of the tracks, including a look at alternate versions, music videos, live performances, covers, etc, along with other bits and pieces that I’m aware of. I hope you enjoy!

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Day At The Races

The time has come for me to review Queen’s 5th album. The musical majesty and stellar success of A Night At The Opera was always going to be a tough act to follow, and impossible to beat. But Queen were up for the challenge, and set about making A Day At The Races between July and November 1976. They produced it entirely by themselves for the first time, now that they had sufficient experience and were keen to give it a go, instead of employing Roy Thomas Baker like they had before. They continued to use engineer Mike Stone though.

The album was designed to be a companion piece to its predecessor with a similar variety of music. So it was again named after a Marx Brothers film, and Groucho Marx sent a note to congratulate them on their success and their “sage choice of album titles”. It also had a similar cover design to the previous album, with the colourful Queen crest on the front, but everything was on a black background instead of white this time. Brian later expressed a wish that both Opera and Races had been released together, as “the material for both of them was written at the same time, so I regard the two albums as completely parallel.”

The band are also credited in fun ways in the sleeve notes – in addition to the usual mentions of vocals, piano, guitar, etc, Freddie is the “Choir Meister” and contributes “tantrums”, Brian is the “Leader of the Orchestra”, and Roger provides “Pandemonium”. John is merely credited as playing Fender Bass and doesn’t get anything extra, which is reflective of his nature as the quiet one in the group.

A Day At The Races 2

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 3

This is the final instalment of my deep dive into Queen’s epic 1975 LP, following on from Part 1 and Part 2. The album of course finishes in style, courtesy of their biggest hit of all time, followed by a patriotic instrumental at the end. So let’s get straight on with it, as there’s plenty to discuss. I hope you enjoy!

 

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Queen At 50 Reviews – A Night At The Opera – Part 2

The first side of Queen’s hugely successful and perennially popular 1975 album, which I reviewed last week, is in itself quite a stunning collection of assorted treasures.

But those tracks were also paving the way for even more incredible delights on the flip side, for which there is a great deal to talk about. So much so, in fact, that I’ve had to split my reviews for the second side into 2 parts.

In this post, therefore, I’m going to take a close look at the next 3 tracks, then I’ll conclude the album in Part 3. The first track in this post is their longest song and one of their most complex, while the second is their most popular sing-along acoustic number that’s spawned a ton of live performances and covers, and the third is a delightful Dixieland tune. So I hope you enjoy!

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October 2020 Favourites

Here we go again. It’s time for Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, so the cases don’t get higher. It’s not quite as severe as the first one, with education settings remaining open in particular, but there are still very tight restrictions nonetheless. And it had been inevitable for some time. The use of different ‘tiers’ to set regional rules was keeping the infection rate lower than it otherwise would have been, but it wasn’t quite doing enough to drive cases down. So we didn’t have a choice, sadly, as many other countries have found.

There are still lots of reasons to be optimistic, thanks to the ever-improving knowledge about the virus, the better treatments now available, the developments of mass testing, and the very promising results of vaccine trials. But right now we have to be vigilant to get through the winter safely, and it’s important to take care of ourselves and look after our mental health during this time.

I feel relatively calm about it thankfully, as I’m fortunate to have a steady job, priority grocery deliveries, family support, regular contact with friends, blogging projects, local walks, entertainment, etc to help pass the time. And we’ve pre-ordered our meat for Christmas from a farm we like, so that gives us peace of mind too. I still greatly miss seeing friends in person and visiting interesting places of course, nobody wants this. But right now my mother and I feel safe and comfortable, which is the important thing. We’re more prepared than the first time around, when the uncertainty and panic buying made it really difficult to begin with. So we know we can get through it, having done it once already.

But for many other people it’s going to be a lot harder, due to physical and mental health issues, loneliness, loss of employment and business, financial worries, family and domestic problems, the loss of loved ones from the virus or other causes, and so on. So please do help others if you can, either by direct support or by charitable donations, because every little bit helps. And do also sign the petition by Mind calling on the Government to invest in a Winter Mental Health Support Package.

And if you’re in a position where you’re struggling, then my thoughts are with you, and please know that you’re not alone. And don’t be afraid to seek help or support, there’s absolutely no shame in that. If you’re unable or too anxious to talk to someone you know, then there’s lots of advice and support available from the Samaritans, counsellors, mental health charities, other charities relevant to disabilities and health conditions, support groups on social media, etc. I know it’s easier said than done – I’ve had to confide in friends about difficult things in the past, most of us have to at some point in our lives. But having any kind of support network, even if it’s just one person you can reach out and talk to when you need it, is a massive lifeline. Use it.

And to my American friends, who are going through a stressful period with their election right now, we’re all thinking of you too. You’ve had enough to deal with in 2020 on top of the pandemic as it is, without this in the mix as well. At the time of publishing this post, the outcome is still not clear, but I sincerely hope that common sense and decency prevails in the end. Stay safe out there.

But anyway, with all that said and done, let’s get into my latest monthly update, which is what you came here for in the first place. In this post and video for October there’s plenty to mention as usual, including my latest appearance on national radio, my walks out and about, and the various bits of entertainment I’ve been enjoying. None of it’s sponsored or gifted as usual, and I hope you find it interesting!

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