FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: EN ROUTE TO PARADISE


“And if life is just a highway, then the soul is just a car” is a line from Meat Loaf’s grandiloquently titled “Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”; a favourite of mine from his theatrically charged repertoire. The sudden, sad departure from the rock 'n roll life of the iconic singer and actor, aged 74, was announced overnight by his family who were by his side at the end. Let us hope the great man is en route on the freeway to paradise, no longer requiring the aid of a dashboard light of course.

Coincidentally Bat out of Hell – The Musical, a celebration of Jim Steinman’s songs and Meat Loaf’s persona, which oddly could appear concurrently scary yet lovable, is currently playing down the road from me at New Wimbledon Theatre. I remember seeing the show in London a few years ago thinking this might be fun before being rapidly drawn under its spell through its sheer bombastic energy. And that was just the audience. Among the huge number of column inches to be devoted to Meat Loaf in the coming days, there’s a great obituary already online at The Washington Post which will give you a crisp summary of the man, his life and art, illustrated by some choice anecdotes and quotes.


Meat Loaf’s arguably most famous song, his 1993 mega hit “I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)” seems to sum up his larger than life, gentle giant showman character with a gift for delivering epic rock anthems. The Beauty and the Beast themed video could be ham yet is somehow beautiful, grand and endearing. RIP.

My lovely granddaughter, Astrid, was two last Friday so it seemed an act of fate when a new single from Scottish guitar-pop compadres, also named Astrid, dropped into my Inbox. Not that the title of their new single, “Through The Darkness Of Your Life” is quite on cue for a child’s birthday party. The band has its origins on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides in 1990 when young friends Willie Campbell and Charlie Clark first bonded over a love of comic books, movies and music, leading them to experiment with making their own sounds. Astrid came together six years later in Glasgow and over the next seven years the band went on to release three albums before splitting in 2004.

The two friends got together again in 2015 which led to a fourth Astrid album, Fall, Stand, Dance, finally released in 2019. They have now returned with a new single, “Through The Darkness Of Your Life”, which rides in on melange of psychedelic pop and an early Stones-style R&B riff which quickly cuts into your psyche. It has a compellingly raw live sound with whirlpool harmonies adding extra dimensions to the busy drums and guitars. Lyrically, it’s a dark tale as frontman Charlie Clark ponders life’s burdens and applies some lessons learned. There will be more to come from Astrid in 2022.

The Hamburg duo of singer Kira Alicia and guitarist Buzz T. Isles is collectively known as Mad Hatter's Daughter and hats certainly feature prominently in the band’s videos. The pair seem equally passionate about the message in their music and it was this that drew me to their single, "All The Way", actually released last October but to which I introduced just last week. Though based in Germany, they seem to have developed a special relationship with Britain and, in a kind of reverse Beatles manoeuvre, have even played The Cavern Club in Liverpool.

"All The Way" is rousing stuff, with the accompanying video, inspired by Paralympic athletes, bristling with motivational images to echo the call to action in the song’s lyrics. Kira Alicia’s vocal tone, combining breathy undernotes in the verses with fire in the soulful chorus crescendos, carries her make-it-happen sentiments perfectly. You just need to ask yourself “Are you ready to go all the way?” Mad Hatter's Daughter has another single out this month, “Falling”, and is working on a full album release, having previously enjoyed chart and streaming success in Germany via two earlier EPs.

Coincidentally our final song by Francesca Guerra was among the 180 entries to Fresh on the Net’s Listening Post this week. I was invited to be a guest moderator which meant I got to listen to all of them and then pick out five favourites; an especially tough ask, as I put a big tick by 18 of them and a definite like against a further 38 songs. Whittling it down to the final five, I was pleased that three of them made it through to the 25 songs featured in this weekend’s Listening Post. You can check out all of them here. They also include “Fill Your Lungs” by Wasuremono which we wrote about last week.


Among the acts that regrettably did not make it past the collective votes of the FOTN moderators, I was particularly impressed by Rupert Caney’s “4am” and also by “Wishing” by someone I know very little about, Ame. I will reach out to both artistes and hopefully feature those songs here next week. “Navigator” from Betsy & Balloon Twister and Josie Lockhart’s “Santa Rosa” were among several other songs I rated highly. However, I had already planned to feature Francesca Guerra this week with her latest single “Summer” and so here it is for you now.

Italian singer-songwriter Francesca Guerra set out on her musical journey in Rome before moving to London where she began working on her original music project and subsequently graduated from ICMP Music College. With influences from Italian Pop and British Indie, Francesca has constructed an extremely smooth, chilled pop sound. In sentiments and style, her new single, “Summer”, could be a mash-up of fellow emerging female artistes Cathy Jain and Sarah Proctor, both of whom have been championed in these columns. The song has its origins in the first lockdown of 2020 and recalls a past summer of togetherness in contrast to the separation she was now experiencing. Subtly she manages to convey both a sense of longing with that of saying goodbye and moving on. It’s a sumptuous piece of work and we look forward to more from this gifted songstress.

FIFTY3 champions
outstanding new music through Fifty3 Fridays and occasional features. 

 

Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.

 

Over the past 13 years I have written for the leading US music website Consequence and  for the  breakthrough artiste site,  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.

 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy

UPCOMING GIGS 

 

Selected dates in the London area:

Wed 11 May: Belle & Sebastian, Pryzm, Kingston

Sat 14 May: The Lunar Keys, The Star Inn, Guildford

Wed 18 May: Alex Hall, Florie Namir, Rupert Caney, The Bedford Balham

Thur 19 May: Andrew Maxwell Morris, Alex Hall, Nadia Sheikh, Bread & Roses, Clapham

Sat 21 May: A.A Williams, Bush Hall, London W12 

banquetrecords.com: See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston

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