Joe Cocker – soul legend who loved Swiss roll

Soul legend Joe Cocker (BBC pic)
Soul legend Joe Cocker (BBC pic)





It is with sadness that we mark the death of Sheffield’s own King of Soul at the too-young age of 70.

Joe had a hard life and in the view of many never fulfilled his potential due to an early fondness for drink and drugs.

Apart from his gruff, heart-rending voice, Joe was well known in his home town for being very partial to a slice or two of Swiss roll which he liked with custard.

One of his big regrets about moving to California was that you just couldn’t get proper custard.

Swiss roll - Soul food - but don't forget the custard!
Swiss roll – Soul food – but don’t forget the custard!

How do you like your Swiss roll?


Sam Smith’s top three favourite days out

Well firstly, if you’re from Yorkshire you may well associate the name Sam Smith with a particularly tasty pint of beer brewed by the Sam Smith brewery in that historic horse-racing town of Tadcaster near York.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here. No, this post is about the world-famous blues and soul singer Sam Smith, and what he likes to get up to when he’s not wowing the crowds with his amazing voice.
But just in case you’re still confused, here are the two Sam Smiths side by side for you to compare.







Now being a true Yorkshire lad, Sam does quite like the odd pint of his namesake’s beer, but we quizzed him on what is his favourite special treat when he gets time to himself. And the answers will astound you!

At number 3 comes a Day at the Races. If you knew that Sam’s dad was a steward at the local racecourse in Tadcaster, and Sam learned to ride before he could walk, then you would see why this is.

At number 2 is Driving a WW2 tank across rugged countryside in all weathers on the custom-made tank courses up and down the country. And with Sam’s military background – did you know that he qualified as a para before turning to music? – he really misses the action side of things.

And at number 1 – this will REALLY surprise you – for his top treat of all, Sam just loves to sneak into Harrods to savour one of their incomparable Champagne afternoon teas. The scones with clotted cream, the smoked salmon sandwiches, the mouthwatering cakes accompanied by a pot of aromatic Earl Grey tea are worth more to him than all his Gold Discs and music awards.
Which is why he makes a regular reservation to treat himself at least once a month at this most prestigious of cafes in that most prestigious of London stores.

So while you imagine yourself sitting in the very same room as Sam, tucking into the famous Harrods Champagne afternoon tea, check out the lad himself singing just for you.

The Pentatonix Christmas song

If you’re a lover of patisserie and tired of Silent Night and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, then you could do worse than check out this superb Christmas song by the Pentatonix.

The fabulous Pentatonix from Texas
The fabulous Pentatonix from Texas

This five piece a cappella band from Arlington, the capital of Texas has been steadily building a reputation for close harmonies and powerful cover versions of famous pop tunes. Kirstie and Scott front the lead lineup with Mitch and Avi melding in, all over the top of Kevin’s stunning basso profundo beatboxing. It’s all a cappella with not an instrument in sight, though sometimes it’s hard to believe.

With their Christmas release, the best ever version of the famous 1984 song “Mary did you Know?”, they appeal to a whole new audience and will certainly win many more admirers worldwide. Plug in your Bose cans and give it a listen:

Now doesn’t that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up?
And finally, it’s a little-known fact that before every single performance and recording session, Kirstie Maldonado insists on a slice of Sachertorte, that deliciously rich chocolate cake invented in Austria by Franz Sacher in 1832 and now enjoyed by chocolate-lovers everywhere. Sachertorte is Austria’s own Christmas cake.

Sachertorte - the cake of a cappella heroines
Sachertorte – the cake of a cappella heroines

Kirstie first discovered this delicacy during a visit to New York in 2002, found that it enhanced her vocal range by a good half-octave, and has kept it as a staple of her performances ever since. And as a tool of the trade, the Pentatonix’s Sacheretorte is even tax-deductible!

RIP Jack Bruce, the power behind Cream

BRUCE CREAMI was sad to hear about Jack Bruce passing away at the age of only 71.

He was  a master of the bass guitar – not really surprising since he was classically trained on cello before switching genres to jazz/rock/pop – and his bass rhythms are quite distinctive on anything he recorded.

I remember well reading of his short time with pop group Manfred Mann where their repertoire was so unchallenging that he didn’t even need to rehearse, just turned up and played faultlessly on the night.

He featured in very many bands of different genres, but the one for which he will be remembered is of course Cream with the great Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, both of whom are still going strong and performing at the time of writing. Cream only lasted a couple of years, and to my mind a lot of their stuff is simply self-indulgent and too self-absorbed to bear repeated listening. And with his solo work going on until very recently, I do wonder if he found it frustrating that all most people remember him for is those two years in the late sixties.

Here’s a Youtube video of Jack being interviewed about “Silver Rails”, his first studio album after ten years released in March 2014

Or even better is this hilarious video of Ginger Baker being interviewed by a chap from the Guardian.
Ginger Baker is notorious for being “difficult” in interviews, and this one is no exception.

Just got some great Bose headphones

Yes you saw it here first!

I wanted some headphones for listening to music on my tablet and US TV series on my laptop, so thought it was about time I got myself a decent pair instead of those awful earbud things they expect you to use.

Well the first port of call was my local PC/entertainment shop, where the good news is that they had loads and loads of headphones – in fact all thirty metres on one wall was covered in different models. The bad news is that well over half of them are Beats by Dr Dre.

Now I’ve nothing against DrDre, whoever he is, and I’m sure that he’s very good at writing prescriptions, but the speed with which headphones bearing his name have taken over the world is amazing even though to my mind the value of his recommendation is limited to say the least. Actually, I do know who Dr Dre is (I looked it up on Bing) and what I found out makes me pretty sure that what he knows about headphones could be written on a beermat. Sure he makes a shedload of money out of them, but is that any reason for me to buy them? And if you need convincing, check out practically any review. They’re not all brilliant by any means.

Anyway, ignoring the Beats stuff made my checking out the shop’s stock a lot quicker. There were one or two by other well-known makers – Sennheiser for example, or Bose, along with some I hadn’t heard of. But I do like Bose gear.

If you’ve ever spent any time looking at audio reviews of anything, you’ll find that the so-called audiophiles just do not like Bose. They slam them at every opportunity, criticising arcane little points that they’ve found in their “audition” (yes, you don’t listen when trying them out, you audition them!). The main problem it seems is that Bose is good at marketing, and spends a lot on sales and marketing as well as technical quality and development, so self-styled audiophiles dismiss them as a PR company and don’t give their products a fair chance.

For myself I’ve always found the build quality and technical performance of their kit excellent. And let’s face it, they offer the chance to return your stuff for a full refund inside 30 days if you decide you don’t like it. Now does that show confidence or what? Try returning your Beats by Dr Dr after four weeks’ use because you don’t like them.

The Bose Soundtrue Around Ear headphones I picked are amazing.

Bose Soundtrue phones in some great colours
Bose Soundtrue phones come in some great colours

Light as a feather, comfy enough to wear all day, cover the ear and block out any outside noise without the eerie silence you get from Noise Cancelling phones (did you know that those give some people giddy turns??) and truly exceptional sound.

They come in a range of colours as well as the standard black.

The audio line feeds in just under the left phone and has a couple of control switches built in. These were designed to control the iPhone/iPad/iPod – all Apple devices – but there’s a clever app you can get for your Android tablet or phone that lets them work just as well there too. Which is as well, as I’m not a big Apple fan and wouldn’t touch an iPad with a long pole.

Headphones like these are not cheap, but if you reckon that they cost about the same as a top price ticket to a big name concert, then I know which I’d rather have. They’re guaranteed for two years and should carry on long long after that, if any of my other Bose kit is a guide. And I should add that I’m not on commission from Bose and get nothing at all if anyone else buys them. I just know great headphones when I hear them!

Poison by Alice Cooper

My song of the day is Poison, released in September 1989. My word that makes me feel old.

The song was the biggest hit on on Alice Cooper’s 18th studio album Trash. I’m amazed he’d had that many albums, and he must be in his mid twenties by now. Not that he’s recorded anything recently that gets the same amount of airplay as Poison, and his earlier hits ‘School’s out’ and ‘No more, Mr nice guy’. Anyway, back to the brilliant song that is Poison.

The song was written by Desmond Child and John McCurr. John also played guitar on the song, but Desmond Child is really interesting and I could devote a whole category on this blog to him. He is a famus songwriter who specialises in pop rock anthems, and he was absolutely on fire in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi – he co-wrote that, ‘How can we be lovers’ by Michael Bolton. Yeah, not as cool but still a massive worldwide hit.

He also wrote ‘Just like Jesse James’ for Cher and loads of songs for Kiss and Aerosmith. anyway, enough about Desmond Child for now, and more about ‘Poison’.

How high did ‘Poison’ rise?

Number seven in the USA singles chart. That’s not bad for a band who hadn’t had any sizeable hits for 15 years. But in the UK, the song rose to number two. What was number one I hear you ask?

Erm, it was this:

“Swing the Mood” by Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers.

So what’s the song about?

A dangerous woman?  drugs or even AIDS? Alice Cooper said in a recent interview that this song is about his alcohol and drug addictions. He has a history with addiction, and it seems likely that this was the first album he released after rehab. He probably misses the drugs but knows the damage they do.

Personally I prefer it to be a tortured love song to a dangerous woman, but never mind!


Experience a recording studio

Why a recording studio, when you’ve got voice recording on an iphone?

Every day, there are some wonderful recordings created on mobile phones, digital recording devices iPods and the like. Go back 10 or 20 years and the humble tape player. Just press play and record at the same time to save your singing voice to tape.

We’ve come a long way from there, and yesterday’s professional equipment is now available as a free app to download onto your iphone. But as well as the barriers to entry falling away, the professional quality recording equipment is also racing ahead.

Some things will never change.

You need perfect acoustics, perfect microphones and a perfect recording. There’s no room for background fuzz, and there’s no excuse for singing into a tinny box that picks up sound like a baked bean can..