Review: UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey – Unplugged

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

Ali Campbell left UB40 in 2008. He was later joined by Astro and Mickey. They all got together in 2014 to release ‘Silhouette’ under Ali’s moniker, ‘The Legendary voice of UB40 reunited with Astro and Mickey.’ As has happened other bands, legal reasons has prevented them using the original band name so “UB40 featuring..’ is the trios way out of this.

As well as featuring covers, this ‘Unplugged’ album is the first time that UB40’s catalogue has been stripped back and given the acoustic treatment. The collection opens with ‘Kingston Town’ which features a beautiful Hawaiian sounding acoustic guitar while Ali’s vocals are awash with reverb.

The tracks we expect to hear from UB40 are there, ‘Red Red Wine’ with a new talk/rap over it, ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and ‘I Got You Babe’ which features Ali’s daughter, Kaya Campbell on vocals. Sidebar: She’s got a great tone to her voice.

Pato Banton also makes an appearance on ‘Come Back’. This version of the track has the tempo slowed, which is this album’s greatest downfall. Many of the tracks are too similar in tempo which could easily lead it to fall into background music territory. I just want Pato to get that 1994 original tempo going. This crosses over to ‘Purple Rain’, here, it’s reggae tempo is speeded up.

ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged nessymon.comThat’s not saying it’s a bad album. One of the standouts, the trio’s version of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ features great musical arrangements. Perhaps, with the re-workings the problem is that we are too accustomed to the original versions.

This makes the decision to include a second disc of all the original UB40 versions slightly baffling. But, with all legal things in the music industry, this may have been part of a deal to use the ‘UB40 featuring’ name. It could also be something to do with another ‘Essential UB40’ album being released earlier this year.

Back to Disc 1, the ‘Unplugged’ side of things. It’s not a bad collection, though it continues at a steady pace without many hills and troughs. It would be perfect for a long hot day in Summer, with a barbecue going in the garden. There are places where the arrangements flirt with genius, like the drum and bass-esque opening for ‘One in Ten’. I’d love to see this revisited for a full DnB treatment. ‘Rat in Mi Kitchen’ a la 2016 is refreshing and when stripped down could be rebuilt for 2016’s EDM world.

No doubt, Ali Campbell’s reggae delivers what the UB40 fanbase will love. What they really need is some new material under the ‘UB40 feat’ moniker. I just wish that they hadn’t touched Purple Rain.

ali campbell ub40 featuring ali astro and mickey unplugged

Diary: Avec Sans // Live at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen

AvecSans_nessymon_feature © Copyright nessymon

AvecSans_nessymon_feature © Copyright nessymon

Avec Sans // Live at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen // June 9 2016

Hoxton Square Bar was the venue for Avec Sans album launch on June 9th, following the release of ‘Heartbreak Hi’ on June 3rd.

I’ve been a fan of the duo since I heard them first in 2012 and have played them on the radio but tonight was my first time seeing them live.

The duo, Alice Fox and Jack St James, have a pretty slick live set up. Fox provides the vocals while St James, has a keyboard and three Novation launchpads on stage which face the audience. Apart from letting the audience actually see that you’re hitting a few buttons and triggers, the Launchpads also provide a pretty cool visual, with a preprogrammed light show accompanying each song.

Those familiar with the pair, will recognise, Shiver, The Answer, When You Go and current single Heartbreak Hi, which to be honest is so bloody catchy, it’s a crying shame it’s not blowing up on every radio station right now.

Avec Sans describe themselves as an electro pop group. In the past there seems to have been a little bit of snobbery with being called a pop group, of any sort, but these guys have nailed that. They produce really great pop songs, songs that we should be hearing on the radio, songs that have the potential to be very popular.

The pair are quite a visual band, always appearing in monochrome, and the lengths they go to to maintain the detail is immense, down to having a white microphone cable for contrast.

The night is finished off with an encore rendition of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, which is simply spectacular.(Listen and Download the studio version here).

Visually striking, sonically beautiful, the world needs a bit more Avec Sans in their lives.

Get the album

Watch the video for Heartbreak Hi.

Diary: Shura // Live at KOKO, Camden



Shura // Live at KOKO, Camden // Jun 1 2016

It’s a while since I’ve seen Shura live, last time was the Electric Brixton in September of last year. This gig was originally supposed to be in Shepherd’s Bush Empire but due to renovations, was moved to KOKO. A fact I was kinda happy with, especially as it takes over an hour and a half to get home from Shepherd’s Bush.

Pumarosa did a fine job of warming up the crowd as they filtered in, but really all 1400 people in the venue wanted to see Shura.

First stand out of the night for these ears were the choice of pre-gig tunes, 80’s rock galore, Don Henley’s Boys of Summer, Toto’s Africa, Billy Idol’s White Wedding. If this was Dublin, the party would have already started.

I’m not going to do a song by song review. Shura is really good at what she does. The sound in the venue was a lot better than it had been in Brixton. The band are tight and Shura’s voice seems to be growing in strength. And, to cap it all off, we get every track from Shura’s upcoming album ‘Nothing’s Real’.

All these mixed with great lights, both from the stage and the trippy house discoball lights that filled the venue, make it all a special night.

Personally, this was a major pick me up in a week that was pretty shit (more of that to come later), I danced and sang the night away with new best friends. It was also the day that Shura unveiled the new video for ‘What’s it Gonna Be?’ and everyone was feeling the love.

Highlights – you could tell the tracks people really liked. The phones came out. ‘2Shy’ and ‘Touch’ led the charge. ‘Indecision’ has always been a fave of mine but the more I listen to the Extended Mix of White Light and then hearing it here live, just take it out of this world.

Everyone needs a night like this at least once a week. Can’t wait for the album.

Diary // We Love Christmas with Kal Lavelle, Fiona Bevan and Bryde

WELoveChristmasFeat © nessymon

WLCKaland Fiona

We Love Christmas, St Giles in the fields, London, December 11 2015

Every three months in St Giles in the Fields Church, a We Love Shows show is held, to corresspond with the seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Christmas. Organised by Kal Lavelle, over the past nine months at these events, I’ve seen some great artists, Antonio Lulic, Playing House, Adrian Roye, Stephanie Fraser and Dawson.

The event, it’s not just a gig, is located in a church which gives awesome acoustics and is perfect for an actual proper listening gig, such as this. Added bonus comes in the way of a bar, stocked full of Kopperberg, who sponsor the event, and cakes from the Bubble Bakers. Last night’s addition of mulled cider, was much welcomed and kept the nip away out of the chilly Winter air.

Onto the acts, last night opened with Bryde, aka Sarah Howells who is also part of Paper Aeroplanes. It was a big week for Sarah as her single ‘Wait’ was played on BBC Radio 1 for the first time this week. As she got further into her set, the songs just got better and better. Well worth keeping an eye out for her own music away from Paper Aeroplanes.

Fiona Bevan‘s name may not be familiar to everyone but most people will recognise at least one song she’s responsible for. Yup, you know One Direction’s ‘Little Things’? She’s responsible for that alongside everyone’s favourite loveable scamp, Ed Sheeran.

Fiona is a seasoned performer and looks comfortable on stage, swapping guitar for ukulele before reverting to her original instrument before the end of her set. Fiona is funny charming, messes up the words of her inbetween song banter and seems just totally lovely. She comes across as someone who is extremely confident with their art and it shows. Last night she sang some terrific songs.

The big thing I like about We Love Shows, nevermind the cakes and the mulled cider, is that it’s an opportunity to hear artists I’ve heard of but never have seen live. These are the musicians in their own natural setting, no huge big productions, just in a location which justifies reverence.

Last act of the night is Kal Lavelle. The first time I heard about We Love Shows or Kal was when I interviewed Jamie Lawson a year ago. He was just about to go on tour with Ed Sheeran. I met Jamie in Covent Garden and he told me he was on his way to play a We Love Show gig. He told me it was organised by Kal.

I’ve been to a few of these shows now and Kal would normally play a couple of tunes, this is the first time I’ve seen her do a full set. Kal is a talented songwriter and her songs are memorable. ‘Fell in love with my friend’ is a prime example, the hook will stay will with you for days.

She’s no stranger to writing about sexy times. ‘Get out out of my head’ is another earworm. Kal tells a story about her Mum liking the song, just no one tell her what it’s really about.
Ms Lavelle abandons amplification for ‘Shivers’ and wanders from the altar to the space at the front of the church at the top of rows of pews. The pure acoustics of the church take the song to a higher level. Simply superb.

The night is finished off with Fiona joining Kal on stage for a rendition of a Christmas song. Now, here’s the thing, in my musical book George Michael is on a pedestal higher anyone else and anyone even attempting to emulate the great man seriously have to ask themselves questions as they will never out do his work.

When the first notes of ‘Last Christmas’ are sung, I actually held my breath. I needn’t have worried though. Kal and Fiona do George proud and a section of the audience spontaneously add the harmonies. Bravo! All good in the hood! I shouldn’t have been too surprised with the choir in the pews as We Love Shows always seem have an audience participation section. Tonight with Fiona Bevan, earlier in Kal’s set and now.

We Love Shows is a great night, relaxing, good music, a glass of good stuff and some cakes, you couldn’t ask for more. The next one, We Love Spring, is March 18th.. perhaps an Irish night?

Find out more

Shura: Live at Electric, Brixton // Review

Shura, Live at Electric Brixton

Shura, Live at Electric Brixton

Shura, Live at Electric, Brixton, September 17 2015

It’s been a little over three months since I headed to Brighton to see Shura. In that time, Aleksandra Denton and her band have been honing their set, with a never ending string of dates and festivals. In front of the 1400 punters at Electric Brixton, it’s paying dividends.

The night was opened by Roseau and Clean Cut Kid. If my information is correct, Roseau hasn’t done that many gigs, but her electronic soul vibes fit in beautifully and Roseau proves herself to be an artist to watch. Onstage, Roseau and her band are visually striking and her use on an old style Shure 55SH microphone, (like the one Elvis used) adds a timeless edge to her set. Check out her album, it’s out now.

Next up where Clean Cut Kid, known for ‘Vitamin C’. The Liverpool quartet play a solid set, with some great guitar work from the lead singer, who also possesses one of the finest beards I’ve seen this year. Clean Cut Kid are really good at what they do, they have a good rock grounding, layered with melodic instrumentation and vocal lines. At times, it does seem like it could be a slightly odd choice for an opener for the more electronic, Shura but they work well and your scribe would definitely go see them again.

Shura and her three piece band take to the stage and the growth in confidence is easily seen. Shura is now also playing guitar and seems to like rocking out a bit, duelling with her guitarist. She also seems like she’s now really enjoying what she’s doing and that’s rubbing off on the crowd. For these ears though, I’d cut back on the rubbling bass a little and bring Shura’s voice a little more to the fore in the front of house music mix.

For a hot sweaty crowd, a reworked down tempo 2Shy, provides a breather. All the tracks we know from Shura are included in tonight’s set, Kids n Stuff, Indecision, Touch, and an epic set ending ‘White Light’. It’s pretty awesome to see an artist grow in stature, and throughout the night, Shura reaffirms her importance on the music scene. The sold out Electric crowd also bear witness to rather awesome, sometimes blindly beautiful lighting.

Shura is obviously still working on different mixes and structure of songs, which versions make it to an album and which stay only in a live format remains to be seen. Shura, herself, is now playing guitar and dancing around the stage. Her set has grown at an immense rate since last time. This bodes extremely well for the future. I wonder what size venue she’ll play next?

Review // Hannah Schneider // Live at St Pancras Old Church, London

HannahSchneider-StPancrasOldChurch -

HannahSchneider-StPancrasOldChurch -

Hannah Schneider, St Pancras Old Church, London, June 11 2015

St Pancras Old Church always looks beautiful, whether it be in the depths of winter and you’re lining up in the cold outside or, if like today, it’s a beautiful summer’s evening. But the fading orange light during the summer gives a very different vibe to the full darkness illuminated only with street lamps of winter.

Inside, the light spills across the empty floor. All the chairs have been removed except for some placed along the walls and some lit candles add to the vibe. People are chatting and smoking outside in the sunshine but when Hannah Schneider takes to the stage / altar, they quickly pile in.

Hannah is on tour in support of her third album, ‘Red Lines‘, her first to get a proper release in the UK and this is final date of her tour. Red Lines is a well produced album, with full sounding pop songs. Tonight, however, Hannah is playing solo using 2 vocal microphones, a keyboard and enough loop and effects pedals that many guitarists would kill for.

When an album sounds as lush as Red Lines, it can be hard to even come close to that sound. Schneider cleverly builds each song with layers of samples and vocals, giving new life to the songs. Watching Hannah piece each song together is hypnotic and by the end of the opening track ‘For The Trees’, there are murmurs from the attentive audience noting just how good Schneider is.

Schneider easily makes friends with the crowd with her in between song banter. She describes ‘Dreaming Kind’ as a football anthem for sensitive types. She claims that she’s touring solo due to the economic crisis. Then as she produces an electric ukulele to play ‘Life is Easy’, she tells of how her friends asked why she couldn’t just play a guitar ‘like a normal person’, which raises a laugh.

She finishes off her set with two tracks from her self titled first album. When the bass kicks in in ‘This is Goodbye’, it makes a security light rattle in the fourth century church. ‘Raindrops’, the final song of the evening fills the holy place with beats, bass sounds and layered harmonised vocals, everything perfectly in place, finished off with the addition of a stylophone.

A really good performance from Hannah, a nice introduction to her catalogue of music and going on the audience reaction, new fans gained. If anything, she should have had a longer set. But you know the saying ‘Leave them wanting more’, yeap, she did that.