( Click a heading to expand/collapse an entry. Click the banner above to toggle list of articles. Click here for the > ARCHIVES)
June 2020 Archive
30.06.20 > Album No. 8
Here's the news we've all been waiting for! "Album No. 8" will be released on 16th October. There will be a deluxe version released at the same time, with 5 extra tracks, and a beautiful vinyl version too. Head on over to katiemelua.com to pre-order. I'm calling it now: this album is going to be very highly regarded, so why not go for a signed copy...
- A Love Like That
- English Manner
- Leaving The Mountain
- Voices In The Night
- Maybe I Dreamt It
- Heading Home
- Your Longing Is Gone
- Remind Me To Forget
(Deluxe Edition CD extra tracks)
- A Love Like That (Radio Edit)
- Maybe I Dreamt It (Acoustic Version)
- Your Longing Is Gone (Acoustic Version)
- A Love Like That (Acoustic Version)
- Forever (By Randy Newman)
30.06.20 > Happy New Katie Song Day!
I hope you are all excited! Today's a day we've all been waiting for. At long last a new song to lavish upon our lugholes. Tune in to Ken Bruce at 11am on BBC Radio 2 to catch the first airplay of "A Love Like That". Then it's over to YouTube at 5pm to watch the video premiere. Party time for Ketefans! I've already dusted off me maracas (not a euphemism).
29.06.20 > Seven Second Challenge 7
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 7
The Love I'm Frightened Of (Ketevan)
28.06.20 > Concert for Red Cross Georgia
I just wanted to say a few words about Katie's live stream gig last night. It isn't really a review—what's to review? It's Katie. She was wonderful. End of. The idea behind it was to aid Red Cross Georgia (and please do donate if you haven't already). I hope it was successful. The performance earned it, but with just over 14k views as of this morning, and with only around 1600 watching live, you can't see it raising a fortune. It deserved to be watched by millions. But every lari helps and it is about more than simply money—it raises awareness of the work of Red Cross Georgia and it also lifts the spirits of all Georgians to see their world-famous daughter doing something to help her country. (It was shown on big screens in Georgian cities.) I can only imagine the pride Georgians feel when they see her perform. Hell, I'm proud of her and my only connection is being the same species.
So what of the concert itself? We're getting accustomed to these lockdown performances of Katie with her brother Zurab accompanying her. And it's perfect. I've said umpteen times that Katie plus guitar is all you need and these little shows are proving it. Zurab's playing is beautifully judged. He adds just the right amount of finesse and intricacy without show-stealing or distracting you from Katie's blissful vocals and her own delicate picking. They work so well together, I guess helped by sibling understanding. When Katie put her guitar aside and just sang they reminded me a bit of the Carpenters. Of course, when concerts return to some kind of normality the band will return but I'd certainly have no complaints if "The Meluas" became the new norm.
I should quickly just mention the image above. Eagle-eyed fans quickly spotted that Katie and Zurab appeared to be playing left-handed, which of course they were not. This suggests that it was being filmed on an iPhone front camera, which displays a mirror image. It is a deliberate feature designed so that you can use a phone as a pocket mirror (the rear camera doesn't reverse the image.) Well done to all those that spotted it but for those that were griping about it... really?
Here's the set list then...
- Wonderful Life
- Just Like Heaven
- No Fear Of Heights
- Here Comes The Sun
- Plane Song
- Tu Ase Turpa Ikavi
- All Over The World
- The Closest Thing To Crazy
- Nine Million Bicycles
- The One I Love Is Gone
The great thing about having a large back catalogue is you can always pull a few surprises out of the bag, and that set list would have been impossible to predict, other than 8 and 9, which are always in demand with Katie's casual fans. But it was nice to see some rare treasures in there for the dedicated fans, such as "All Over The World" and "The One I Love Is Gone". Naturally, with well over a hundred songs to choose from I'm sure we all have favourites that we'd have liked included, but Katie would have been performing all night (we wouldn't mind, but let's give the lass a break!) For example, Pictures didn't get a look in but maybe one day I will get to see "What I Miss About You" live.
I thought they'd lost count when they disappeared off screen after track nine. There was a pause and then Katie returned alone to play track ten. This "virtual encore" was genius and I hope it becomes a thing with these streamed concerts, though she should perhaps have popped a little sign on the chair saying "Please applaud now". If you haven't seen the concert you can click on the photo above to go to it. Massive thanks to Katie and Zurab for warming hearts around the globe and all for a good cause too.
27.06.20 > A Love Like That
New song alert!
Katie has a new song coming out next Tuesday, 30th June. Called "A Love Like That", the official video premieres on YouTube at 5.00pm UK BST. Click on the pic below to visit the page and set a reminder. Be there or 🐝 🟪
26.06.20 > Walking Music
I already had this piece planned when Katie posted about a playlist of walking songs on Instagram a few days ago. Her Spotify playlist, For Leaves And Fields, was specifically for walking in a park or a nature walk. I wanted to talk about walking music more generally.
The first thing I want to say is that more often than not I don’t listen to music when I’m walking. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, if I’m walking along a road or I’m in a busy town or city, I don’t want to be cut off from my environment. Actually, I do, but more to the point I don’t feel safe doing it. I can’t really relax unless I can hear what is going on around me. If I’m out on my own in the hills or the woods then there aren’t really many dangers you need to listen out for but then the second reason comes into play: I like to listen to nature itself. The gentle tinkling of a stream, the primal roar of a waterfall, the delicate rustling of leaves in the wind, and the endless joy that is birdsong. Katie’s playlist is interesting, and I enjoyed listening to it, but for me I’d listen to something like that snuggled up on the sofa on a cold, wet evening. I’d close my eyes and let the music paint pictures of nature in my mind’s eye. When I’m out in nature I want to connect with it directly, with all my senses, and not be distracted by music, no matter how good it is. Of course, it depends on your mood too—there are times when I need to be lost in music, but generally the sound of nature is all I need. Another issue is how to listen to music. I hate the feel of wires dangling and catching on clothing, my Apple wireless buds sound good but they won’t stay in properly when I’m moving and my gorgeous Sony over-ears sound amazing but make me look like a Cyberman. First world problems, eh?
When I do listen to music whilst walking it is almost always instrumental. That is because I tend to get lost in my own thoughts and lyrics would distract me from that. The music I listen to whilst writing is instrumental for the same reason, normally ambient. Currently, my writing playlist runs to over 100 hours and I just play it on shuffle. My favourite artists for this kind of music are Carbon Based Lifeforms, Marconi Union and Solar Fields, but I have an absolute ton of it since I’ve been searching it out for over twenty years. Those three create some gorgeous music but for a slightly darker edge I’d recommend The Future Sound Of London too.
You might be forgiven for wondering how Katie fits into all this. After all, I can’t walk to her and I can’t work to her. (Actually, in winter I can, and do, walk to In Winter. She just nails the mood of the season so much.) The simple answer is I devote time to her music. She works so hard to make the best music she can that I believe she earns my full attention. When she sings, I listen. Every word, every subtle little nuance. She is an artisan of her craft; her work is meticulous and sublime and deserves to be appreciated properly. I don’t listen to her whilst gardening or doing housework—she is the reward for those things. I do like to listen to her whilst driving though since it helps keep me calm and happy.
At the end of the day we are all different. Some people like to try everything and spend a lot of their time listening to new music. I’ve got to the point where I’ve collected so much music that I love that new stuff finds it hard to get a look in. A few artists—Katie of course, Dylan, Springsteen and a handful of others—have gained my trust and I’ll always pre-order their albums, but new artists have to be pretty special to get my attention. But then, I’m from a different era—a pre-streaming dinosaur from a time when vinyl albums were a thing of beauty and wonder, to be handled reverently and listened to from the first second to the last, with just a brief time-out to turn the record over. I simply don’t get these music apps that offer me my own “radio stations”. I tried a Katie Melua radio station on one of them—it played one of her songs and then went on to play all kinds of other, supposedly similar, artists that simply left me cold and rather baffled. If I want my own Katie Melua radio station I just make a playlist of all her music and hit shuffle… I guess I just don’t like to be told what I like!
25.06.20 > Track Notes 98: This Year's Love
This Year's Love
A good voice can make a bad song sound good but a good song can't make a bad voice sound good. When you get a good song and a good voice it's a wonderful thing, though merely par for the course for Katie. All of which is to say, I can't be doing with David Gray's voice. I'd rather listen to fingernails on a blackboard. But he can write a good song, and this is one of them. It's little surprise that Katie pounced on it—if good songs are voles then Katie is a kestrel hovering above and getting ready to grab lunch. And her voice turns good songs into great ones. This is simply a sumptuous cover.
You know what's coming. Yep. Another photo montage video. But hey, at least you get to hear this wonderful version if you can't get your mitts on B-Sides. And anyway, Katie is the most photogenic person ever so montages are never a chore.
24.06.20 > Albums You May Have Missed...
I’ve been doing a bit of tidying of my music collection and one thing that has struck me is that I’ve got a lot of wonderful albums that never seem to get talked about. This is either because they are old or obscure, or both (like me), but it struck me that a good many people of a somewhat younger vintage may never have happened upon them. So I’ve decided to begin a new feature: Albums You May Have Missed. Those of you that really know your music may not find much new but I think over time I should be able to surprise just about everyone.
I should point out that they will all be albums I love but that’s not to say you will too, it’s just that if you haven’t heard them I recommend giving them a chance and you never know—you might just discover something you find wonderful. And if you hate the first few I throw at you don’t be put off by the idea. They will all be different and if you think the first nine are rubbish the tenth might be right up your street. You never know. Anyway, here’s the first offering…
The Zen Kiss
If you’ve heard of Sheila Chandra at all, chances are it is either from her only top 20 hit “Ever So Lonely”, back in 1982 with the band Monsoon, or even earlier as an actress in “Grange Hill”. If that’s the case, or if you haven’t heard of her at all, you need to experience her amazing vocal talents.
In 2009, Sheila was diagnosed with something called burning mouth syndrome, leaving her effectively mute without experiencing severe pain, and ending her music career. This cruel tragedy is hard to imagine for someone whose gift is their voice. But she does have around ten albums that are there for all time to show what a voice she had.
I’ve picked “The Zen Kiss” as a good all round showcase of her extraordinary talent. Many of the tracks are unaccompanied. Her voice doesn’t need accompanying. These tracks will not just move you, some will amaze you—she does things with her voice that are baffling and mesmerising in equal measures. It may not be your cup of tea but you might as well taste before deciding. You may well find her a revelation.
Listen to The Zen Kiss on Spotify via the link below:
23.06.20 > Lyric Card: Straight To DVD
22.06.20 > Katie In A Car Park?
“It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.”
What a strange year this has been, but will things ever return to “normal” or will we be faced with a new normal? Katie’s autumn tour is less than a hundred days away now and still—as things stand—going ahead. Of course, a so-called “second wave” could change all that. But it is by no means certain that concerts will get the green light any time soon even though pubs and restaurants look set to get back in the game early next month.
The sticking point will be social distancing. If it is reduced to 1m then pubs and restaurants can accommodate that but what about theatres? You’d have to keep every other seat and every other row empty. Which would mean only a quarter of the normal audience could attend. Is that viable? And how would it be done, considering most of the tickets have already been sold? It would be frustrating for those that couldn’t get in but a massive financial hit for the organisers and performers. Would everyone have to wear masks? Not very comfortable at a concert. (Presumably the performing artist would be exempt, or we might get treated to “The Clothetht Think To Crathee”.)
Outdoor gatherings may be easier to control, in theory at least though probably not in practice. In summer, concerts could be held open air in showgrounds but by November it would be too wet, dark and cold for that. Which brings me, finally, to the point of this piece. There is some talk now about “drive-in” concerts. I saw “2001” at a drive-in cinema in Canada. It was magical. They were popular over there. For some reason, perhaps weather, they never took off in the UK. Light would be another reason—it doesn’t get dark until 10.30 in a UK summer, and cinema needs darkness. But musicians don’t, apart from maybe Ozzy Osborne, so that wouldn’t matter. People would just drive in and park in allocated spaces facing the stage. Back in the 60s you had to wind your window down and balance a crappy speaker on it. Nowadays you would probably be asked to tune your radio to a specific frequency, or there might be some other fancy tech solution, but the quality should be decent. In good weather the normal gig speaker set up might be enough anyway.
In terms of social distancing, drive-in concerts tick the box for sure. But will they really take off? I find it unlikely. Obviously, there would be environmental concerns—how carbon-neutral would they be? Not very. Especially in cool weather if people had their engines on so the heater worked. Then there’s the performer’s perspective. How weird would it feel just staring out at a car park? After each song, people might applaud in their cars but you wouldn’t see or hear it, you’d just see a static car park. I imagine some conventions would quickly arise, like tooting horns and flashing hazard lights. Frankly, it is all sounding a but surreal. I would think it could be difficult for a performer to engage with a crowd of cars. There’s no intimacy, you can’t see the faces, gauge the feel of the crowd.
But this is no fantasy idea—some drive-in concerts have already taken place and others are happening soon. Personally, I can’t see it being much more than a passing novelty idea, a desperate solution for desperate times. Eventually, public pressure will demand that theatres and cinemas be allowed to have full houses again. The question for us is whether that can happen in time for Katie’s tour. All we can do is keep a nervous eye on how things unfold over the coming weeks. And it does rather rely on the general public being sensible and staying safe, which is kind of scary given that the general public aren’t generally very reliable. So lets just see what happens and who knows, perhaps one day Katie might be coming to a car park near you.
21.06.20 > Seven Second Challenge 6
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 6
Better Than A Dream (Secret Symphony)
20.06.20 > The Wildlife Trusts’ Big Wild Weekend Music Night
Katie was comfortably the standout performer (who would have guessed) of the night singing “Scarborough Fair” and “Perfect World”. She sings "Scarborough Fair" better than anyone I've ever heard and if it doesn't appear on the new album I'm going to stand outside in the rain and throw soggy chips at magpies until I get over it (or get pneumonia). I suspect she may be trying to get into the Guinness Book Of Records (again), this time for the highest positioning of a capo on a fretboard. It looks like she's playing the balalaika again—just scroll down to that pic of her aged 2 a couple of days ago and you'll see what I mean. Told you she hadn't changed.
It was also nice to see another wonderful singer-songwriter Katie, KT Tunstall, performing her lovely “White Bird”. Anyway, if you’re in a hurry, Katie appears around 37 minutes in. Click the pic to watch the event.
20.06.20 > Katie Bite: The Closest Thing To Crazy
19.06.20 > 1000th Post!
Call me the postman! No, actually, don’t, scrub that. I can’t really believe I’ve managed to find a thousand ways to bother you all. Where does time go? Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to explain a bit more about this site and how it came to exist.
But all good things come to an end and circumstances conspired to send me off into the middle of nowhere to do things I didn’t really want to be doing. That’s just life. I won’t bore you with details but things got progressively more difficult. I’d been a fan of Katie’s since the beginning—I was still in London when she arrived on the scene—but it is only around the middle of the last decade, when I was having the toughest time, that she really became significant. Music has aways been the release from the trials of life for me but of all the hundreds of CDs and LPs (aka vinyl) I have from countless artists, for some reason it was only Katie’s voice that really got through to me during the toughest times. It seemed whenever I was floundering in deep water she’d be there throwing me a lifesaver (for American readers I’m referring to buoyancy rings and not small pieces of candy). When I was in darkness she would lead me to the light.
So, anyway, life changed again, as it has a habit of doing, and I found I had time for myself once more. I wanted to freshen and update my programming skills but there’s a lot of work involved in web sites and it needed to be a project I was passionate about to invest the effort. I’d seen a few fan sites for Katie and I wasn’t too impressed. The better ones seemed to be in places like France and Poland. I was mystified at the lack of a decent one here in the UK. But I found all of them quite frustrating because of the amount of ads and popups littered throughout them. Yes, web sites cost something to maintain but if you are a fan that is a hit you should take—it seemed to me some of these “fan sites” were so laden with clickbait they were little more than a revenue stream, a way of making money out of Katie’s name. I decided that if I was to do one it would have to be all about Katie rather than ads for sneakers and vacuum cleaners. And that’s how I got the name for the site.
Initially though, it was never intended for the general public. It was just my own little private project to combine two of my passions and it remained that way for some time. The site was pretty much as you see it now—except there was no blog. It was all more static—information about albums, videos, lyrics etc. Once I’d got it all how I wanted it there wasn’t much to do from day to day. But when I stood back to admire my work I remembered the lack of a UK fan site and I decided I really owed it to Katie to be sharing this with her fans. If I was to go live though it would need to be more dynamic. My first idea was to add a “News” section. It soon became apparent though that well-behaved artists like Katie aren’t deemed particularly newsworthy in the media, especially between albums, so it would be really difficult to find much to report on in any kind of regular fashion. Blogging, however, was becoming such a big thing. It seemed like everyone was at it. I’d struggle to blog about myself since I’m inherently dull but I could bang on about Katie until the cows came home (as opposed to banging on about cows until Katie came home). So I thought, right, I’ll stick a blog right on the front page of the site. Hardly anyone would read it anyway so what would it matter? And so this journey began and here we are a thousand entries later. I’ve always tried to stay true to the name and keep it all about Katie, or at least relevant to her in some way. Very occasionally it may not seem to be, but there is usually some connection, however tenuous, with every post. At the very least, I try to make it something that might be of interest to a Ketefan. It is a constant challenge to keep making regular posts. I try not to repeat myself but from time to time I do revisit old ground though hopefully with a fresh perspective. After all, life is ever changing and if you ask me to name my favourite 5 Katie songs every year then I doubt you’d get the same list twice. But I have to be quite creative at times, which is why there is a fair sprinkling of stuff and nonsense in here, but it keeps me on my toes and I hope some of it at least comes across as informative or entertaining. My aim is always that every time you visit the site there is something new to see. I can’t be doing with these sites where you click on “News” and the last entry was in 2016.
Sorry for such a verbal outpouring. I think it is safe to assume we’ll get the next thousand entries off to a simple start with a Katie bite tomorrow, perhaps one from where it all began.
Anyway, in the mean time I think it’s party time and that can only mean…
18.06.20 > TBT: Katie, aged 2
I find this pic of Katie utterly astonishing. Because…
a) she hasn’t changed. Well, she has, obviously, but you know what I mean. You can tell it is her. (At that age I looked like Tintin).
b) look at the pose—the same calm, assured posture she has now, and the same no-nonsense focus in her eyes.
c) look how she is holding that balalaika. She is fingering a ruddy chord for heaven’s sake. She is TWO.
Never in my life have I seen more compelling photographic evidence that some people are absolutely born to do what they do. (I still have no idea what I was born to do.) This is pretty much the Katie we saw performing for us from her living room last month. Imagine taking this photo of a little girl in Soviet Georgia and not for one second imagining that two decades later she would be the top selling female artist in the UK. Anything is possible. Consider my gob well and truly smacked.
17.06.20 > Track Notes 97: Straight To DVD
Straight To DVD
Katie Melua & Mike Batt
B-Sides is relentless. There are better songs on here than some artists write in their whole careers. "Straight to DVD " is a wonderful pop song—a great premise beautifully executed. It is funny, poignant, brutal and catchy as merry hell. I love the pre-shrunk pants off this track. That hardly anyone knows about it is criminal.
Nicely made photo montage video of this. It's low res cos it was made in 2007 but still good and only 13k views in 13 years tells you how under the radar this song has flown.
16.06.20 > Katie's Playlist: For Leaves & Fields
A special playlist today—one curated by Katie herself! Here is her Instagram post...
And here is the link to load it in Spotify > For Leaves & Fields
It's an interesting list. If you are on Instagram you've probably already seen the post but I do urge you to let Katie know what you think of it. My favourites bookended the list—Sketches and In Doubt. That's because I'm an ambient instrumental junkie. I actually liked all the tracks but for me lyrics get in the way of my own thoughts when I'm walking. I don’t often even listen to Katie when I’m walking (more on that in an upcoming post), with the notable exception of listening to “In Winter”, when I’m walking in winter, because it absolutely nails the mood so much. I don’t mind the odd word or two though, when used for effect, such as in Photosynthesis by Carbon Based Lifeforms. Another piece I like walking to is We Travel by Marconi Union. I didn't know Sketches, but Daniel Lanois has collaborated with one of my favourites, the godfather of ambient himself, Brian Eno, on a few albums like "Apollo Atmospheres And Soundtracks" and "Thursday Afternoon" (rare, but an hour of ambient bliss, if you can find it anywhere).
Personally, this playlist would work better for me at home in an armchair on a dismal day, where I could close my eyes and lose myself in the music. When I'm walking in nature I usually don't listen to music at all because it disconnects you from the actual sound of your environment. I love to hear the rustling of the wind through the trees, the tinkling of running water and the magic of bird song—last week I heard my first cuckoo call for a long time and it made my heart sing—but if there were lots of people about, such as in a London park, then I'd be more inclined to use a playlist like this to drown out screeching kids and yapping dogs! I think what this list does show is what an amazing mind Katie has, talking of hearing the sound of ancient wood in guitars for example. That's thinking on a level most of us never dive to.
15.06.20 > A Word on Mobile Friendliness
I'm aware that Google doesn't think this site is mobile-friendly. I just wanted to say something about that.
I understand that many people view web sites on their phones these days. It is something I rarely do unless I absolutely need some information and I have no other device available at the time. A site such as All About Katie is what I would call 'leisure browsing', or in other words a site you might only look at when you have some time to spare. I would expect most people to do leisure browsing on laptops or iPads whilst at home but nowadays many of you busy bees squeeze it in on your phones whilst on the train or in a café. That is your choice but the site was not designed for tiny screens. I have looked at the site on an iPhone, Samsung S8, iPad Mini, iPad and various Android tablets. I found the site fully usable on all tablet devices in both landscape and portrait orientations. On the smartphones a lot of the text was too small to read in portrait mode but I did find it readable in landscape mode on both phones. I also found that it is pretty easy to pinch-zoom on phone screens and navigating around with finger-flicking is also quick and intuitive. My conclusion was that if an old donkey like me can cope then younger people, who seem to have phone gestures embedded in their DNA now, will not have any problem navigating the site.
AAK is a one-man operation and redesigning the site to look a little bit friendlier on mobiles would be a monumental task which is why it ain't gonna happen. If you only look at the site on your phone and find it a frustrating experience then I do apologise but I've never had a complaint about it and I couldn't really give a gorilla's hair curlers if Google thinks I'm unfriendly. So, for the best experience use a computer or tablet and if you do browse on a phone then please try using it in landscape mode. And thank you for even visiting the site at all!
14.06.20 > Lyric Card: Junk Mail
13.06.20 > Live Stream Concert for Red Cross Georgia
Those of you that are not on social media, I salute you! I also feel I should keep you informed of happenings in Katieworld. She has announced a live stream concert on YouTube on Saturday 27th June at 19:00. It is free to watch but the hope is that if you want to show your appreciation to Katie you will make a donation to the Red Cross Georgia. It is, of course, the country where Katie was born and the people are just the loveliest you will find anywhere so please consider going to Red Cross Georgia and regard making a donation as effectively buying a virtual ticket to see Katie on the 27th.
12.06.20 > Katie Bite: The House
11.06.20 > Future Albums?
We know that a new studio album is coming our way fairly soon, but what is the outlook like after that for the next few years? Is it bleak? Will we have to wait until 2024? Well, that doesn’t have to be the case. Whilst Ultimate Collection and Live In Concert have used up the live album and ‘best of’ cards for a while there are still a few possibilities to keep hungry fans quiet until studio album 9. Here are some possibilities:
Katie Sings The Songbook, Vol. 1
An album of covers would be like taking candy from a baby for Katie. She could book a studio for a day and knock out a dozen standards with time to spare, though of course she would take as much time as it needed to get everything as good as it can be because that’s just who she is. But the material is all out there just waiting to be given her divine treatment: Always, As Time Goes By, September Song, Summertime, Blue Skies, Perfidia, Moon River and so on. The Great American Songbook is a very deep well. And you only have to listen to Katie’s versions of songs such as Stardust, Deep Purple, Blues In The Night and Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out to imagine how she’d apply her class to these classics. This would be a relatively easy way to get an album out in the autumn of 2021.
Rediscovered Treasure: Tracks from the Back of the Sofa
A collection of unused material could be packaged up for release in 2022, a decade after B-Sides. (Hopefully, this time, on CD and vinyl too.) That album was so packed full of gems that I have no doubt Katie is still sitting on a hatful of precious stones that have been gathering dust. I would certainly expect there to be a few songs that could have been candidates for In Winter but were considered to not quite fit the theme. I mean, does any artist just write ten songs and say “right, we’ve got an album, let’s go”?
Call Off The Search 20th Anniversary Edition
Surely this has to be a candidate for 2023? A re-mastered special edition of her debut album two decades on, or perhaps all new recordings, stripped back acoustic re-imaginings or backed by the GWC. Plenty of possibilities but a special landmark for any artist and it would be criminal to let it pass by unnoticed. It wouldn’t surprise me if Katie had plans already.
… And DVDs?
It’s been a while since we had a DVD release from Katie, and how we could have done with one or two more during lockdown. The two obvious candidates here are an In Winter Live DVD, with bonus docs on the making of In Winter, and also a collection of all her official videos to date.
So, has that got you drooling or what? I wouldn’t get too excited though since I’m rubbish at predictions and probably none of this will come to pass. Que sera, sera.
10.06.20 > Track Notes 96: Junk Mail
Yet another lovely song about failed love from the seemingly bottomless songwriting pit of Mr Batt. It's beautifully observed—often when relationships end people expect to just move on but it's far more complicated than that and receiving junk mail for your ex is something you could be putting up with for years unless you move house yourself! As always, Katie puts so much feeling into her performance that you believe every word, even when she sings about lighting cigarettes (as hard as it is to imagine her having a drag of a fag). I ruddy love B-Sides...
Someone made a video for this by mashing up other bits of Katie video. It kind of works too. The picture quality isn't great but the sound is.
09.06.20 > Seven Second Challenge 5
Press the play button and guess the song. Click "Show Me The Answer" when you think you know it or if you're stumped.
Seven second challenge: intro 5
If The Lights Go Out (Pictures)
08.06.20 > That blinking clock!
Some of you probably haven’t even noticed the little Katie clock in the left panel. Notice how she glances at the time every second? Am I the only one that thinks it is cool? […time passes silently…] So, that’s a yes then. Oh well, anyway, if you’re of the mind it would be splendid to have such a lovely timepiece feature more prominently on your virtual desktop then guess who’s gone and turned that dream into reality? That’s right. Just click on that blinking Katie pic and you’ll get a little pop-up window with a larger version of the Katie clock all on its own. Ain’t computers brilliant? Except, that is, if you have some kind of pop-up blocker enabled to spoil the party. But fear not, I have the paranoid among you covered too—if you click on the time itself it will load bigger Katie clock in a new browser tab instead. Much less useful but hey, that’s what you get for not living on the edge.
07.06.20 > Lyric Card: Fancy
06.06.20 > Let Go!
You know that thing when you’re in lockdown and you’re a bit bored and the weather outside is rubbish and you’re still waiting for new music from Katie and you decide to hell with it that you’re going to make your own Katie Melua track? Yeah, that thing. I’m sure everyone can identify with that, can’t they?
So, here is a mash called “Let Go”. It is 97 seconds of mindfulness music so close your eyes, relax, and let Katie’s gentle picking let you float away to an inner oasis of tranquillity (I know, I should get a job writing ads for bath foam). And for those of you thinking that Craggie has finally lost it I’d like to point out that I don’t think I ever had it in the first place and if I want to listen to “Let Go” on repeat for a couple of hours then that is more or less exactly my business.
Oh, and I’m changing my name to “Obese Lad Thin”. Yeah, I know, I’m a nugget.
05.06.20 > What's All This Then?
Now then, what’s our lovely lass up to now? Katie posted these images on Instagram the other day. Seems she’s been shooting a video but for what exactly? Guess we’ll have to wait until she stops teasing and starts telling. I’m not about to make a monkey of myself again by hazarding a wild guess but you’d think it is probably new-album related wouldn’t you? Then again, looking at those cross-hairs on her nose maybe it is an ad for Clearasil and they’re going to digitally add a massive zit in post-production. Fingers crossed for the former, eh?
"Heathcliff, it’s me, Katie…" perhaps a cover of Wuthering Heights?
I could do with one of those stickers. I’m forever prodding my MacBook display after spending time on the iPad. How can Apple make the best tablets in the world yet not give their laptops touchscreens? (Spoiler: they could, easily, but they want mugs like me to buy both).
04.06.20 > Ella Fitzgerald
I’d been wanting to write a piece about Ella for some time but in light of the current racial tensions in America I decided the time would never be better. Ella Fitzgerald, “the First Lady of Song”, was my mother’s favourite singer. Many consider her the greatest singer of all time. Oh, and she was black.
The current trending of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter shows just how far away human beings still are from being a ‘civilisation’. All lives matter. Equally. But black people in particular have borne the brunt of shocking and despicable behaviour because of their skin colour. Yet their contribution to music as we know it is incalculable. At a time when white America was giggling and jiggling to fluffy tunes with pointless lyrics—you know, “let’s sip champagne from a teacup, we’ll all have a jolly good time” type of thing—black America was singing the blues, giving heartfelt performances of music that stirred the soul and lyrics that meant something. It was the birth of real music. Some might argue that classical music is the real music but it depends on how you define ‘real’—I love classical music but it is somewhat artificial in that it is precisely crafted and constructed in a calculated manner rather than coming straight out of the heart and of course it doesn’t have lyrics (don’t you dare mention opera!). I grew up listening to the likes of Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis Jr, and I spent most of the 80s besotted with Tina Turner. Then, when Bruce came along, so did his loyal sidekick Clarence Clemons. The Big Man, built like a tree but with the heart of an orchid, whose saxophone could make the kind of sweet sounds that no inanimate object made from a lump of brass had any right to. Black lives have always mattered.
I recently named my five favourite artists and there was no place for Ella Fitzgerald despite her incredible voice. As I explained at the time, that list was based on what an artist’s songs had personally meant to me rather than being judged purely on vocal ability, which is why I had to reluctantly omit Karen Carpenter—and of course, Ella. For me, nothing beats the rich tone of Karen’s lower register, which has the warmth and character of an old valve radio (if you’ve never heard a valve amplifier I pity you), but it is hard to argue against Ella having the best voice all round. She could hit crystal clear highs with exquisite vibrato, she could wobble your woofers when she needed to, and she could do something extraordinary—she could turn her voice into a musical instrument. For a while, bop and scat were her thing, and she was setting the world on fire. She could match a trumpet improvisation note for note; indeed, in a battle she’d have won every time. Unusually for a woman, she would sweat profusely whilst performing—a clear indication of how her brain was working overtime orchestrating her vocal cords in a way no one had seen before. She was simply amazing.
But for many, Ella truly hit her stride when she was persuaded to shine her talents on the Great American Songbook. Basically, she ripped it up and redefined it. She recorded eight albums of Song Book sets, each focussing on the work of particular composers and lyricists. However, Ella didn’t just sing them, she interpreted them. At the end of the day, words can be just words. It is how you say them that gives them life. And Ella breathed precious life into every song she performed. Who knows where such ability comes from. Are you born with it? Is it shaped by your experience of life in your formative years? Perhaps a bit of both. Certainly, Ella had a troubled childhood. Her father took off before she knew him, her mother died after a car accident when Ella was fifteen, and not long after that she went to live with her aunt. There was speculation that her stepfather had been abusing her. She spent time in an orphan asylum and may even have lived rough on the streets of Harlem for a time. Until she got her break, Ella had definitely found life hard. And in singing she used every drop of that experience to tell you her story. Don’t ever think her singing was effortless—it was quite the opposite, she put everything she had in to every song.
Her love life played second fiddle to her singing. She had two short-lived marriages, and some accounts talk of a third secret marriage to a Norwegian fan that was also short-lived when the chap in question was put away for theft. But it wasn’t that she was unlucky in love, just that she loved her music and it always came first. Even into her 70s she was touring for up to 45 weeks a year.
It is also worth noting that her celebrity status offered little protection against racial discrimination. Even at the height of her fame she was being requested to use rear entrances and turned away from certain establishments. She was only allowed to perform at the Mocambo night club in Hollywood after Marilyn Monroe famously threatened to ruin the place, and there was also an incident where she was refused a flight to Australia and was stranded in Honolulu for three days (without her luggage, which had already boarded the plane). Ella won a civil lawsuit against Pan-Am Airlines for racial discrimination and received a “nice settlement” but it staggers belief it ever happened just as in 2020 it staggers belief that so little has changed. We live in hope that some day it will, but for now I simply raise a toast to Lady Ella, Queen of Jazz, First Lady of Song.
03.06.20 > Seven Second Challenge 4
I just want to say, if you're getting any of these right then well done you! They are harder then they look. I mean sound.
Seven second challenge: intro 4
Shy Boy (Piece By Piece)
02.06.20 > #blackouttuesday
It’s hard to find words. It’s 2020. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. And still racism continues to be a thing. It has been a thing all my life. A thing that I have never, ever understood. I simply cannot get my brain around why anyone would have a problem with skin colour. It is simply ludicrous. I remember seeing the first interracial kiss on television between Kirk and Uhuru on Star Trek. It was controversial and caused a big hoo-ha, though thankfully there was no social media in those days—I can only imagine what might have happened today. I couldn’t see what the fuss was about at all. Uhuru was stunning, I mean, who wouldn’t want to kiss her? I’ve had black friends. I’ve had Indian friends. I’ve had Chinese friends. I’ve had a Japanese girlfriend. They were all wonderful people and it would never have occurred to me to question any of their characters based on their skin colour. In fact, Aki, my Japanese girlfriend, had pretty much the same skin tone to me but racists wouldn’t have seen it that way. It is unfathomable. I don’t know if it is born of fear, of ignorance, of sheer stupidity or what. All I know is I long for the day when it is no longer a thing. I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime but I truly hope so. Today feels like something of a watershed with the widespread social media campaign using the hashtags #blackouttuesday and #theshowmustbepaused. I don’t know how much difference they will make because at the end of the day the kind of people that post, like and retweet these hashtags are the kind of decent, normal human beings that are not a part of the problem. Getting through to the racists is no trivial matter. It is so deeply ingrained in these people that social media campaigns are unlikely to change them. To be honest, I don’t really believe people of that mindset can be changed—perhaps the odd one here and there could be with a lot of effort but in general I think those people are lost. Where the battle can really be won is in schools. Education is the way forward. Make sure children understand that racism is unacceptable and create a generation that simply will not tolerate it. Just as children are now leading the way with the fight against climate change, they are the future. I hope we are at the dawn of a wondrous era when people finally start to accept each other for who they are and live in peace and harmony. I’ll believe it when I see it but I believe one day I’ll see it.
01.06.20 > Track Notes 95: Fancy
Bobbie Gentry's 1969 feminist statement is a lyrical tour-de-force and gives Katie a good vocal dexterity workout in her live version (there isn't a studio recording as far as we know). The song was an even bigger hit for Reba McEntire in 1990. It would have been interesting to see how it fared had Katie released a single of it. No matter. What we have here is yet another treasure from the sparkling cave of B-Sides. One line that tickles me is the one about Fancy owning a "Georgian mansion" — this could have meant either the Georgian period or the state of Georgia but naturally, with it being Katie, I imagine a grand house in Tbilisi!
Nice little vid from the North Sea Jazz Festival back whenever complete with legendary drummer Henry Spinetti and Katie's guitar tutor Justin Sandercoe (adding some dubious falsetto backing vocals). By 'eck, Katie had some swagger about her in them days; she's rather more demure now 😄