Paperback (and Hardback) Writer: Steve Turner on his book Beatles ’66

Steve TurnerWriter Steve Turner must have one of the best jobs in the world.

He gets to be creative every day, writing about things and people that interest him. He has the platform to put out his view of the world in poetry. He has had a film made about him. He gets to work with musicians he holds in high regard (and vice versa – in a Guardian article in 2006, his daughter wrote that Bono once gave her a hug and said, “I’m a big fan of your Dad”).
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Vox Clamantis: The Deer’s Cry (Music by Arvo Pärt)

Vox Clamantis

Arvo Pärt’s music comes in various shades, and for those of us who prefer the most calm-inducing pieces, this release, which features shorter and more recent compositions, is a great find.

No one does Pärt like ECM and these seventeen voices create a collection as peaceful and pure as any I have yet heard.

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2016 in Music: Shock and Awe

Bowie Blackstar
The biggest musical occurrence of 2016 was arguably a death. David Bowie’s demise was a Shock-and-Awe event: shock that it happened and awe at the way Bowie orchestrated his passing.

Rather than fading away, Bowie created an album that – with hindsight – dropped enormous clues about the cancer that was ravaging his body, but (testament to the respect that he had earned) no collaborators spilled the beans, and neither did anybody guess from the clues given. And with dramatic timing, the album Blackstar was released just two days before he died.

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The Neal Morse Band: The Similitude of a Dream – the Best Christian Album to Come out in Decades?

Neal Morse Band
After living with the Neal Morse Band’s The Similitude of a Dream for several weeks, I haven’t been as excited about an album release since… the band’s previous one.

And that’s with some 70 reviews in between.

No wonder that drummer Mike Portnoy posted that this was the best album he has made. Coming from a man with a career in Transatlantic, Dream Theater and Flying Colors, that is saying something.

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Anomalisa (DVD)

AnomalisaThis beautifully animated work brushes with many questions about life, relationships and the value we place on individuals.

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry Shine their Light in London

Bragg and Henry

This was one of those gigs that you catch at just the right time and place. As the trans-Atlantic partnership of Bragg and Henry played the show, polls were beginning to close in the US presidential elections, and the setting of Union Chapel – a working church – only highlighted the spiritual references sprinkled liberally throughout the evening’s show.

It was only minutes in when the pair prepared us for what was at the front of their minds. American Joe Henry almost apologised to us for the state that America had got itself into as it teetered “over the abyss.” Bragg noted that, after Brexit, the UK was already falling down it.

In the old joke they told about a man who had thrown himself off a ten-storey

building, as he was falling past the fifth floor, people inside asked how it was going. “Alright so far,” he replied.

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Race for the White House

Race to the white house dvd(Acorn Video / DRG)

As a dazed world tries to come to terms with what a President Trump might mean for the planet, it may be a comfort to know how underhand and manipulated many previous campaigns have been – where even Presidents with the better reputations either behaved nefariously or got someone to do it for them (yes, we’re looking at you, ‘Honest Abe’, among others).

We have seen some dirty tricks, deceit and scandals in this year’s presidential contest, but Race for the White House (originally a CNN docu-series, narrated by Kevin Spacey) shows that such lust for power is nothing new.

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Has Faith Helped Bob Dylan to Win his Nobel Prize?

Bob DylanFor the first time in its history, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to a musician, leaving its winner, Bob Dylan, “speechless” at the award. However, it took him weeks to acknowledge it, causing  a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel prizes, to describe his silence as “impolite and arrogant”.

The singer is no stranger to upsetting the masses, having famously angered the folk purists in his youth by plugging in an electric guitar, but both his words and impact have outlasted such temporary spats. And these are surely what have earned him this accolade.

But what impact has his faith had on his writing?

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Jarlath Henderson – Hearts Broken, Heads Turned

Jarlath Henderson
Every now and then you get an agitator in the world of folk; someone who takes the songs that have thrived for tens or hundreds of years, and makes them fresh for a new generation – people like Jim Moray and Eliza Carthy. This release puts Jarlath Henderson firmly with them in that bracket.

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U2@40: Is Bono the Messiah, or a very Naughty Boy?

U2 Wembley Most U2 fans will have plenty of stand-out memories. Mine began in 1981, when they played the birthday party for my local rock club in Aylesbury. I knew none of their songs at that time, and instead of my normal place against the stage, I found a spot at the back of the hall and danced all night.

My last big impression was at Wembley Stadium on the 360 degree tour, where, strangely, I was even nearer to the band than in Aylesbury. When most of U2 crossed the bridges onto the B-stage behind me, I turned around and it felt like being at the back of the stage looking out at the crowd.

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