Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another video treat from our main man

Been over to http://www.emi.se/artists/salem/tiwia/index.htm, which is not really much of a website as it's only one page, but crucially there are links on here to the videos for "Dream Girl" and "Good Song". Until tonight I hadn't seen the "Good Song" video - well it's hilarious, and just like the song it will make you smile. It mainly involves Salem and his chums doing lots of cheesy dancing whilst some rather unfortunate things happen to a life-sized Salem ragdoll! White suits! Red gloves! Hoovering! Other people with Al Fakir-type hair! Snook! (Yay!!).

If you are a regular visitor to this blog then you'll know that Salem Al Fakir can do no wrong, and I'd go as far as to say that with "This Is Who I Am" he's made my favourite album of the last 10 years. I read something on another website which said "it's not a matter of if he will make it worldwide, it's just a matter of when". And when he does, remember we told you first!!

Also found this nice pic of Salem from when he was at Swedish radio in 2006.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Anyone fancy a Swedish singalong?

I previously mentioned that most Swedish of summer events, "Allsang Pa Skansen" which is broadcast weekly on SVT and is of course available on their excellent video on demand service. I’ve been watching it every week since it started a few weeks ago. Admittedly, it would be wrong of me to say that it’s all wonderful when it’s not: however there is something for everyone, young and old, a variety show in the true sense of the word. Week 1 had The Ark - we can’t resist the lovely Ola and his fringes!! - whilst week 2 brought Måns Zelmerlöw and Per Gessle, week 3 was my favourite for obvious reasons (clue: there was a "Good Song" on it) although apart from you know who, there wasn’t much going for it: try to calculate the total ages of Jerry Williams, Lasse Holm and Lasse Berghagen! Salem pictured above at Skansen: when "Good Song" lived up to its name!

Markoolio ("Ingen Sommar Utan Reggae") was the highlight of week 4, whilst the stars of week 5 included Amy Diamond, Marie Lindberg and the lovely Peter Jöback, premiering his new song "Stockholm I Natt" which was ok although I prefer him in more uptempo mode.

TV Rewind: renewing my acquaintance with some old "Friends"

Since that very popular series ended, its cast have had varying fortunes. Matt Le Blanc’s "Joey"...well let’s not go there eh. Meanwhile Courteney Cox and Matthew Perry now have leading roles in two new TV shows, both of which are now being broadcast here in the UK.

I wanted to love "Dirt" - it sounded as if it would be a cracker, set in the world of a stop-at-nothing paparazzi magazine, with Ms Cox as the editor. But I watched the first episode and found it to be shockingly bad, so bad that by the end of it I felt "there goes one hour of my life which I will never get back".

Unlike "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip", a highly intelligent drama from the USA. Sadly our TV here in the UK is so dumbed-down at this point that it’s not being shown on Channel 4, but on the more serious/highbrow More 4.

It kicked off in fine style, with a "Saturday Night Live"-type show being halted by the producer’s disaffected speech reminiscent of the "mad as hell" moment in "Network". It may focus a bit too much on the politics of US TV networks, which may go over the head of many a viewer, but I thought it was a rather good opening which set the scene very well. Matthew Perry and his sidekick are brought in to rescue the ailing entertainment show, and you can’t help feeling that it won’t be an easy ride for them.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And as if by magic, it reappeared.

I refer of course to SVT's "Grattis Victoria" concert which was on their website then disappeared for a while. Hooray! It's back! (for how long I just don't know). Anyway the point of all this is that it was the very first place where I ever saw and heard Salem Al Fakir, so I took the opportunity to go back. And indeed he's as brilliant as I remember him from 2 weeks ago.

You'll find him about 25½ minutes into the show when he did a brilliant medley of "It's True" and "Dream Girl". Although his career is only beginning, this young man performs with the confidence, charisma and star quality of someone in their absolute musical prime. This performance had everything we love about him:

1. Demented piano-headbanging!
2. Great, distinctive, jazzy vocals (and those delightful little off-key moments which make him even more special!)
3. The utter joy which he transmits with every performance.
4. That hair....oh yes!
5. Those big piercing blue eyes.
6. That smile which just melts me every time.

Yes, OK, I'll admit that I am completely in love with this man, but first and foremost I love his music, his songs and his voice. He is a truly special, gifted, talented artist whose music is unique and timeless.

DanceX: or is it the "Why Factor?"

If it ain't broke don't fix it. BBC1 had two series of the excellent "Strictly Dance Fever", but they decided to scrap it in favour of "Dance X", a new competition which was devised by Arlene Phillips and Bruno Tonioli, presumably in Simon Cowell style to fill the gap till their next dance contest panel appearance ("Strictly Come Dancing" and also in Bruno's case, "Dancing With the Stars"). What we are left with is a rather stupid rehash of the X Factor, with the focus all on the judges/mentors and the contestants are just an irrelevance. As if that's not enough, why did they have to bring singing into it? It's a dance contest for goodness sake. Last night saw the departure of Becky from Group Bruno. Two weeks in and we'd dare to suggest that it's already Group Arlene for us (which would be complete if they ditched Ashley and replaced her with Marie from Bruno's team). Bruno has not grasped the concept of singing and dancing at the same time as he's chosen to make irritating Claire the lead singer...but she can't dance to save herself.

Meanwhile over at Group Arlene, could she be more obvious that she's got the hots for her "leading man" Emanuel? We can't share her enthusiasm as he's not really our type.
All in all, we'd say DanceX is a missed opportunity, they should have either kept Strictly Dance Fever or gone down the "So You Think You Can Dance" route, both options far superior to this new effort.

Retro Saturday: Jean Beauvoir

Then you've got to feel the heat....feel the heat.

Our 80s night continues with another forgotten classic. "Feel The Heat" by Jean Beauvoir was a great tune, very much of its time but none the worse for that. Jean himself was a visually striking man with a blonde mohawk hairdo and he totally rocked. This song featured on the soundtrack of a film called "Cobra" with Sylvester Stallone. This was big in Europe at the time but sadly overlooked in the UK.

Retro Saturday: Hue and Cry

Whipping up a storm, what a hue and cry.

Still in the 80s tonight and time for another neglected oldie. "Strength to Strength" by Hue and Cry is even more stunning today than it was back then. H & C always made music which was far too mature and intelligent for your humble top 40 and in an ideal world this would have been no.1 forever. As ever, confident vocals by Pat Kane mixed with a solid, brassy backdrop, building to a strong finale. Amazing song.

Retro Saturday: Act

Fantastic electronic 80s music, no more, no less.

Can it really be 20 years since Act's "Absolutely Immune"? Act were a duo of ex-Propaganda singer Claudia Brucken, and Thomas Leer, and this was and is a wonderful record, as was their other finest moment, the superb "Snobbery and Decay". Propaganda were of course one of the most glorious bands of the 80s, and Act didn't disappoint either. Fantastic production which you just don't get these days, sadly.

Norway Charts Update

Not often we do one of these so I thought it was about time. Kurt Nilsen won Norway's "Idol" of course then went on to win "World Idol" and he's still doing well in his native country, no.2 in the Norwegian download chart this week with an impressive rock number called "Push Push" just behind the ubiquitous "Umbrella". Another former Idol contestant Venke Knutson is also in the chart with "Holiday" which is a little reminiscent of Britney Spears.

Ready, Set, Go...!

With any luck, Tokio Hotel will break through in the UK, just as they have done all over Europe. Their music has strength and maturity beyond the band's youth. It took a while for me to get into their music but I really like them now and hope they make it over here.

German charts update: You can get it because it's a hot summer, so vayamos companeros

In the German chart it would appear to be a battle between Popstars and DSDS winners. Most recent Popstars winners Monrose are at the top with "Hot Summer" which is very reminiscent of Nelly Furtado's "Maneater". They have beat off Mark Medlock, the most recent winner of "Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar" whose duet featuring Dieter Bohlen, "You Can Get It" is at no. 2. It's catchy and cheesy. If EuropeCrazy had its way, neither would be at the top and we'd have "Vayamos Companeros" by Marquess. Great stuff.

Ola's "Natalie" at the top in Sweden

It looks as if Markoolio has finally been dethroned by former Idol contestant Ola's latest hit single "Natalie". It's very catchy and commercial and certainly makes a change from "Umbrella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay".......

TV rewind: "Le Tour en Fete" (TV5)

This time we're not going into the numerous scandals in this year's Tour de France: instead we're going back a couple of weeks to France 2's concerts celebrating Le Tour, held in various stage towns. Didn't see last week's show as the line-up didn't impress, however the previous week had a good line-up: Christophe Willem sang "Double Je" whilst the-bloke-from-Le-Roi-Soleil-who-isnt-gorgeous-Emmanuel-Moire, that is Christophe Mae, looks the part of a pop star even if his yelping vocals still don't float my boat.

I really like Amel Bent. There is something refreshingly real about her, and "Nouveau Francais" is very good although it's not in the class of "Ma Philosophie" but then again what is?

In any France 2 music show you are always guaranteed an old smoothie in a cream suit and open-neck shirt: Philippe Lavil just upped the cheese quota.

David Hallyday! Singing "My Sharona" and hammering the life out of a drum kit. We like him. A lot.

Faudel has done more in recent years to bring his blend of radio-friendly rai to the masses and once more he delivered.

In 20 years time, the lovely Frederic Lerner will probably wear that cream suit. In the meantime he is still a very good looking young man with a nice soft rock musical style although still owing a huge vocal and musical debt to a certain Mr Goldman, IMHO.

Perle Lama is another one of the new breed of r'n'b girls and her music is pretty interchangeable from the rest.

All in all a good show. Just hope that the participants stayed clean! (...more than can be said for some of the race participants...!)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

This week's playlist: how am I supposed to be? Seems like you already figured it out.

Dream Girl/Good Song/Count Me Out/Tell Me/It's Only You/This Is Who I Am/Devil Look/It's True - Salem Al Fakir: we never get enough, always wanna have some more. Still in love with this man and his utterly beautiful, melodic, addictive music. Salem - where have you been all my life?

All Rise/Fly By - Blue: decided that a Blue revival at EuropeCrazy HQ is on the cards.

Double Je/Kiss The Bride - Christophe Willem: the geek shall inherit the earth.

Please Me/Work Of Art - Måns Zelmerlow: will he ever not be on this playlist?

The Worrying Kind/I Pathologize - The Ark: and indeed there will always be a place for the lovely Ola Salo and his merry men.

Max 500 - Kent: getting excited by the thought of the forthcoming album; a chance this week to remember a recent gem.

Inga Problem - Snook: Ice-cool rap from a very talented and different Swedish duo. Great backing track, cracking chorus. Oh and Salem is in the video looking cool and thoughtful .....oh I need a cold shower quickly.

Same Jeans - The View: and why not?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Snook - Another Swedish act to love!

Have just discovered a very good Swedish rap band called Snook, discovered them by chance as I was trawling the web looking for more Salem stuff (quelle surprise) anyway it turned out that the great man makes a couple of blink-and-you'll miss-them appearances playing guitar in Snook's "Inga Problem" video. He has played on their album and as this song has some great piano going on, I wouldn't be surprised if it was him playing on this track.

Anyway Snook look and sound cool and different, with their very own Swedish take on hip hop. Had a listen to some tunes on their MySpace and they definitely need further investigation.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another summer tour hits the road in Sweden

Another summer tour package has taken to the road in Sweden, reported Aftonbladet. "Svensk Sommar" features an unusual line-up: Nisse Hellberg, The Refreshments, and two more recent discoveries: Marie Lindberg, the bespectacled schoolteacher from Munkedal who shot to fame in this year's Melodifestivalen with her gentle song "Trying to Recall"; and the most recent Idol winner, Markus Fagervall. Needless to say you can always depend on Aftonbladet never to give five stars when one will do: in this case the recipient being poor old Markus.

EuropeCrazy presents....The 200th Post

Wow! When I started this blog back on 11th March 2007, I didn't know how long it would last, but here we are 4 months on and this is the 200th post!

Can I just take the opportunity to thank everyone who's stopped by to read my random ramblings, and special thanks to those of you who've left comments, which are really appreciated as I'm still making my way in the blogging universe. Particular thanks to everyone who shares my interest in European music and travel - it's great to read all your blogs as well and realise that there are so many others out there who love the same things that I do.

I'm enjoying it so much that I'm planning to keep this blog going for a long time to come. When there's so much good music to listen to, so many good places to visit, and just so many random obsessions in life, then this blog will always be around. Keep reading, keep enjoying, and keep the comments coming!

Album Review: "Inventaire" - Christophe Willem

To the uninitiated, Christophe Willem was the winner of France's "Nouvelle Star" 2006, which is that country's equivalent of "Pop Idol"/"American Idol". It would be fair to say that the recorded output of previous NS winners didn't exactly set the French chart on fire. Until now.

In an image-obsessed world, the geeky, bespectacled Christophe shouldn't really win anything. But he did - and what an achievement, especially in a country like France which always boasts its fair share of beautiful people competing to be the next Star Academy or Nouvelle Star winner.

So here is his first album, which wisely he took some time recording, sought out some of France's more credible songwriters rather than go down the cover version or rush-release L'equipe Obispo route. It all starts with "Jacques A Dit" with its almost nursery-rhyme feel, and then "Quelle Chance", a funky number which sadly becomes a little repetitive and outstays its welcome.

But then comes "Elu Produit De L'Annee", the first single release and still my favourite track on the album. Classic string-driven pop with a mighty spring in its step. As if that's not enough it's followed by current single "Double Je" which is a revelation. Electronic pop which sounds as if someone threw Mika, the Scissor Sisters and the Bee Gees into a blender, to produce one of this summer's best singles.

The 80s funk backdrop to "Le Lycee" lifts it out of the ordinary, whilst "Intemporel" is a distant cousin of "Elu Produit", all retro strings but a bit funkier. His vocals are very good here.

The pace slows down on "Safe Text". I may get shot down for suggesting this, but I think his vocals remind me of Michael Jackson in places. Builds into a very nice chorus here.

The other standout track, "Kiss The Bride" is not the Elton John song, but a brilliant electropop song - SUNG IN ENGLISH! - with a very 80s feel, and it's been a regular on the EuropeCrazy playlist over the last couple of months.

"Pourquoi T'en Vas" drifts by and is a little forgettable, whilst "Demain" has a bit of a 60s easy listening feel. "La Tortue" was the singer's nickname in Nouvelle Star, and it's also the name of the next track, a mega-cheesy-foot-tapper. That little "La tortue/la tortue/la tortue" hookline is cheesier than a cheese shop full of cheese.

You will find it hard to resist the need to shout "Cha'mon" and "ee-hee" as "Bombe Anatomique" is a bit Jacko-tastic!

All in all, "Inventaire" is a fine debut, different from the norm, and a clear indication that this young man is already forging his own musical style and may just have a longer lasting career than many of his fellow talent show winners.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

10 Things To Love About Stockholm

3 months on from my trip to Stockholm and I am still fondly reminiscing about how much I loved it so I thought it was about time to share some random thoughts....

1. A great hotel

The Rica Hotel Kungsgatan is the only hotel you need if you're going to Stockholm. Clean, classy, affordable by Swedish standards, big breakfast buffet and helpful staff.

2. An old town

Gamla Stan is the ultimate must-see in Stockholm: ok it's a tourist trap but hey, it's beautiful and every street and every corner brings a photo opportunity.

3. Back to nature

Skansen is described as an "open air museum". But don't be put off by that. It's much more. It's like a trip round Sweden in a day. I can't describe it in a sentence. I can tell you though that few things in life will equate with the joy of seeing moose. But that's just me.

4. Going underground

Use the metro - a fast, effective way to island hop when you don't want to get sore feet from walking down all those cobbled streets. (Although Stockholm is walkable!)

5. Discovering you can afford to eat out

Shop around, stay away from those super-cool upmarket places and you'll discover that your kronor will go further than you first thought. Honourable mentions to the Barcelona Tapas Bar (behind Kulturhuset at Sergels Torg) and Taverna Efes on Brunkebergstorg, both in Norrmalm.

6. Shopping (ok you need money for this!)

Shops, shops, shops, there's lots and lots of them, some of them even sell clothing designed by Bjorn Borg (yes its true!). Get all your souvenirs in Drottninggatan, and while you're there, stop by Bengans record shop which is cheaper and way cooler than Ahlens.

7. Messing about in boats

Because Stockholm is a wonderful watery city you must must must take a boat trip. Where you go is up to you - everything from an excellent hour-long trip round Djurgarden to a full-blown archipelago expedition.

8. Not entirely unattractive people (no pictures here sadly!!)

Forget the stereotypes. They're not all blonde and they're not all drop-dead gorgeous but both faithful travelling companion and myself have some very fond memories....!

9. Turn the radio on

To drown in a sea of cheese, tune your radio to Svenska Favoriter, the most schlager-tastic radio station ever. If you love Melodifestivalen then you will get more than you bargained for.

10. Sodermalm

It's young and trendy, buzzing and lively. If you like that kind of thing then this is the place for you.

Of course there is much more to the Swedish capital than my top 10. All I'll say is - just go there. You will love it.

Another black day for the Tour

Another day in Le Tour, another scandal. The whispers got louder over the week following the news that race leader Michael Rasmussen didn't turn up for out-of-competition drug tests. Only 2 days ago, Rasmussen went from "no comment" to denial when challenged about this. He then defiantly won today's stage - only to be kicked out of the race this evening by his own team, Rabobank, after it emerged that he had told porkies about his whereabouts at the time of the missed tests.

The yellow jersey is now on the shoulders of the young Spanish rider for the Discovery team, Alberto Contador, who already provided some intriguing race-within-race battles in the Pyrenees stages this week with Rasmussen. We can only hope and pray that he's clean. But given the continued scandals, it is now irrelevant who is in the lead, as everyone is now under suspicion, clean or otherwise.

The sport's efforts to clean itself up after the numerous scandals of recent years, have obviously not gone far enough - the only punishment should now be a life ban. If you love Le Tour like I do (as I have for the last 20 years) then you will probably have mixed feelings tonight: glad that another cheat is gone, but disgusted that the cheats are dragging it into the gutter, into a dark tunnel with no light of credibility at the end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bernie Clifton, we salute you.

Vino loses his sparkle at Le Tour

The clouds hanging over my favourite annual sporting event, the Tour de France, just got a whole lot darker today. Alexandre Vinokourov, our pre-race favourite, suffered a major setback early in the race thanks to a bad crash, but incredibly recovered in the last few days, winning two stages. We always love a comeback story in Le Tour, and this was a cracker.

Until today, when it was announced that the Kazakhstan cyclist, leader of the Astana team, had tested positive for blood doping after his time trial win on Saturday. Following this announcement, Vinokourov and his team withdrew from the race immediately.

It's just another in a series of setbacks and scandals for the sport of cycling. Already in this year's Tour, one German rider failed a drug test (which prompted German channels ARD/ZDF to pull the plug) and then the announcement that race leader Michael Rasmussen had failed to appear for drug tests in Denmark, which resulted in his national federation suspending him.

With only 5 days left of this year's race, we can't help thinking that the organisers can't wait for it to end.

In spite of all that, I still love the Tour de France: it's just a pity that some (how many?) of its competitors can't treat it with the same reverence.

Hall Of Fame: Our top 20 Mylene Farmer tracks

This month our Hall of Fame is featuring France's most unique female singer of recent years. If you haven't heard her music before, check these out.

Libertine / Tristana (from Cendres de Lune): even at this early stage of her career it was clear that her mixture of dark lyrics and breathy vocals set to cracking electronic beats would be an unique musical blueprint.

Pourvu Quelles Soient Douces / Sans Logique (from Ainsi Soit-Je): by her second studio album the words just got more controversial...and the music more beautiful.

Desenchantee / Je T’Aime Melancolie / Beyond My Control / Que Mon Coeur Lache / Regrets / Pas de Doute (from L’Autre) : the first Mylene album I bought, and she was arguably at the peak of her career at this time. "Desenchantee" is, to many of her fans (including me) her finest moment.

Vertige / California / Comme J’Ai Mal / XXL / Et Tournoie... (from Anamorphosee) : For a long time this was my favourite Mylene album. Influenced by the time she spent living in America, more rock-influenced but still distinctively Ms Farmer.

L’Ame-Stram-Gram / Dessine-Moi Un Mouton / Je Te Rends Ton Amour (from Innamoramento): It took me a long time to warm to this album. Less uptempo and a bit more wistful than previous offerings, but there are still those wonderful sounds. A couple of the tracks are maybe below par IMHO, but the whole of it is still way better than "Avant Que L’Ombre".

L’Histoire d’une Fee, C’est (from Les Mots) : stand-alone single from, bizarrely, the Rugrats in Paris soundtrack! It wouldn’t be the first time she was involved with the movie world, as she starred in Laurent Boutonnat’s "Giorgino" and later lended her voice to the French version of the animated film "Arthur and the Invisibles".

F*** Them All (from Avant Que L’ombre) : Mylene’s most recent album was OK by anyone else’s standards, but disappointing as we’ve come to expect an impeccably high standard from her. What it did prove was that she still had the ability to shock: even if she had to resort to using a well-worn English word to do so.

Other things we like about Mylene:

Her blazing red hair (and its occasional extensions): short, long, straight, curly, spiky.
She’s reclusive and mysterious: never (or extremely rarely) gives interviews, doesn’t even have an official website. Perfect fodder for the rumour machine which never stops.
Creative control: no-one ever tells her to do anything - she’s in control of every aspect of her career.
Her live extravaganzas: Mylene doesn’t just do a live show, it’s an event. Dance routines, costume changes and excellent musical backing from some of the best musicians in the business. Check out the "Live A Bercy" DVD which to me is one of the best concert DVDs I’ve ever seen.

From Stockholm to....Berlin!

The EuropeCrazy Summer Holiday Countdown 2007 starts here. 7 weeks from today I'll be in the German capital for a week. Really looking forward to this: already I'm planning all my trips and the problem will be fitting them all in. Better start learning some German too (will only be better than my Swedish, lol).

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's true....life will smile for you.

Will I ever be able to get through a day without listening to "This Is Who I Am"? Er....probably not. It is possibly the most joyous, life-affirming CD in many years, but if I don't stop playing it soon I'll probably need admitted to some kind of Salem-free rehab (no, no, no) but on second thoughts that's not such a good idea after all.
After wearing out the CD I've now moved on to the videos....
"Dream Girl": just seen the video on Y** T***. Three minutes of big-haired piano-playing brilliance.
There is also a video mash-up of "Dream Girl" and Kanye West's "All Falls Down" which works quite well as I thought that piano solo would be a great sample for a rap tune.
"Good Song" is still on SVT's site, smashing performance, he looks and sounds wonderful. What I really like about Salem is the absolute joy that he puts into every performance - he looks as if he enjoys every minute of it (as indeed I do of course). It being summer at Skansen, he then leads the crowd in a hilarious cheesy folk singalong. Unmissable!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This week's playlist. Guess who's on it...?

Good Song/Dream Girl/Count Me Out/Tell Me/It's True/Devil Look/It's Only You/This Is Who I Am/Thank You - Salem Al Fakir: you know by now how much I love this man and his debut CD.
It's True - Axwell & Ingrosso vs Salem Al Fakir: Cracking dance mix which has 'summer anthem' written all over it.
America - Razorlight: Another recent oldie which I've been playing a lot for no reason.
Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5: One of the year's best pop songs which I still like a lot.
Work Of Art/Please Me/Miss America - Måns Zelmerlöw: By now a fixture on this playlist.
Crying at the Discotheque - Alcazar: To celebrate their reunion, a bit of retro-Alcazar for this week's playlist.
Double Je - Christophe Willem: Neat French electropop which is a well deserved hit in France.
Not much room for any more tunes this week: too busy playing a certain album of course.....

Can I be controversial and say...I don't like Linda Bengtzing?

According to www.expressen.se, Linda Bengtzing plans to compete in Melodifestivalen 2008 with an '80s themed rock song'. Now I know that many of my fellow bloggers are enraptured by Ms Bengtzing but I am not one of them. I don't like her. That's all. No reason, I just don't like her, and any appeal she may have just passes me by.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nothing can stop me, here I go

So the new "Alcastar" was Lina Hedlund, according to www.aftonbladet.se.

Lina of course is most famous for a couple of MF entries like "Nothing Can Stop Me" and "Big Time Party", the latter with her sister Hanna who is the partner of Martin Stenmarck.

The 29 year old singer has taken over from the currently pregnant Annikafiore.

Swedish Charts Update

P3's "Digilistan" still has Markoolio's "Ingen Sommar Utan Reggae" at the top, no change there then, and not too much movement in the chart either. The major surprise is that "Cara Mia" is still in the top 30, the last of the Melodifestivalen tunes in the chart - but where is "Work Of Art" we ask? The Ark are also doing quite well with "Prayer for the Weekend", the third single released from the album of the same name.

Oh, and Magnus Carlsson's "Waves of Love" has entered the chart .... at no. 56. What's going on here?

New Order: to split or not to split, that is the question

You may not know this, but New Order are my favourite band of all time.

So I'm a bit perplexed by the-split-that-isn't. Firstly Peter Hook says on his MySpace that it's all over, then today Barney Sumner and Steven Morris say that the band (all two of them) are still together. Just as the band decided back in 1980 that they would not be Joy Division any longer without the late Ian Curtis, so how can New Order be New Order without Peter Hook? (Or for that matter Gillian Gilbert?)

I can't understand how the band can carry on now. Maybe it would be for the best if Barney and Steven would just call it a day.

French Charts Update: Relax, Mika's at no. 1

I've been ranting and raving at length over the last few months about "Relax Take It Easy" by Mika. It is rather wonderful of course, but for some reason the record company in the UK can't see sense and release it here, bypassing it in favour of "Love Today" and "Big Girl".

Over in France it's a different story and justice is finally done as one of the best tracks from "Life In Cartoon Motion" finally hit the top of the French singles chart. Christophe Willem's "Double Je" is still no. 2, with David Guetta's great dance anthem "Love is Gone" at no. 4 and Amel Bent's equally great "Nouveau Francais" at no. 8. Expect some changes over the coming weeks: followers of the French charts will be well aware that it all goes a bit bonkers in the summertime so expect some kiddie pop and the usual lively zouk anthems.

Album Review: "This Is Who I Am" - Salem Al Fakir

It's always a joy to come across an artist you've never heard of and then realise that you've been missing out on some of the most joyous, uplifting, soulful music in years. That's what happened to me last week, when I discovered the uniquely talented young Swedish singer and multi-instrumentalist Salem Al Fakir.

"This Is Who I Am", his solo debut album, was released in Sweden at the beginning of 2007 and has been a critical and commercial success. It's a very strange album, a little overindulgent in places as there are perhaps too many unnecessary short instrumental interludes. Perhaps a bit of restraint could have been shown and some of them could have been dropped from the final track listing. But that's just IMHO as I'm not a fan of instrumentals - but there's no denying that he's a musically talented genius as he played almost every musical instrument on the album himself.

That aside, what's left is a piece of warm, adorable, musical magic.

Begin - the album kicks off with one of those instrumentals, all doodling synths which are reminiscent of a 70s TV science show theme!

This Is Who I Am - Salem is clearly influenced by a lot of 70s acts like the brilliant Steely Dan, and the title track is an ode to his individuality. Very smooth and nice. The video is bizarre and quite funny as Salem gets the dressing-up box out.

Tell Me - Aaah. One of my real favourites here. Deeply soulful but like many of the tracks, blessed with startling simplicity and enjoyment. His girl may have left him, but in spite of the sentiment ("Why did the sun stop shining/why did the fire stop burning") it's a very uplifting and joyful number, and he is one heck of a piano player.

Two Long Distance To Great Thoughts - You think you've sussed him out and then he brings out a medieval folk-meets-Irish-jig instrumental which would not sound out of place on a Jethro Tull album....!

Dream Girl - Starts off as a jazzy piano ballad and builds into a majestic, anthemic tune. Listen out for the headbanging piano hookline (01:04). His vocals have been criticised in some quarters but I love his voice: it's sweet, distinctive and goes well with the music he makes. Builds to a stunning finale ("I can't go on like this/I wish that you were mine once again").

It's Only You - Slowing down the pace, a gentle stroll in Elliott Smith territory, and that's never a bad thing. This is actually a simple and touching little song which is totally from the heart. I always imagine he's singing it to me....

Jussi - Short, experimental and classical, but a bit unnecessary.

Devil Look - Good funk workout driven by a cool guitar line and smooth vocals. Bonkers keyboard solo at the end, very prog rock, that last minute could have been cut off.

Count Me Out - Utterly gorgeous song, beautifully arranged. His vocals are so sweet. "Just let it go/you don't need me anymore/find someone else to bother". The boy clearly needs consoling fast, and this blogger would be very happy to offer a shoulder to cry on....:-))))!! Fantastic orchestral ending as well.

It's True - Another simple, uplifting piano driven song. The simplicity and innocence in his voice is rather lovely. Repetitive, yes, but it will eat into your brain. Also check out the song's reinvention by Axwell & Ingrosso. "It's true/life will smile for you". And this song will make you smile.

Magic Night/Baroon - Two more instrumentals which I'd have left off, although I have to say that "Magic Night" istarts off as if it should be the theme to "Phoenix Nights" and then turns into the most bonkers psychedelic thing ever. With each track, this album is becoming more and more unpredictable.

Hymn - Sweet and beautiful lullaby which almost made me cry on first hearing. Short.

Damien and Bob - Yet again he hits you with another musical style, in this case a bit Nirvana-ish. This is one of my least favourite songs on the album and it's (thankfully) short.

Good Song - Currently battling it out with "Dream Girl" to be my favourite song on the album. Recalling Steely Dan, Billy Joel and Jamie Cullum in places, lyrically uplifting. When he performs this live he can't stop smiling, and I can't stop smiling when I hear it either. Anthemic singalong towards the end. Musically of another age, the 70s to be precise, which suits me fine.

Thank You - I mentioned Steely Dan earlier, this is very Dan and is a fine and charming closer to the album. "I gotta go/I gotta go/Got nothing more to say". An assured and confident conclusion.

End - Another instumental to appropriately, end the album. It's a dreamy, spaced-out kind of thing which then leads into the hidden track: all bluesy vocals and guitar and again totally unlike everything that has gone before it.

Favourite songs: Good Song/Dream Girl/Count Me Out/Tell Me/It's Only You/It's True.

This is a fantastic debut and hopefully only the beginning of what is sure to be a great career for a very talented artist. Without any doubt, EuropeCrazy's Album of the Year.

The picture of Salem above is from last week's "Allsang pa Skansen" which is still on SVT's site http://svt.se/svt/play/video.jsp?a=859663 . Sadly it looks as if they've taken the "Grattis Victoria" concert footage off www.svt.se, but there's plenty more footage in all the usual places.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tillbaka Till Samtiden

...is the name of the eagerly awaited album by a great Swedish rock band named Kent. It will be released on 17.10.07 and will be followed by a short tour which will include dates in Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Lund. Their last CD "Du och jag döden" was a a particular favourite a couple of years ago at EC HQ, so I'm really looking forward to the new one.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Water, water everywhere. And this time Rihanna's not to blame.

Going a bit off topic here but it's been one of those nights!
Thursday night = dodgy cistern = flooded bathroom = can it get any worse? I say this because 2007 on the domestic front has not been the best of years with one domestic catastrophe after another. Broken this, broken that, flooded this, flooded that. Aaaaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhh!

"Sometimes we all have bad days/when everything feels far away": never were the lyrics of "Good Song" more appropriate than tonight!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Who can be an Alcastar?

Been so excited for a while now about the pending Alcazar reunion - and now the plot thickens. Much as we would love the disco-tastic foursome pictured above to all get back together, it's never going to happen. We know it will not include Magnus Carlsson, and Annikafiore won't be there either. However, Andreas Lundstedt revealed to Aftonbladet today that there will be a new mystery third member of the group - and that they will already be an established name in Sweden. But who can be an Alcastar? We don't know, we wouldn't even begin to guess. All will be revealed on Saturday and I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No more "Heroes" any more (well not till season 2 anyway)

Well, it's all over if you've been watching it on Sci-Fi that is!!

What a great, original, complex and compelling series. I haven't always understood it, but I never stopped enjoying it. If you haven't seen "Heroes" then you're missing a treat. Ordinary characters with extraordinary powers, but there's more to it than that. Not to mention some rather appealing young men too. Now if I could discover some hidden power and get Dr Mohinder Suresh to investigate and give Peter Petrelli a shout.... ooh I can dream can't I !! :-)))

Can't get enough Salem Al Fakir? Me neither.

Been to Y** T*** to check out some more videos of the main man. Discovered his particularly nice duet with Marit Bergman, the song is called "52 Weeks". She's the one in the silly hat, he's the one in the silly jumper. Nice song. Awww, and they have a nice little hug at the end. Not only is he a terrific musician, songwriter and singer, but he seems like a really sweet guy too. And hasn't he got a really cute smile.....! (OK, having a shallow moment here: talented and cute. What's not to like?)

Haven't been able to get "Dream Girl" or "Good Song" out of my head all day. If this keeps up, I'll need an operation to have them removed. Not that I want to, of course.

Salem is currently on tour as part of the "Parksommar - Just Another Summer" tour of Sweden, the other main acts are Moneybrother and Säkert! Here's a couple of pics of Salem, with Annika from Säkert! and Anders from Moneybrother.

The picture above is from the main "Parksommar" promotional pic: if I was standing next to Salem then I wouldn't look as glum as Annika......!


The Curse of Rihanna

Wettest summer ever! Not a day without rain! Why?????

I'll tell you why. It's all that Rihanna's fault. Her and her umbrella-ella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay.

Ever since that song's been no.1 here in the UK our weather has taken a turn for the worse. Get her off the top of the charts now, while we still can, while there's still a few weeks left of summer...!

Monday, July 16, 2007

This week's playlist.


"Good Song"/"Dream Girl"/"Tell Me"/"Count Me Out" - Salem Al Fakir: Undisputed champion of the EuropeCrazy playlist already. This young man will be around for a long long time. You have got to hear him. He is fantastic.

"Fall To Love" - Diesel Park West: another one of my slightly obscure favourite songs from 1992. Rather lovely, and it meant a lot to me.

"Sing" - Vivienne McKone: another one of my slightly obscure favourite songs from 1993. Bright and breezy and perfect for the summer, if we had such a thing.

"I Won't Be Crying" - Infernal: high powered dance tune from the Danish duo.

"Oogcontact" - Clouseau: Third single from "Vonken & Vuur", it takes a wee while to grow on you, but it does.

"Vayamos Companeros" - Marquess: Cheery Spanish language pop made in Germany. Not as good as "El Temperamento" but extremely catchy and I dare you not to whistle that whistly bit.

"Waves of Love" - Magnus Carlsson: What have they done to his lovely voice? Just because Mika and Salem are singing falsetto, that doesn't mean our Magnus has to do the same. Still it's a rather nice piece of disco which you can dance around the glitterball to.

"Love is Gone" - David Guetta: Yet another week on the playlist for this great summer dance anthem.

"Blue Highs" - EMF: "Stigma" was a cracking, underrated album and this for me is its best track.

"Empire" - Kasabian: Stop! I said it's happening again! Brilliant anthem for festival season.

"Alloway Grove" - Paolo Nutini: Put this on and try out your Paolo impersonation. La la la la la la la la la la la la la......

The EuropeCrazy Holiday Hit List: Part 5

We've now reached the summer of 2000, and another new country for us. The Algarve in Portugal was our destination. Bizarrely, I didn't buy any CDs whilst there. Faithful travelling companion has always been partial to a bit of the old fado, so needless to say he bought a fado CD. Fado, for the uninitiated, is a uniquely Portuguese style of musical melancholy. If you go to the Algarve, then the "Portuguese night" (see your rep for details) is a must: it may be cheesy, and touristy, but it serves as a nice introduction to Portuguese food, fado, and folk dancing. Oh, and there's free flowing wine as well.....

Strangely enough, there were no Portuguese songs on the radio, when they preferred the likes of U2's "Beautiful Day" and Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady". Portuguese radio is extremely fond of rock music - but they are also partial to some classic cheesy Euro-oldies. This holiday probably reawakened some dormant interest which I must have had in 80s Europop, as I was being sent subliminal messages by the likes of "China In Her Eyes" by Modern Talking and "Big In Japan" by Alphaville. And...."Dolce Vita" by Ryan Paris. Perish the thought. If you are old enough to remember this, then cringe along with me. If not, then....well just cringe anyway.

2001, springtime in Paris, and Shaggy singing "It Wasn't Me" - the hit of the holiday. As ever I was watching music videos on M6 and I rather liked "Tout ou Rien" by Gilles Luka. I had mentioned a few posts back that Gilles was making music again, but this was the first time I heard (and saw) him. It's hard to remember now that Eve Angeli was once a credible singer rather than a reinvented reality tv, er, 'star'. In May 2001 she was getting a lot of airplay with "Elle".

Other honourable mentions for this holiday go to Alizee ("Parler Tout Bas") and Gerald de Palmas ("Une Seule Vie"), whilst JJ Goldman soundalike Frederic Lerner also impressed me with "Si Tu M'Entends".

There was no escape from Natasha St Pier's "Je N'ai Que Mon Ame". Whether you were in a supermarket or in the Lido loos (!) this song would follow you everywhere. Nothing against Natasha, but IMHO this wasn't my favourite song of hers and she got better as her career progressed.

Worst thing about Paris 2001: Craig David.

Salem Al Fakir: our new favourite singer

How did we manage to let him slip through the EuropeCrazy net? Until Saturday night I had never heard of Salem Al Fakir, and now I realise what I'd been missing.

He was one of the stars in Princess Victoria's 30th birthday concert and blew me away. Do you ever see or hear a performer or band and think, "wow, there's something special happening here?" It doesn't happen very often, especially these days, but I had one of those moments when I saw and heard this exceptionally talented young performer.

So I did a bit of research and found out that he released his debut album earlier this year and it went gold in his native Sweden.

He also appeared on this week's "Allsång pa Skansen" where he sang "Good Song" and "It's True". The latter could find a much wider audience as it's been remixed by Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso for Europe's dancefloors this summer.

I will be reviewing his fabulous CD "This Is Who I Am" once I've had a chance to listen to all the tracks. So far my favourites are "Dream Girl", "Good Song" and "Count Me Out". His album is a very varied mix of soul, jazz and classic pop, and visually he is a very engaging performer.

Now I'm off to listen to "Good Song" for about the 50th time today.... :-))))

Here's Salem with "Mr Skansen" himself, Anders Lundin, at the rehearsals for this week's "Allsång". Must have been a sale of check shirts!!!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Another week, another Måns Z sighting to report...!

Regular followers of my blog will be well aware of my love of all things Swedish. These days this is usually indulged thanks to SVT's website (www.svt.se) which this week has kindly delivered the concert to celebrate Crown Princess Victoria's 30th birthday.

I would not describe myself as a royalist, but as a non-Swede I'd have to say that if you'd have to have a royal family, then the Swedish royal family would be it. They are far too good looking for words. We've got Prince Charles - they've got Carl Philip, the nearest thing you'll ever get to Orlando Bloom. Go figure.

And the girls are lovely. We've got Princess Anne - they've got Victoria and Madeleine. I rest my case.

Anyway the concert was yet another reason for Måns Zelmerlow to turn up to plug "Work Of Art". And why not? We love him!

Not quite sure who Salem Al Fakir is, but regular readers of this blog will also be well aware of my weakness for curly-haired men which he would appear to fulfil. He is quite a captivating performer, and I feel the need to investigate his music further.

Henrik Larsson!!!! Can it get any better????!!!!!! If they need an alternative king of Sweden then he's the man!!

Anyway, time is running out and I need to get some sleep. I will return to the Victoria concert (possibly) tomorrow - still to see Shirley, Sonja & Sanna and also Måns' duet with Carola (or I may just watch "Work of Art" again - I detest that woman so much that I don't think I can watch her duetting with Måns).

Continued....I did go back, mainly to see Salem Al Fakir again (more about him soon on this blog). Managed to keep the contents of my stomach down long enough for Carola and Måns' duet, and the icing on the cake was Henrik Larsson receiving a special honour from the Princess. Good stuff and well done to SVT's website for sharing this with us!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday night TV: could do better

After the must-see TV of "Strictly Come Dancing" and "Any Dream Will Do", we needed some more TV shows to make staying in the new going out on a Saturday night.

Firstly, there has always been potential for a truly great music quiz on TV, particularly when it comes to lyrics. Sadly, "Sing It Back" (ITV) was not it. Despite daring to try out a new presentation option (Radio 1 DJs JK & Joel, in favour of the usual 4 prime-time presenters - you know who you are!) it remains a painfully dumbed-down effort which only ends up treating its contestants - and viewers - like imbeciles.

Tonight saw the beginning of "Dance X", eagerly awaited at EC HQ as we love dancing contests: however at the audition stage it resembled only a bad parody of X Factor....you know....."This is all I've ever wanted"...."I want this so much"....sob sob....blah blah, pass the Kleenex. Even Queen of Mean herself Arlene Phillips blubbed! It was all such a big letdown and we didn't see much dancing either. Maybe it will be better when we get to the live shows - it's the tiresome "human stories" which are now part and parcel of the whole reality TV process that I'm soooooo bored with now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sommaren är kort....

...as the great philosopher Tomas Ledin once said. Tomas of course is known as the "King of the Summer" in Sweden thanks to his famous summer tours. But not this year: he's only playing one show, and (a) it's not till September and (b) it's in Norway!!!

Clouseau hit the road

Koen and Kris will shortly be heading out on the road across Flanders to promote their latest album "Vonken & Vuur". In addition to their now legendary pre-Christmas Sportpaleis big gigs, the boys can be seen between 15.07.07 and 02.09.07 in various towns and cities including Leuven, Ghent, Kortrijk, Beveren and Ostend. This takes me back to August 1995, when I rediscovered Clouseau thanks to their wonderful "Oker" album whilst on holiday in Ostend. Sadly I missed seeing them at the casino by a couple of days. This August of course I won't be anywhere near Ostend. Guess I'll just have to buy that live DVD one of these years....

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tokio Hotel: next big thing?

The young German rock band Tokio Hotel have been massive in their homeland over the past couple of years. A look at the European charts suggests that they are about to make their breakthrough outwith their home territory - notably in France - and they are even planning an assault on the UK charts.

"Scream" is due to be released in the UK on 27.08.07. The band have already played a well-received gig in London. The band's frontman Bill Kaulitz (he's still only 17 years old!) has a very striking, androgynous image and his twin brother Tom is also a member of the band. They are certainly worth listening out for - remember where you heard it first!

TV rewind: what we're watching.

So what are we at EC HQ watching these days? Well, here goes.... Boston Legal is heading towards the end of season 3 on Living TV, and has managed to maintain its unique mix of comedy and drama. There is no finer partnership on TV than William "Denny Crane" Shatner and James "Alan Shore" Spader, and the series is arguably the most inventive and funny mix of drama and comedy on TV these days. Season 4 has been confirmed - but there will be new characters therefore out go Denise, Claire, Brad and Paul as regular characters. Love him or hate him, Jerry Espenson will become one of the main characters....

Season 1 of "Heroes" is also nearing its end on Sci-Fi, and it's still unmissable even if it's becoming soooooo complicated.....still loving it though.

We eagerly await season 3 of "Prison Break" beginning in September on Sky One, and in the meantime (thanks UK Gold!!) there's been a chance to catch up with season 1 repeats, back in the day when the gang were still in Fox River.

Disappointing was the only word I could find to describe season 2 (the final season) of "Sleeper Cell" on FX. After the gripping season 1, this was a big let-down and we didn't like that ending at all!

Season 3 of "Grey's Anatomy" keeps up the high standard and you get the feeling it could run and run. Also looking forward to the "Private Practice" spinoff featuring Dr Addison Montgomery (ex Shepherd) - fans of "Prison Break" will also be tuning into this, as the actor who plays the one and only Agent Kellerman will be starring in this series. Will he be a goodie or a baddie we wonder?

"Dexter" is due to start this week on FX UK, and this has been much-hyped so we are expecting big things. Hopefully it will not disappoint.

Big week for new US drama as Five US will also begin screening "Dirt", the new drama starring Courteney Cox. Again high hopes for this one!

Been watching the "Las Vegas" season 1 re-runs on Sky and also picked up on season 4 now premiering on Sky One. Frothy drama which doesn't make too many demands. And why not!!

BBC Four is screening season 1 of "Life On Mars" which we're chuffed about as we missed it first time round. Clever drama with great scripts and a smashing cast: a real TV event.

This week's playlist: oldies ahoy!

Been digging through the vaults this week....
Strength to Strength - Hue & Cry: Intelligent late 80s brassy pop. One of their forgotten gems.
Woman's Eyes - Weekend: With the long-awaited release of Young Marble Giants' "Colossal Youth" on CD, a timely reminder of what Alison Statton did next. And it was good.
Blue Highs - EMF: They may only be remembered for "Unbelievable", but I remember the "Stigma" album fondly and this was my favourite track from it.
Dressed To Kill/Love Shadow - Fashion: Forgotten (but not by me) New Romantics from Birmingham who weren't Duran Duran but were way cooler. Edgy electro-pop which sadly didn't get the success it deserved.
Slip Inside This House - Primal Scream: "Screamadelica" classic.
Heavyweight Champion of the World - Reverend and the Makers: Still refusing to budge from my playlist. One of 2007's best, and I can't wait to hear what else they've got to offer.
Crying At The Discotheque - Alcazar: Total classic. As the band (or whatever remnants of it) prepares to reunite, remind yourself of just how good they were. (And that was even before Magnus....!)
Cara Mia - Måns Zelmerlöw: Dare we say that he lost the Melodifestivalen battle but won the war? (And this from someone who loves loves loves The Ark!)
Shine - Booty Luv: Hail to the dance divas for yet another week in the playlist. Massive summer tune at EC HQ.
Nouveau Francais - Amel Bent: Very strong comeback which deserves another week on the playlist.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Allsång på Skansen: a Swedish tradition worth celebrating

Decided to check out the Swedish summer tradition that is Allsång på Skansen: a uniquely Swedish weekly event televised on SVT-1 which combines appearances by popular acts usually plugging their latest releases, and crowd singalongs of traditional summer folk anthems in a kind of mass karaoke. Anders Lundin is the host who keeps it all together. There's a very strong whiff of cheese about it, but if you have an urge to get in touch with your Swedish side - and if you read this blog, you know you want to - then you could do worse than get over to www.svt.se and follow the link to Allsång på Skansen, particularly this week to see Måns Zelmerlöw's particularly triumphant "Cara Mia" and then leading the crowd in Tomas Ledin's "Sommaren Är Kort". Rather wonderful, but then I'm biased, as you've probably guessed.

Live Earth Day .... and I'm all Live-Earthed out.

Spent much of the day watching the global marathon that was Live Earth - or at least what the BBC interactive service thought we should be watching. Saw much of the Wembley feed but really wanted to see the latter part of the Hamburg event however with one thing and another, I didn't get to see the sets by Reamonn/Mando Diao/Juli/Chris Cornell, which is a pity as I'd have liked to see all of them. Currently the BBC interactive feed is showing Yusuf, otherwise the artist-formerly-known-as-Cat-Stevens. Earlier, we had Roger Cicero, the undisputed German king of swing. He may not have won Eurovision, but he got to go to Live Earth. More than can be said for Marija Serifovic.....! Mia. was a bit too much for me, but I enjoyed Mr "El Temperamento" himself, Marquess. Honestly, if they show the Sydney highlights once more....OK we love Crowded House but hasn't "Weather With You" been on about at least 6 times by now?

Live Earth itself is a very nice concept, to raise awareness of climate change - a subject close to everyone's heart these days. But it could be argued that it is also rather dubious as there's a lot of energy being consumed across the world today by staging these massive concerts. That aside, it's a decent enough way to pass a summer Saturday. Thoughts on Wembley: I'm loving Kasabian more and more - but were that crowd dead?? Duran Duran were better than they were one week ago at the Diana concert. Black Eyed Peas - why? Corinne Bailey Rae - why? David Gray - good but why Damien Rice? Why were Metallica cut off just as "Enter Sandman" began? I've still to see the rest of it, so can't report on anything after 7.00 pm.

Fall Out Boy in New Jersey (not New York!): they have a way to go before I would consider them a truly great live act, but they're young. Give them time. "This Ain't A Scene" is a potential classic.

UB40 in Johannesburg: solid and dependable, giving the performance you'd expect from a band with all their years of experience.

Enrique Iglesias in Hamburg: talk about interacting with the crowd eh! Well, he needed something to detract from his bizarre live vocal performance....

Anyway it's all been too much for me...so I'm off to compile this week's playlist, among other things! :-)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

EuropeCrazy goes dance crazy...

On this blog we love Europe and we also love televised dancing competitions. Put the two together and you've got....big fanfare.....the Eurovision Dance Contest, which will take place for the very first time on 1st September and will be held in London. The UK's representatives have finally been revealed and it's a very interesting choice! Brendan 'bad boy' Cole and his former partner Camilla Dallerup (pictured above) are reuniting for one night only. Fans of "Strictly Come Dancing" will remember that the couple split up during the first series after Brendan got a bit too close to his dance partner, and relations have been frosty ever since. We're hoping that the ice will melt and that the talented duo will channel their tensions into a dazzling performance to impress the viewers all over Europe. But being anything with the 'Eurovision' tag attached, we in the UK should be prepared for "nul points".

Sweden meanwhile will not be represented by the magnificent Lasse Brandeby and his partner - no, no, no, they're taking it all very seriously and sending the winners of the most recent "Let's Dance" series, Martin Lidberg & Cissi Ehrling. May the best couple win!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The EuropeCrazy European Music Hall of Fame opens its doors today.

As I promised a few posts ago, every month I will be featuring an act from Europe who will be inducted into our very own European Music Hall of Fame.

With a successful music career going back to 1984, our first inductee has continued to enjoy massive success in her native France since that time. Over the years she’s reinvented herself with almost every album, whilst retaining a distinctive sound that’s all her very own. Her music is unique and original, and so is her image.

She’s no puppet either - she’s the one in control of her career. She writes lyrics which have always varied between mysterious and outrageously provocative. Her videos, which are more like small scale movies, have often been banned, so shocking are they!

She redefined live performance with shows which are always an event. In recent years you could say she’s mellowed....why she’s even written a children’s book! - but don’t be fooled.

She is notoriously private and has very rarely given any interviews, therefore a mystique has grown up around her. This singer’s fans are often very obsessive too - lots of fan websites have been set up in the absence of an official one.
She is not the most prolific artists - so whenever she does release an album it’s always long-awaited, and the results have, on the whole been very rewarding.
Looking at some of the above info, this singer has a lot in common with a more famous superstar who came to prominence around the same time - Madonna.
Indeed this singer has often been referred to as "The French Madonna".

Ladies and gentlemen...I am very happy to induct Mylene Farmer into our European music hall of fame. I first heard Mylene Farmer in 1991, back in the days when Radio Five (before it became Five Live) had a Saturday night French chart show. Mylene’s duet with Jean-Louis Murat, the haunting and delicious "Regrets" blew me away. Who was this singer? I had to find out more.

As I began travelling to Europe from the mid-90s I took the opportunity to buy her albums and now I have all of them in my collection. My favourite Mylene albums are "Live A Bercy" (I’ve also got the DVD - what a great, theatrical, unique live show!), and "Anamorphosee", the album influenced by the time when she lived in California.

This Week's Playlist.

Love Is Gone - David Guetta feat. Chris Willis: If it ain't broke don't fix it. Another classy piece of French electro-dance which sticks to Guetta's successful formula.
Nouveau Francais - Amel Bent: She's back with a new album and this is the first single from it. Modern, original and fresh.
Oh Father - Linda Sundblad: Rather risque slice of Swede-pop which took me a long time to discover. Very catchy.
Little Dysfunk You/I Pathologize - The Ark: Been playing "Prayer For The Weekend" quite a lot over the past week, mainly these two tracks.
Money - Elin Lanto: Does what it says on the tin. If Britney was really serious about a comeback, she could do a lot worse than cover this.
Steel Bars - Michael Bolton: Yes I know, I don't even like him. Nevertheless I started thinking about a particularly good point in my life and this was one of the songs from that time.
Shine - Booty Luv: Another week on the playlist for my favourite dance anthem of this (so-called) summer.
Dressed To Kill - Fashion: Fashion were to me one of the most underrated bands of the 80s New Romantic era. This is one of their best tracks from the "Fabrique" album.
Heavyweight Champion of the World - Reverend and the Makers: Still playing this a lot. Looking forward to hearing their other stuff too.
Sunshine In The Rain - BWO: More than appropriate song for the weather we've been having. Perfect pop, that's all.
Mambo - Helena Paparizou: Yet another week on the playlist. And why not? It's good.

Farewell Fopp

Tough times for the high street CD retailers continue - and bad news for all of us who still like to rummage through the racks.

It has been a dark year, as firstly the fabulous discount chain Music Zone, fondly known to this blogger as MZ, bit the dust but was then resurrected by the equally wonderful Fopp. Now Fopp is gone, apparently weighed down by financial problems and the ill-fated MZ takeover was the last nail in the coffin for a company which started from humble beginnings but took on too much, too soon.

The blame is, as usual, being pointed at the "shifting landscape in how we buy our music".... I admit that I'm very partial to buying CDs on the internet but nothing beats the enjoyment of going into a record shop. It never has. Or maybe I'm just getting old. I love my technology and believe that MP3 players are probably the must-have gadget of our age. But there is still a place for record shops...there is no thrill in downloading music compared to visiting a record shop, particularly one which offers great value for money. It's not just the little guys who are suffering. HMV's profits have also fallen but their management has guaranteed that over the next 3 years they expect most of their sales to come from their stores. After then - who knows?

Firstly MZ and now Fopp. The outlook seems bleak, but there is now a gap in the UK market for a no-nonsense discount music retailer which respects its customers and knows just what they want. Any takers?