'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Robin Hill is Busy and Sgt.Pepper - It Was 40 Years Ago Today...

It's a busy weekend here for us.
Robin is out playing in rather an unusual venue. Some years ago he was asked to perform at Entwistle Remembrance Park, and it went so well, that he has been back every year since.
He now does three dates over the summer, today, Sunday 8th July and the third will be Sunday 5th August.
He is playing outside, which is always a challenge, but the views are spectacular. Just to prove that the north of England isn't all flat caps and clogs, this is where he is.
He has quite a fan base now, who all make a day of it, taking a picnic, and enjoying the weather. They have been remarkably lucky over the years, and only on one occasion has there been a torrential downpour and thunder storm!

We also have to prepare for Robin setting off tomorrow, to join the QM2 in Southampton, on its way to New York. He'll be performing a couple of concerts on board, so more of that as the week unfolds.

Last night Robin didn't get home until after midnight, and as we relaxed for a while before bed, we decided to watch a programme I'd recorded earlier in the evening, 'Sgt Pepper -It was 40 Years Ago Today...' on BBC2.
As we are both massive Beatles fans, we thought we would give it 5 minutes, before turning off in disgust at what had been done to such fantastic music.
It wasn't the case. We were so drawn into it, that it was gone 2am, before we finally went to bed. (Not ideal with a concert the next day...)

Now, I know this isn't classical music, but bare with me...

The Beatles original engineer, Geoff Emerick, steered some modern day bands through the pieces, using the original analogue valve equipment.
First in were 'Kaiser Chiefs'. After their initial shock at the restrictions of 4 track recording, and acknowledging that we should, 'respect our elders', regarding analogue recording, as the 'sound is much better', they went on to give an excellent performance of 'Getting Better'.
We had been concerned how these modern bands would approach these classic pieces, but we were soon put at are ease.
Especially after hearing front man, Ricky Wilson say:

"Musically it's like having a big brother, you get the benefit of learning from them, but then again, you get the things about the fact that they always get there first, and everythings pretty much a hand-me-down after The Beatles."

For such a successful band to be 'big' enough to acknowledge the past, was very refreshing.

Next came Bryan Adams, with a fabulous version of 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band'. He really put his heart and soul into the song, and, gave the impression that he must be a big fan.

3rd on, The Fray, America's most downloaded band, with their version of 'Fixing a Hole'. They passionately wanted to be faithful to the original, and, were therefore rather nervous about the whole thing. But they needn't have been. With the use of some good old fashioned English tea towels over the drums, they came up with an excellent version.

4th, was 'Magic Numbers' with the only track that The Beatles didn't play any instruments. 'She's Leaving Home' was written by Paul McCartney after reading a newspaper report about a runaway. Magic Numbers put the vocals on to a string section with a very pleasant result.

5th, 'Razorlight' playing, 'With a Little Help From My Friends'.
They recognised The Beatles tradition of Ringo singing one track on every album, and therefore Razorlight's drummer, Andy Burrows, took on the challenge. It had a great laid back feel throughout, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has gained much confidence as a vocalist.

6th on were 'Travis', with 'Lovely Rita'. In true Beatles style, they decided to experiment and the result was half the band recording in the studio, whilst the other half were in a stairwell as it had excellent reverb! They even tackled playing the comb and paper, all in the name of The Beatles famous adlibs. Again, a great achievement.

Finally, on this part of the programme, 'Stereophonics' arrived. Unfortunately they had been told they were recording Sgt. Pepper intro, but it became clear, they were in fact meant to be doing the Reprise version. All credit to them, they took it in their stride, and performed a high energy version to compliment the original.

So, as you can see, despite ourselves, we really enjoyed the whole programme.
The attitude of the bands involved showed that they weren't trying to compete, merely show their respect, for the past recording.
Really, this is no different to the approach that classical musicians take every day. Here, the tradition is to recreate a masterpiece from the past, and this is exactly what these bands achieved.
After all, the original tracks can take it.
For Robin to enjoy, and respect, the results of this programme, is quite an achievement.
When Sgt.Pepper was originally released, Robin was a young boy, on holiday with a friend, and spent most of the time at the piano in the hotel, trying to recreate the songs. They have been in is head, all the time, ever since.

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