The Dictator’s Cut: How Stalin blocked a happy end for Romeo and Juliet in Prokofiev’s classic ballet

We probably don’t need to print a spoiler alert here warning you about the tragic turns taken in the tale Romeo and Juliet. The Shakespeare classic is, after all, the best-known love story ever written, moving millions of readers, viewers and listeners afresh every year – and inspiring countless of artists of the stage, and beyond. Away from the theatre, The Bard’s play has stimulated creatives across the arts for more than 400 years – from Romantic poetry to pop songs, opera to Bollywood and Pre-Raphaelite painting to Japanese anime. Many of these spin-off works have become household fables in … Continue reading The Dictator’s Cut: How Stalin blocked a happy end for Romeo and Juliet in Prokofiev’s classic ballet

In loving praise of Björk: Popular music’s most peerless polymath

No mainstream musician has embraced the boundless, barrier-busting 21st century with anything approaching the fever or flair of Björk, a singular sort of talent who makes the divisions between disciplines seem the most flagrant shade of passé. The Icelandic popstar-turned-multidisciplinary auteur is expected to release a new album, Utopia, next month [November], and if previous outings are anything to go by, it will be far more than a mere set of songs. Preparing her ninth studio work, the ethereal polymath has moved squarely beyond the realm of simply recording albums and performing their songs live – her previous two releases … Continue reading In loving praise of Björk: Popular music’s most peerless polymath

Joni Mitchell: A celebration

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s debut album, Song to a Seagull – a modest, then-overlooked release which subtly sounded the arrival of one of the most singular, influential voices in the history of popular music. A voice we’ve sadly, but almost certainly, heard the last word from. The 74-year-old has released just one LP of new material in the past two decades, and the likelihood of suspending retirement slimmed further after suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2015. Indeed, Mitchell appeared to voluntarily bring the career curtain down at the close of last year, with the … Continue reading Joni Mitchell: A celebration

Fela Kuti: Unwrapping genius in a box, 20 years after the Afrobeat pioneer’s death

Commemorating the 20 years which have passed since his death, the latest Fela Kuti collection to hit the market – simply titled Box Set #4, and released today [December 15] – says much about the bewitched legacy of the Nigerian pioneer most observers credit with inventing an entire musical genre. Hailed as the propagator of Afrobeat, Kuti might be the continent’s most fetishised musical export. The style he both fathered and coined the name of is a quixotic brew, criss-crossing poppy Ghanaian highlife and West African Yoruba traditions with thick grooves repurposed from American funk, the soaring improvisational impulses of … Continue reading Fela Kuti: Unwrapping genius in a box, 20 years after the Afrobeat pioneer’s death

What Neil Young’s massive, monetized Archives dump means for the music industry

When Neil Young revealed plans to release every song he has ever recorded, on his own bespoke online streaming portal, it was just the latest, greatest piece of mindful self-curation from an artist who has historically enjoyed a contrary control over his own storied musical archives. Equally ingenious and indulgent, Young’s forthcoming interactive depository also surely represents the single most brazen bid by any artist of any age to regulate, and presumably profit from, their back catalogue in the digital era. Unveiled by the 71-year-old rocker in a rambling open letter – posted on the web address neilyoungarchives.com earlier this … Continue reading What Neil Young’s massive, monetized Archives dump means for the music industry

RIP Chuck Berry: Remembering Rock n’ roll’s greatest architect – obituary

The world of rock ‘n’ roll has lost its most distinguished elder, with the passing of Chuck Berry at the age of 90 in his home state of Missouri on Saturday. Berry was not just the genre’s greatest architect, but also its archetypal great-grandfather – cranky, irreducible, immutable and utterly inimitable. Fittingly, he outlasted nearly all of his peers, still thrilling audiences onstage until late 2014. Those pioneers still standing cannot match Berry’s staggering, monumental influence on the genre which came to define the second half of the 20th century. It might have been The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and … Continue reading RIP Chuck Berry: Remembering Rock n’ roll’s greatest architect – obituary