Saturday, 23 March 2013

Review: Paul Stone - Reprise of Swing

It’s likely that you may not have heard of this guy before now, but the way things are going for Paul Stone, it won’t be long before his name is as familiar as some of the singers he pays tribute to with the release of his debut album Reprise of Swing.

Yorkshire based Paul, a former student at Leeds College of Music is currently touring the globe withhis 11-piece orchestra, bringing back the sound of Swing with that big band style in his own inimitable way. He’s appeared on local and national radio and also performed at a charity gala concert with pop legends The Osmonds last year.  His debut album, Reprise of Swing had a limited release just before Christmas 2012 but has just been released globally through itunes this month. 

Paul learned to love music at an early age and by the time he was 14yrs old, could play the piano, the violin and drums. He enjoys performing and for many years has entertained  as a solo artist or with his band at corporate events, charity nights and on cruise liners. He saw the way that his style of Swing appealed to the audiences and so set out to record his own album.  He has a fresh faced look with a smile that would rival a Cheshire cat. His voice and personality are well suited to Swing and it is impossible to see him perform without feeling upbeat, such is the energy and enthusiasm he exudes in his performance. I have known Paul for quite a few years now, having first met him when he sang as part of the duo Stone & King. I don't think he's aged a day since I last saw him and his positive attitude and cheerful disposition are quite contagious, you can't help but be happy when you're around him.

Reprise of Swing includes many well known and much loved favourites from both rock and pop genres, but with that added “Swing”. The songs included on the album work surprisingly well with this new sound and although I had been a bit dubious when I first read the track listing, I have to admit that the arrangements flow smoothly and give each song a new appeal.  That big band style  sound possesses quite a nostalgic feel with the cheerful and optimistic beat giving even the more sombre songs like With or Without You a positive feel.

 Watch Paul Stone live at Lakeside

 Album Tracklist
1.Don't You Forget About Me    
2.With or Without You
3.Lovely Day
4.Wicked Game
5.Beautiful Stranger
6.Long Train Running
7.Sex On Fire
8.Rise and Fall
9.Englishman in New York
10.Could It Be Magic
11.I Need Your Love
12.On the Road Again

I would find it hard to pick one favourite from amongst the tracks on offer but do have A Lovely Day, Long Train Running, An Englishman in New York and I Need Your Love on repeat on my ipod quite regularly.

To find out more about Paul Stone and his music click on one of the links below or order his album through AmazoniTunes or Linn Records
Paul Stone Official Website
Paul Stone Twitter
Paul Stone Official Facebook Page

Remember in music, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Review: Doctor Faustus - West Yorkshire Playhouse

Tired with the pursuit of knowledge through more conventional means and a desire for fame, fortune and glory, Doctor Faustus makes a pact with Lucifer that he will trade his soul in return for 24 years of service by the devil Mephistopheles. Despite warnings from Mephistopheles about what it feels like to fall from the grace of God and live a life of eternal misery and servitude, Faustus signs the pact.

He soon enjoys all that his pact has to offer in terms of notoriety, fame, women and others who he can manipulate at will. He occasionally suffers bouts of consciousness and feelings of guilt where he questions what he is doing. By this time, he has fallen too far and at the end of the 24yrs realises all too late what his fate will be as the devil comes to claim his soul for Lucifer.

Doctor Faustus was written in the late 1590s and initially published in 1604 under the title The Tragicall History of D. Faustus; however the themes in it are still as prevalent today as they were then. Currently showing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, I wouldn’t say this was a play to go and see if you want to be entertained. The dark themes explored in this play certainly give way to reflection and contemplation but with the exception of a few lighter moments in this modern day adaptation; Doctor Faustus is both dark and disturbing.

I had seen the play before but in a more traditional setting. This adaptation by Colin Teevan was cleverly written and you could see many parallels to the world today. The desire for power, wealth and popularity are still present in society today and whilst people may not go to such extremes to get them you might say that in the pursuit of them they lose sight of what they have.

Overall I found the play quite disturbing, which being the aim, I think, it was achieved with ease. Several scenes such as the appearance of the seven deadly sins were quite unsettling although the costume and make up departments had clearly excelled in their work. The use of the stage as both the main stage for performance and as a side stage dressing and changing area meant that you not only got to see the physical changes the characters went through but also the emotional and mental changes – a more subtle method of contemplation perhaps.

I thought that Siobhan Redmond really surpassed the other cast members in her portrayal of Mephistopheles. She was witty and funny, grave and intimidating. Through the delivery of her lines, she gave you the most to think about and examine about the play as a whole and the other characters. She held the audience’s attention whenever she was on stage and the applause she received at the end was entirely justified.

There was the opportunity to attend a post show talk with the co-writer Colin Teevan. Christopher Marlowe sent his apologies although this being Faustus, they might at least have tried to conjure him up – at what cost though?

Thanks to West Yorkshire Playhouse and Culture Vultures for a very thought provoking evening. I’m glad to say I didn’t have nightmares afterwards!

Doctor Faustus is running until 16th March. For more information and to book tickets go to

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Yinka Shonibare MBE - Fabric-ation

Yorkshire Sculpture Park 02March – 01Sept 2013.

This week I had the opportunity to attend a blogger’s event arranged by the lovely Emma Bearman  ( at Yorkshire Sculpture Park to preview the new exhibition for Yinka Shonibare MBE. I didn’t think I was familiar with his work until I did some research and saw that he had previously had a piece of work displayed on the 4th plinth at Trafalgar Square, a piece that I had seen and photographed on many occasions.

We were greeted at the park by YSP deputy curator Sarah Coulson, who led us through the exhibition, explaining more about each piece and the inspiration behind it as well as a brief biography of the artist himself, Yinka Shonibare.

Yinka was born in London in 1962 to Nigerian parents. He returned to Lagos aged three and remained there until his teens when he returned to London to study art.  In his work, Yinka often challenges the misconceptions that people have whether it is about a certain place or period in history.

The exhibition is set out over several rooms in the underground gallery with a couple of pieces also outside, although at the time of our visit it was a little too dark to see and appreciate these works. The pieces within the gallery though were very colourful and eye catching and engaged you immediately so that you wanted to study them in more detail.

What I liked about the exhibition and Yinka’s work is that it can be enjoyed on many levels and by people of all ages. Firstly, with every piece, you instantly notice the use of colour and bold prints on the fabric which are quite beautiful. However as you study each piece in more detail you are drawn into it and become aware of the other themes that are being explored. In many instances there seemed to be a reference to childhood, whether it was the size of the sculptures or the children’s toys used as part of them. These prompted me to think of how children often have more simplistic and fantastical views of things and yet are also blatantly honest in what they see - something which as adults we often fail to see.
Black Gold - photo from

I had many favourite pieces amongst the collection including: New York Toy Painting, consisting of many painted globes each adorned with figurines representing something traditionally associated with America or New York; Black – Gold a large piece of artwork adorning one wall which looks like a splash of oil with several smaller circles inside. It tells how Nigeria has been one of the main oil producers since the 1980’s with 80% of its exports being in oil yielding high values to government revenue. But Nigeria is also a place rife with corruption and the production of oil also raises many environmental issues. Despite all the wealth produced from the export of this oil, it is of little benefit to the Nigerian people; Alien Family, fabric sculptures that were bright, colourful and rather cute to look at but riding on flying machines that looked like they were designed by Leonardo da Vinci rather than the hi-tech spaceships you would expect.

Dysfunctional Family - photo from

I also enjoyed the room that seemed entirely devoted to Lord Nelson – from the brightly coloured cannon made as replica from HMS Victory to the paintings copied from old masters and imposed with a dying Nelson and other characters such as women and people from different nationalities that you might not have expected to see around the time of Nelson. However, if you study Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square you will see at the bottom of the plinth 4 carvings from scenes on HMS Victory. One of them portrays how they were 19 different nationalities on board with Nelson, so what might have seemed artistic licence by many was actually correct.

My favourite piece though was the ballerina on a cloud. Like many of Yinka’s sculptures, the ballerina is headless and the skin tone used makes it impossible to identify a nationality. What immediately stood out for me was how beautiful and graceful the ballerina was, posed whilst dancing en Pointe with her arms stretched out either side of her. The attention to the detail of her leg and arm muscles was incredibly lifelike and the colours of her tutu and shoes all added to the aesthetics of the piece. Whilst you are busy admiring all of this, you perhaps don’t notice that the cloud she is dancing on is actually a black mushroom cloud. What Yinka alludes to here is that the ballerina is representative of the higher echelons of society who are so removed from reality that they are stood on a cloud and unaware of what is going on around them.
Flower Cloud - photo from

Of the exhibitions I have been to, I found this to be one of the most enjoyable, not just because each piece was so visually captivating but because you are drawn in to study in greater detail and get to appreciate the thoughts and themes behind each work. Each piece challenges your initial perceptions leaving you with much to ponder over and talk about afterwards. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this exhibition.

Thanks to Emma Bearman from for organising the event and to Sarah Coulson for a fascinating insight into Yinka's work.

For more information on the artist
For information on Yorkshire Sculpture Park

To read more about cultural events in the Yorkshire area