Robin of Sherwood: 30 years later!

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Robin Of Sherwood: The Knights Of The Apocalypse

 This is like stepping back in time to my teenage years when, as an impressionable 14 to 16-year-old, Saturday night was spent watching the daring outlaws of Sherwood Forest do battle with Guy of Gisborne and the Sheriff of Nottingham across England’s green and pleasant land.

First Michael Praed wore the green of Herne’s son then Jason Connery took over and for three glorious seasons there were adventures galore and pagan mysteries to delight and entertain and to be discussed ad nauseum at school the following Monday. There were debates over Praed v Connery and then there was shock and sadness when the show just ended and left cliffhangers all over The Time of the Wolf (parts 1 & 2).

So news that there would be a new audio production starring all the surviving original cast members, as well as a few big name guest stars, made me as giddy as a teenager again at the ripe old age of 46 and I ordered my special three disc collection as soon as it was available.

But does Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse live up to that 30 year longing? Well yes, it absolutely does and then some.

“England during the reign of King John and a dark force is intent on conquest. Only the Hooded Man can stand against it. The Church lies impotent at the mercy of the Pope and the interdict against King John.

“With the people living in fear and a series of strange disappearances that threaten the very fabric of Noble society, Robin i’ the Hood and his band of outlaws must race to rescue the past so that the future may be protected. A journey to Huntingdon and beyond Sherwood will see them battle their most dangerous enemy yet as Herne’s Son faces The Knights Of The Apocalypse”

From the opening words, mysterious and foreboding, setting up the premise of the adventure, we are back with the original cast as they face a new (and not related to the final episodes of Season Three sadly) threat of the Baphomet worshiping Knights of the Apocalypse, headed up by the deliciously deviant Anthony Head as Guichard de Montbalm.

This is all you’d expect from Robin of Sherwood, heroic action, double crossing, scene chewing villains and a complex plot which at times is frantic but never loses sight of the ultimate aim of good triumphing over evil which was a highlight of the TV series.

It has happiness, it has sadness but, above all, it has that overwhelming sense of hope and sheer enjoyment which came from wishing you could just – for one brief moment – walk alongside Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, listen to Marion and Friar Tuck offering comfort to those in distress, smile at Will’s complaints and Nasir’s stoic silence (he’s learnt a bit more English since then!)

One of Robin of Sherwood’s highlights was that it was truly visual, a feast to watch given it was shot mostly on location in the South East around Bristol and in the North East up around Bamburgh and I did wonder how the audio production would cope with only having a singular sense in which to enjoy this new production.

Well fear not, the sound effects are stunning, the incidental music, while it’s not Clannad, is close enough in feel and emotion that it works well to help drive along the story narrative, and the actual quality of the sound is exceptional.

Yes it’s not the wide open landscapes or leafy forests we’d expect but the atmosphere is created of dank dungeons, fierce sword battles and mysterious cultish gods and for two hours we can live again in England’s glorious past.

Audio production from an original script from Richard ‘Kit’ Carpenter brought together by Barnaby Eaton-Jones/Spiteful Puppet, directed by Robert Young and with sleeve notes from Anthony Horowitz and Andrew Orton, music from Clannad (theme tune Robin, The Hooded Man) and Alexander White @ Arpeggio Creative.

Cast
Jason Connery (Robert of Huntingdon)
Judi Trott (Lady Marion)
Clive Mantle (Little John)
Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet)
Nickolas Grace (the Sheriff of Nottingham)
Mark Ryan (Nasir)
Phil Rose (Friar Tuck)
Peter Llewellyn Williams (Much the Miller’s Son)
Freddie Fox (Sir Guy of Gisburne)
Philip Jackson (Abbot Hugo)
Daniel Abineri (Herne the Hunter)
Michael Craig (the Earl of Huntingdon)
Barnaby Eaton-Jones (Camville)
Anthony Head (Guichard de Montbalm)
Colin Baker (Gerard de Ridefort)
Terry Molloy (Prior/ Old Prisoner/ Priest)
Lisa Bowerman (Serving Maiden)
Michael Praed (Spectral Voice)
All other roles: Sophie Jones, Gary Andrews, Ian Kubiak, Kate Young, Cliff Chapman, Ben Perkins, William KV Browne, Nathan Drake, Rob Brunwin, Robert Barton-Ancliffe, Iain Meadows and Jonathan Allen.

Uncontrolled: Matt Doyle

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Uncontrolled is a fabulous album from Matt Doyle with a mixture of original songs and covers of classics like If It Makes You Happy and Me and Bobby McGee.

It opens with the truly delightful cover of You Made Me Love You, made famous by the late great Judy Garland and sung by Doyle in the film Private Romeo in which he stars and where I first came across him.

Doyle has a beautiful voice capable of soft and sultry ballads like the aforementioned Garland classic but also with a powerful range which extends magnificently on his original track Moment – which has been released as the album’s first single complete with gorgeous YouTube video.

This is his debut full length album, there’s been a couple of EPs before this and it really is a killer providing a perfect introduction to this genuine Broadway talent. It would have been easy to take a show tunes route for this album.

Doyle has, after all starred in the original production of Spring Awakening, as well as other top hits including The Book of Mormon, War Horse and is to appear later this year as Tony in the latest production of West Side Story, and he was originally offered an album doing so.

Instead there is a mixture of self-penned (along with collaborators Will Van Dyke, Joel Huemann, Tina Parole and Jason Gantt) and covers from mainly female vocalists including the previously mentioned Sheryl Crow and Janis Joplin (written by Kristofferson and Foster) numbers, and it’s an exploration of personal pains and triumphs. The arrangements are also by Van Dyke and the album’s been expertly produced by Van Dyke and Derik Lee.

And, speaking of Joplin, the band and Doyle cut loose on Me and Bobby McGee taking it out of its folksy roots and firmly into full on bluesy rock with wailing guitars, a full-throated vocal tour de force.

There’s also a cover of one of Alanis Morissette’s less often performed numbers, Mary Jane from the Jagged Little Pill album and here Doyle adds a different vibe to the original with a softer vocal which is at times a touch more more plaintive than Morissette’s harsher and more angry performance.

Love Uncontrolled is sultry and seductive, it’s a shot of neat single malt whisky (preferably a Talisker or Lagavulin) in front of a roaring fire snuggled up with your loved one and it partners up quite beautifully with my current favourite track What You Stole.

This is a gem of a number which has a slow jazzy blues feeling that would be perfect for a late night slow dance in some smoky club with someone you know is going to break your heart but you just don’t care because you’re in a perfect moment right then.

One of the other outstanding tracks is When I Let You Go, a soaring ballad which speaks of the loss of love and which Doyle has said was in part influenced by his break up with long time partner, fellow Broadway performer Ryan Steele.

The vocal on this is raw in its intensity, accompanied by strings and piano, but also heartbreakingly soft and emotional.

In contrast, Fall for Me harks back to the 50s with big beats and a rock ‘n’ roll swinging feel which is a real earworm of a song and could easily have been on a Buddy Holly or Eddie Cochran vinyl back in the day.

8 is a fabulous and funky upbeat poppy number all about surviving and getting back on your feet with a ridiculously catchy chorus.

Of the covers, my favourite is Doyle’s version of Adele’s stripped down version of the Bob Dylan classic Make You Feel My Love which is a heartfelt plea to that fickle emotional which makes people do the most extraordinary things.

I Remember You is another original with a driving beat that harkens back to the bass-heavy soft rock 1980s of my teenage years when love tended to be a fumbling kiss at the back of the school hall and a perpetual disappointment of broken dreams.

And the album finishes off with Home, orchestral and beautiful, with strings and a bass section playing off each other while Doyle’s voice ranges from the sweetest soft lullaby through to a triumphal crescendo.

If you’ve never heard of Doyle then do your ears a favour and check out this album, you won’t be disappointed.

Available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1YM3rab

iTunes: https://itun.es/us/6u1Nab

Website: http://www.mattdoylemusic.com/

You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

Add a #soundtracktolife and start to TalkMusically

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An app I’ve been tracking a while – TalkMusically – has officially launched in the Apple Store and now people have the chance to add a #soundtracktolife to all their phone calls. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a great track come up on your iTunes and being able to ring a friend and say hey “listen to this, it reminds me of you”. You can chat away, remembering the great times you’ve had, with your tune playing in the background.

TalkMusically is at the crossroads between the worlds of smartphones, music and social media. The app lets you call up friends and listen to your favourite tracks while simultaneously chatting. Out now on the Apple Store, TalkMusically is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod and an Android release will be available later in the year.