Hard News by Russell Brown

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Friday Music: Cilla!

For purposes of criticism and review, our household has watched Cilla, ITV's three-part story of Cilla Black's early years. It's great: funny, touching, well-written and apparently true-to-life. Sheridan Smith makes a fine job of the lead role, not least in being a 32 year-old playing a teenage Cilla.

Smith can sing too, but that's where Cilla falls short. She's not Cilla, and for all the air she moves, she doesn't really come near the blaring, brassy voice, with its remarkable dynamic range, that seemed to come effortlessly to the Liverpudlian singer.

In a musical sense, Cilla is a glimpse of what might have been. Smith is at her best playing teenage Cilla White belting out rock 'n roll numbers at The Cavern. As far as I know, there are no recordings of the real Cilla performing such material, and the nearest thing is her debut single, the Paul McCartney-penned 'Love of the Loved'.

Which The Beatles themselves played in their 1962 audition for Decca.

But after that, Brian Epstein and George Martin decided -- quite correctly on the subsequent commercial evidence -- that young Cilla was better suited to a big ballad, and Martin commissioned an anglicised version of this barnstormer by the Italian singer Umberto Bindi:

That became 'You're My World', which went to number one in the British singles chart and, in July 1964, number two in New Zealand. She's just miming to the master recording in this British pop show appearance a week before its release, but you'll get the picture:

I think she's singing live in this version of the follow-up, the Bacharach-David song 'Anyone Who Had a Heart', which also went to number in 1964:

From there, it was teaming up properly with Bacharach to record the theme for the film Alfie (the dramatic portrayal of that episode basically recreates this documentary footage) and some not-so-great songs before she took Epstein's advice and went into light entertainment with her own TV show, which did have the blessing of a theme song by Paul McCartney:

Again, it was visionary advice on Epstein's part -- she was for years the highest-paid performer on British television - but it it seems a shame that she didn't record anything interesting, or even good, thereafter. Imagine if she'd tagged along with The Beatles as they explored music. Or am I missing something? Was there a brilliant B-side along the way?

Anyway, Cilla will presumably turn up at some point on Prime or UKTV. It's a really good watch, la.

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Public Address reader and throughly good chap Ben McNicoll is the main man behind The Auckland Jazz Festival, which begins next week and extends the Creative Jazz Club ethos out to a bunch of other venues -- including The Golden Dawn, Tom Tom, The Portland Public House, the Vic in Devonport, Hallertau and 1885 Britomart -- with the CJC itself playing host to three international acts in the second week. Many of the smaller gigs are free. It's really worth a look.

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There's some pretty remarkable reissue action going on. The Chills' new label, Fire Records, has licensed the three BBC Sessions (what everyone used to call Peel Sessions) the band recorded from 1985 to 1988, remastered them and packaged them up into an album to be released on CD and LP early next month.

They've posted a taster from the 1985 session: 'Rolling Moon'.

Meanwhile, Flying Nun has beefed up its crowdfund-the-vinyl-pressing strategy and applied it to its 90s back catalogue, as The Reissue Club. Announced so far (with track listings to come soon) are double LP versions of Garageland's Last Exit to Garageland, Bressa Creeting Cake's eponymous debut and the Headless Chickens' Body Blow. The last will easily fill the two LPs -- it has already been released in two major versions with different track listings, and there are multiple remixes to choose from. The way it works is that as each title reaches 100 preorders, it goes off to be pressed. So you'll get yours sooner if you prevail on your freinds to invest too.

The same system applies for the vinyl version of Heat Death of the Universe, the new album from Samuel Flynn Scott's side project Bunnies on Ponies, which comes from Sam's fuzzed-out period on painkillers for debilitating back injury. It sounds ... fuzzed out and buzzy.

And, not exactly a re-release but ... Athur Ahbez' 2013 album Gold (recorded to eight-track over two years with all-analogue kit) is finally getting the vinyl release that always seemed its destiny. He's doing an album release show with his band Superbird at The Wine Cellar on October 16 ($5 or $25 with the LP) and then two free gigs, at the Waitakere Festival on November 2 and the Darkroom in Christchurch on November 8.

There's also a video by Jason Block for 'Wine Store Woman':

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Late-breaking: Dictaphone Blues' epic guitar-pop song song 'Her Heart Breaks Like a Wave' now has a video. And it's quite meta:

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I'm still pretty much in a state of denial about the fact that Caribou is playing Laneway 2015 but not in Auckland. But it's something of a consolation that his quite glorious album Our Love is finally out. You can buy that in formats up to and including 24-bit WAV or FLAC from Bleep.com. Reasonable people will argue over whether the 24-bit format is really relevant, but I think buying this kind of music in lossless format is a really good idea if you have the storage space.

Why? Because the future. You've paid for those bits, and at some point you may want to convert them for use on another device or in another context. And converting/transcoding from a lossy codec may give you a pretty poor result.

A confirmed this for myself last week when I finally decided to free up space on my 32GB iPhone 4S by using the iTunes options to convert all the music I was copying to Apple's standard 256k AAC. It worked brilliantly in one sense -- I can fit a shitload more music on my phone -- but the sound quality seemed disappointing. Well, in the case of the 320k MP3 files I was crunching down it did. The lossless stuff in my library seems fine.

I could of course have opted to listen to iTunes in the Cloud -- I still pay the $40 a year for iTunes match -- but that shit's a shambles, still.

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I first noticed Hamilton dance music producer Terrorball on TheAudience last year, liked it, then didn't hear anything else. Well, he's back, with a new album and a new track on TheAudience:

That's actually not even my favourite shizz. Check out this disco style:

All the album tracks on his are available for download on Soundcloud, plus the download on TheAudience is lossless. And it turns out this is actually his fourth album for the year: everything else (including an album of found spoken word) is available at name-your-price on his Bandcamp. Crikey.

And this is good: a conscious, jazzy hip hop project being featured on TheAudience at the moment:

There's a whole album of that as a free download on Bandcamp.

Speaking of that Caribou album, here's the first track:

Lorde's first New Zealand tour begins at the end of the month, and along with her she'll have Christchurch-native diaspora band Yumi Zouma, who make dreamy alt-pop like this new single:

And finally, a glorious disco gift from Dimitri from Paris:

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