Music

“Singing to Strangers” Review

It hasn’t been an easy road for singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti. He has been in the music industry for the better part of 15 years but it was with his sixth studio album, “Singing to Strangers” released in March 2019, that he reached the Number 1 spot on the UK album charts for the first time and has already seen the record go Silver in its first month. Savoretti credits his success to his loyal fan base and his incredibly hard-working team but the truth is he is one of the most gifted musicians of our generation and this feels like only just the beginning.

I have reviewed Jack’s other albums in the past (see here and here) and upon listening to “Singing to Strangers” it’s very evident that there is a whole new sound and atmosphere to this one, which pays homage to Savoretti’s Italian roots and the longing to return to the romance and splendour of Italian cinema of the 1960s and 70s. In fact Savoretti created this body of work to be viewed as a series of movie scenes forming one epic movie, one which aims to transform you to another time and place. Recorded in Ennio Morricone’s studio in Rome, the vibe of the music may be different but the result is a masterpiece of performances where it’s impossible not to feel something while listening to it.

The opening track “Candlelight” is the perfect introduction to the new direction Jack was striving to take this album. Many have described it as the ideal track for the next James Bond film as it’s mysterious, bold and unlike anything currently on the radio. “Love Is On The Line” and “Dying For Your Love” have an unmistakable Mediterranean flavour, while “Better Off Without Me” brings us back down to earth in the most heartbreaking of ways showing Jack’s vulnerability within songwriting. The next track “What More Can I Do” is the epitome of the sound from another era and Jack actually wrote the track based around the melodic violin part taking it to a whole new level.

The title track seems to be a glorious way of storytelling through song. The idea came from Jack’s little daughter Connie who was telling her friend that her dad “goes around the world singing to strangers” for a living. As a result the sincerity and honesty in “Singing to Strangers” is palpable from the first note to the last.

Next up is the true disco number of the whole album, “Youth and Love” with a catchy, upbeat instrumental backing track. What follows is an extraordinary collaboration with Bob Dylan in “Touchy Situation” in which Jack was sent Dylan’s lyrics and composed the music for the track. The result is a brilliant ballad with power and conviction, something to truly be proud of.

What transpired when a beautiful and melodic striking of the keys combines with Jack’s incredible vocals is heard in “Greatest Mistake”, a fan-favourite and an absolute gem. Here is everything we’ve come to love about Savoretti’s songwriting over the years but on a grander, more cinematic scale.

Perhaps my favourite track from this album is “Things I Thought I’d Never Do”. He wrote the song on the piano rather than hunched over a guitar and the result is spine-tingling and inspiring. His passion and determination in his “confessions” for this piece come from a place deep within Jack’s soul without a doubt. The result is a raw example of how far true talent can take you if given the chance.

Another piano-centric performance is the powerful “Going Home” about Jack’s journey as a musician and what it means to chase his dreams. The sacrifices, the blood, sweat and tears. He was close to giving up in the early days but thankfully he persevered and today he is a shining beacon of hope and positivity for so many struggling musicians in the world.

Next is “Symmetry” with its intriguing melody and catchy orchestral arrangements before “Beginning Of Us” gives us another soulful ballad with drive, meaning and heart. Then it’s onto the second collaboration of the album with Australia’s own Kylie Minogue lending her vocals to their duet together “Music’s Too Sad Without You”, recorded live in Venice along with Luigi Tenco’s “Vedrai Vedrai”, sung live in the Italian language, morphed with Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” to complete an album unlike any other.

In summary “Singing to Strangers” is different in sound to all of Jack’s other works but delivers track after track of pleasure-filled hits. We are entertained, enlightened and enthralled into another world with Jack’s pitch-perfect and passion-fused vocals mixed with some incredible instrumental performances by Jack’s very talented “band of brothers”.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jack at his “Acoustic Nights Live” series of shows in Milan, Italy, last year and it’s definitely safe to say that he was grounded, kind and humble. A true superstar in his own right. I have been a fan of his music for over 10 years and I’m so excited about what the future holds. Success has not defined him nor slowed him down. He is about to embark on a multi-city European tour across The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Poland and the UK before perhaps the biggest achievement to date, playing a massive show at London’s Wembley Arena on May 31st. US tour dates supporting British superstar Dido have been confirmed for June and a series of festival line-ups have been scheduled across Europe this summer. All of us here in Australia will just have to wait our turn but Jack did say that a return Down Under is on the cards for 2019.

“Singing to Strangers” is available to purchase and stream right now and all of Jack’s tour dates and tickets can be found here.

Event, Melbourne

“My Fair Lady” in Melbourne

DSC07288

It was through my love of Audrey Hepburn that I first discovered the classic American film My Fair Lady (1964) directed by George Cukor. I instantly adored it and have wanted to see the live musical version ever since.


Background

Based on the play by Bernard Shaw entitled Pygmalion and with the dream of Gabriel Pascal to turn it into a musical, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe brought My Fair Lady the musical to life. Taking audiences on a grand melodic journey on Broadway in 1956 for a sensational 2,717 performance run, the lead female role of Eliza Doolittle went to the young and talented rising star, Julie Andrews, and the lead male role to seasoned theatrical actor, Rex Harrison, who won the Academy Award for his performance in the film version, with the Warner Bros film also taking out the Best Picture of the Year category in 1965. The Broadway version was followed by a hit London production (running for 5.5 years at the Theatre Royal) and the musical eventually reached Australian audiences by 1959, playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne to high acclaim.

Synopsis

The story is set in London in the year 1912. Eliza Doolittle, a common flower-girl from the lower classes meets phonetician Professor Henry Higgins outside Covent Garden one night. He makes a bet with fellow language expert, Colonel Pickering, that he can transform Eliza into a duchess at the embassy ball, teaching her to speak proper English and to behave like a lady who can then work as a shop assistant at a flower shop. Through their ups and downs, the audience is able to witness her transformation and gain insight into British classes, gender politics and social values of the time, all within a light-hearted sense of comedy and playfulness.


Dame Julie Andrews directs this very special diamond jubilee production, which broke box-office records at the Sydney Opera House when it played there in 2016. Last month the beautiful production hit Melbourne’s Regent Theatre where it will continue until July 29th. Don’t miss your chance to see it!

DSC07295

My Experience

First of all, the majestic Regent Theatre is a breathtaking place to hold such a special show. The organisers and everyone involved should be praised for their choice of venue and everything about this musical production. The interiors of the Regent Theatre are simply spectacular and I was pleasantly transported to the class of creativity seen in Barcelona earlier this year whilst on holidays there. The exquisite detailing, lavish furnishings and luxurious fittings leading up to and inside the main concert hall were elegant and set the mood nicely. Photography was allowed prior to the start of the show only. The lights went out and the live orchestra began the Overture, entertaining us with short renditions of all the main musical numbers we were about to hear play out on stage. The curtain opened and I immediately knew that we were in for a delightful night of heartfelt, glorious music accompanying the amazing performances from the cast and the hardworking crew backstage.

DSC07303DSC07304

In this wonderful 60th anniversary production it is also worth mentioning that as a world first, director Dame Julie Andrews teamed up with the associates and former staff of the original set designer Oliver Smith and costume designer Cecil Beaton to recreate the original look of the musical of 1956. Audiences are able to come face-to-face with designs from both these visionaries in the upper and lower foyers before the show and during the short interval.

DSC07299

 

Piece by piece the audience were delighted by music that makes the heart sing. The vocal performances of the Melbourne cast were incredible. The role of Professor Higgins was played ever-so-brilliantly by Charles Edwards and Anna O’Byrne’s Eliza Doolittle almost brought me to tears because of my connection and love of Audrey Hepburn. There were revolving sets, wonderful lighting and sound effects, and even a surprise on stage that no one was expecting but was always intended for the original Broadway production.

My favourite part would definitely have to be the immaculate Ascot Racecourse scene where the curtain opens to reveal a cast of men and women all dressed in black and white attire at the famous London horse race. The attention to detail on the hats and gowns of the women and the charm of the men with their suits, still gives me such a thrill just thinking about it. They sing an opening number and then we are introduced to the beautifully transformed Eliza Doolittle, now a lady with confidence and poise, who converses with other race-goers about the weather and everyone’s health. Once the horse race starts though, her cockney upbringing comes to the foreground and audiences are laughing out loud uncontrollably as she cheers for her horse, Dover, to win the race. I love it!

DSC07291DSC07312DSC07306

I enjoyed this production immensely and couldn’t stop smiling for the entire duration of the show! I would like to thank Dame Julie Andrews and everyone involved (notably Opera Australia and John Frost) for bringing this musical to life for younger generations like mine who only came to know it from the film version. Having one of your favourite musicals play out right in front of you is an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish.

My Fair Lady is a masterpiece.


Tickets are available through Ticketmaster but are selling fast.

Handmade, Life

ZenPop Stationery Review

There are so many things to love about Japan. Today I’d like to introduce you to ZenPop, a Japanese company that sends the coolest products from the heart of Osaka to anywhere in the world. While it sounds like a subscription-style service, it isn’t. You can purchase individual packs each month without knowing exactly what’s included (because it’s a surprise!) but ZenPop do showcase a few products on social media and hint about the contents on their website.

ZenPop Box

There are 6 packs to choose from and all prices are in US Dollars and include shipping:

  • Japanese Ramen + Sweets Mix ($24.50)
  • Japanese Sweets Pack ($19.50 – $29.50)
  • Japanese Ramen Pack ($29.50)
  • Japanese Stationery Pack ($29.50)
  • Japanese Beauty Pack ($29.50)

I bought the Japanese Stationery Pack for the month of April with a “Kawaii” or cute theme, which promised 12 or more items.

Open Box

The box in which the products arrived was so cute and featured the ZenPop bunny mascot jumping for joy! Inside the box the first thing seen was a little note which said “You got a lucky box with a pair of lucky socks” and of course a smile instantly came to my face.

What a sweet gesture!

Now let’s explore the actual products inside the Stationery Pack. The April kit included:

  • 1x Decorese Pen (1 of 10 pastel colours)
  • 1x Kuretake – Mangaka Pen (1 of 4 colours)
  • 1x Uni Jetstream Pen – Black ink
  • 1x Kuratake Brush Tip Highlighter (1 of 5 fluorescent colours)
  • Washi Tape (1 of 5 designs)
  • Sanrio Memo Pad (1 of 6 designs)
  • Rilakkuma Folder (1 of 4 designs)
  • Schedule Stickers (1 of 3 designs)
  • Nico Sticky Notes (1 of 4 designs)
  • Bento Flake Stickers
  • Tombow MONO 2 Way (1 of 5 colours)
  • Flip Out Message Cards

ZenPop StationeryPen Examples

The items included were all so cute and useful too. I’ll certainly be using the pages of the Sanrio notepad to write letters to penpals and the sushi stickers to decorate the envelopes! All the pens were great and wrote ever-so-beautifully on paper. The washi tape was certainly a highlight as was the gorgeous Rilakkuma folder. Can’t wait to also use the MONO correction tape on one side and eraser on the other!

Overall, I loved the ZenPop Stationery Pack. All the products were of very high quality and with a large variety of inclusions from stickers to sticky notes, paper, washi tape and pens. No two boxes are the same as there are endless colour and design combinations ZenPop sends you. It took just under 4 weeks to arrive to Australia from Japan but it was so worth the wait. For all the info on ZenPop’s other packs please visit their website here and try something new from Japan for yourself.

In Detail



Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this review are 100% honest. This box was purchased by me and I genuinely loved all the products and wanted to publish a review here.

Music

Jack Savoretti “Sleep No More” Review

jacksavoretti5albums

Not many artists in the music industry today can touch your soul through music the way Jack Savoretti can. His fifth studio album “Sleep No More” was released on October 28th 2016 and is charting at No.6 on the Official UK Albums chart. I’ve been a fan of Jack’s from the first moment I heard him sing in Munich in 2008 and it has been such a beautiful thing watching him evolve into the confident, charismatic singer-songwriter he is today, finally getting the recognition he deserves.

The first track on the album “When We Were Lovers” is the perfect opening track as this rhythmic ballad sets the mood for the music that follows. Jack expresses so much raw emotion in his voice and performs with such passion that it’s hard not to be completely spellbound by him, especially during his live shows with his incredible band.

“Deep Waters” performed acoustically sounds even better than the album version in my opinion and it would be amazing to have this version on a future record. If you close your eyes and listen to the beautiful guitar music accompanying a man with a husky voice like Jacks’s you’ll go to some amazing places in your mind. Pure bliss and a personal highlight for me!

The third track “I’m Yours” has been described by many fans as the perfect first dance song at their wedding and is so beautifully delivered by Jack, I can’t help but feel as if he wrote this song for his beautiful wife, Jemma Powell, describing their life together through poignant story telling.

With each track it’s easy to get a sense of who Jack is and where his music comes from, even if you’ve never heard his older songs before. “Helpless”, “Only You” and “Start Living in the Moment” are all bold songs with a driving drum beat you can’t help but tap your feet to. Jack’s brilliance really shines through in “We are Bound”, “Tight Rope” and “Sleep No More” as each track showcases his amazing vocal range and songwriting ability. “Troubled Souls” is a powerful track (one of my favourites) and has a catchy Eurovision vibe.

“Any Other Way” is an upbeat track which perfectly sums up how far Jack has come after almost 10 years in the music industry. It tells a beautiful story through its lyrics and is a track you can’t help but dance to. “Lullaby Loving” is such a beautiful way to end the album and has a slight resemblance to “Harder than Easy” with its melancholy and haunting vocals. Jack delivering the line “Don’t give up on our love (x3)…Don’t give up on us” is a highlight for me because it’s such a bittersweet moment knowing that this is the last song on the album and after he delivers these lines, it’s all over. When the silence hits after this track, I always feel an overwhelming sense of emotions. I’m so proud of how far he has come and so grateful that he didn’t give up making music in the face of adversity.

Jack’s fifth album is absolutely brilliant. After touring around his native UK this month, Jack will next head to other parts of Europe and the US next year. Fingers crossed for a return to Australia very soon as well.

Go out there and buy this amazing musician’s album and listen for yourself how music of today can be so meaningful in its lyrics, so poignant in its delivery and so beautiful in its musicality.

-Naira Tamanian

“Graceful Avenue” Founder