Tuesday, 17 March 2015

YUNA - Malaysian singer

Yuna is a Malaysian singer songwriter who can also play guitar and ukulele.  Born Yunalis Mat Zara'ai in Kedak to a current legal advisor of Pahang father and a high school teacher mother, this lady is a major Asian rising star.

Through word of mouth and an amazing online fan base, Yuna's self-titled debut Malaysian album and a handful of single releases, she achieved a Grammy equivalent award in her homeland and several high profile awards.  Indie-Pop management company soon had her in their sights and persuaded her to release a US sampler E.P. entitled "Decorate" in 2011 on the Fader label.  The single "Live Your Life" and her debut US album soon got her noticed by the American public, appearing on shows such as Last Call with Carson Daly, Conan and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  After being just a MySpace artist and playing small Acoustic sets in Malaysia in 2006 to an International star and being featured in Rolling Stone and other music media.  This lady has a lot to offer with her brand of Indie-Pop, Folk, Acoustic, Alternative R n' B style.

The first track I heard from Yuna was actually a cover of Nirvana's "Come As You Are" on Spotify.  It was a very light easy listening track with this stunning voice, similar to Norah Jones singing over a light Acoustic backdrop.  As I wasn't a fan of Nirvana, this was appreciating the song in a completely different more melodic way, a little like Tori Amos' version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit".  It got me interested and I wanted to seek out more from this interesting lady.

Yuna's first US E.P. in 2011 proved as a sampler for the forthcoming debut album "Yuna".  "Decorate" contained a preview version of the title song of 1 and a half minutes, but the stand out track in my opinion is "Fears and Frustrations".  It consists of eerie backdrop music with a similar feel to Morcheeba, and Yuna's vocals range from that band's lead singer Skye to a soft Debbie Harry.  "Deeper Conversation" and Coffee" are both laid back tracks in the style of Norah Jones, but the first has a faint Country Folk feel and was a hit single.  I can understand why this lady has been labelled a number of genres. 

The debut release of the album "Yuna" outside of Malaysia was a selection of 13 songs which reached 19 on the US Heatseekers list, which highlights sales of upcoming and rising music acts.  Released on the Fader label it also contained the first single "Live Your Life", which was a more upbeat number with what sounds like an Electro drumbeat, the vocals were more like a cross between Adele and Nina Nesbitt.  The second single from the album, "Lullabies" is a beautiful haunting ballad which I am surprised it hasn't reached over to the UK yet, as I am sure it would be a hit.  Yuna says she listened to a lot of music growing up such as The Cardigans, and sometime you can hear a little Nina Persson especially in the quicker numbers.

Another favourite of mine include the lovely "Planes" which reminds me a little of The Corrs, just enough of a jaunty Pop feel to make you feel happy.   The album sure shows Yuna's versatility and various influences.  "Bad Idea" for instance is like an old fashioned musical number form a very old film, while "Loud Noises" is like another of my favourite artists, Avril Lavigne.  A really unique album from a great talent.

Following the debut album came another E.P. in 2013 called "Sixth Street".  It contained 5 songs including the quirky, gentle foot tapper "I Wanna Go" and Alanis Morissette-esque "Musician".  "Right Now" is funky 70s soul, proving that Yuna can turn her hand to any style when needed.

The most recent album, released in 2014 is "Nocturnal".  which contains the singles "Comeback", "Falling" and "Rescue".  "Comeback" has to be inspired by Lily Allen and the light really poppy, flowery music complete with handclaps is a real feel good song.  "Falling" is really unusual, at one moment I think it's Motown, then 80s Electronica, then something similar to Sade, a really likeable song all the same.   "Rescue" is upbeat, like The Cardigans Euro-Pop, makes your feet get tapping!  "Colors" is also a very beautiful song, uplifting and makes you feel nice inside.

Check out some of these tracks to hear the wonderful voice of Yuna -

"Decorate (preview)", "Deeper Conversation", "Someone Out Of Town", "Coffee", "Fears and Frustrations".
(From "Decorate" E.P.).
"Lullabies", "Planes", "Live Your Life", "Bad Idea", "Loud Noises".
(From "Yuna").
"I Wanna Go", "Right Again", "Let Love Come Through", "Young", "Musician".
(From "Sixth Street" E.P.).
"Comeback", "Falling", "Rescue", "Colors", "Lights And Camera".
(From "Nocturnal").


Wednesday, 11 March 2015


First of all, this isn't an anti-Beatles article, although I could do that as their overall lasting appeal and worship sometimes confuses me.  I am a lover of the city of Liverpool and support the famous English football club Liverpool FC so people wonder why I don't like The Beatles, being an avid listener of music too!  I was not force fed the "fab four" as a child as my mother and father were listening to Elvis Presley and The Drifters respectively and other 50s artists of the time.

I think if there was that variation and my 70s and 80s childhood for the kids of the 60s then The Beatles may not have been so popular.  In my view they were the boy band of the age, like McFly, Busted, The Vamps etc.  I respect these so called boy bands who can actually play and respect The Beatles musical ability but the songs were mostly very simple and not really what you would expect from 20-something guys.  Surely they would want to do more than "hold your hand"!

Anyway, I respected John Lennon and George Harrison's solo work.  I do think there were better songwriters around in the 60s than John and Paul.  Eric Burdon of The Animals, Ray Davies of The Kinks and of course the brilliant Simon and Garfunkel.  So The Beatles appeal bewilders me.  This article is to show that The Beatles were not the only Liverpool artist to make a mark on music or remotely the most interesting!  Let's look at a handful of Liverpool born artists.

The Fifties

Frankie Vaughan was a singer of traditional songs and probably be listed as a "crooner".  He released over 80 singles in his lifetime and in every decade from the 50s to the 80s and over 20 albums.  He was called "Mr Moonlight" after one of his most popular hits.  Not bad for a young Jewish lad from Merseyside named Frank Ableson!

The Sixties

Billy Fury, born Ronald Wycherley was a Rock and Roll singer who released 5 albums and over 40 singles in the 60s.  His supposedly "swivel hips" suggestive stage routine gave him the mantle of England's Elvis Presley.  My mother used to love this guy and I remember his records well.  He was a major international star and equalled The Beatles' 24 hits in the 60's and was also a film star appearing in "That'll Be The Day".

Gerry And The Pacemakers fronted by Gerry Marsden (his brother Fred was a co-founder and drummer) might by better known for the Liverpool Football Club anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone".  They were the first act to reach number one with their first 3 singles which was only equalled in the 80s by another Liverpool band which I will tell you about later in the article.  They were ironically managed by The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein and recorded by their producer George Martin but the similarity ends there.  Their unique brand of Rock and Roll brought them 20 singles and over 11 albums. 

The Searchers released over 30 singles and a few albums most of which are compilations of some of their most catchy and brilliant songs.  I remember having a cassette with this band and Manfred Mann's hits.  The songs instantly capture your ears and the choruses your vocal chords.  Originally a Skiffle group formed by John McNally and Mike Pender they soon transformed into a British Rock and Roll band, forming part of the Merseybeat sound.

The Seventies

I've included Elvis Costello in the 70s as it was the late end of the decade that he (along with his band The Attractions) took music by the scruff of it's neck.  Born Declan Patrick MacManus, he was voted 80th in the 100 greatest music artists of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2004.  Able to play guitar, bass, keyboards and drums and also a music producer and prolific writer, Elvis is still making records today.  He has performed under different guises and also with different genres, he has adapted through the years to gain a more eclectic fan base.  He has released 30 albums and over 60 singles spanning the decades since his debut in 1977.

The Real Thing first formed in 1970, their brand of RnB, Soul and Disco were perfect for the glitter and glam years of the decade.  Releasing over 20 singles and 4 albums throughout the 70s and 80s, they are most notably know for their massive hit "You To Me Are Everything".  They were England's most successful black Rock/Soul act in the 70s.

Big In Japan had a lasting effect on British music, they were in fact a backward super group.  The band members became big stars AFTER they left!  Members included Ian Broudie (The Lightning Seeds and producer of records by Echo and the Bunnymen, The Coral and The Zutons), Holly Johnson (later of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who we will come to later), David Balfe (The Teardrop Explodes' keyboardist) and Budgie (technically from St Helens but later was drummer in Siouxsie And The Banshees).  The band released a couple of singles and albums but were more a gig band as their members were constantly changing.

The Eighties

My era and most of the bands I remember having an influence on my musical tastes in the future.  Most notable as hinted on earlier were Frankie Goes To Hollywood, often overhyped, amidst claims they couldn't play and they were too outrageous.  Holly Johnson, Paul Rutherford (two openly gay singers) and The Lads (3 typical Scouse lads), add the production skills of Trevor Horn (The Buggles) and the journalistic propaganda of Paul Morley this was a marriage made in heaven.  Only 7 singles and two albums but the legacy was left.  Shirts bearing slogans, 3 number one singles in 3 releases, blatantly provocative videos, and then it was over.  Holly left and the band disbanded.  Holly continued to record and had a successful album with "Blast" in 1989.  The band COULD play by the way, as I saw at the G-Mex in Manchester (supported by Berlin). 

The Icicle Works fronted by Ian McNabb caught my imagination with their debut single "Love Is A Wonderful Colour" in 1983.  A kind of atmospheric Psychedelic Rock I had not heard before.  Ian's unique vocals compounded beautifully with subtle harmonies and melodies.  I loved this band and was a little sad they were not given enough credit, McNabb's lyrics were brilliant and they should have been more successful.  5 albums and 20 singles throughout this decade splitting up in 1990.  McNabb still records today as a solo artist and major gigging artist releasing 10 albums and a few singles.

Other notable singers of this time, Carol Decker fronted T'Pau, Colin Vearncombe became the melancholy Black, Andy McCluskey fronted Synth Pop act Orchestral Maneouvres In The Dark and Ian Astbury fronted Rock band The Cult.  Notable bands Julian Cope and The Teardrop Explodes, The Christians, Pete Burns and Dead or Alive. The La's, Ian McCulloch and Echo and The Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, The Lotus Eaters.  All with their part to play on defining the new generation of music.


One of the bands that caught my ears in the 2000s were The Coral, who are still playing today, with their brand of Indie Rock/Psychedelic folk sound they remind me of what The La's could have become if they had carried on. 

The Zutons were also a band I liked also.  All in all, I think this article proves that Liverpool is not all about The Beatles, and that more interesting music can be found from Merseyside.  Of course, there are other influential bands from other parts of the UK, which I may look into at a later date.  For this article, the purpose was to show there was and is life in the Liverpool music scene except the fab four boy band of the Sixties.

A few Liverpool artists songs that you may like to listen to:

Frankie Vaughan - "Tower Of Strength".
Gerry And The Pacemakers - "How Do You Do It?".
The Searchers - "Sweets For My Sweet".
The Scaffold - "Lily The Pink".
Sonia - "You'll Never Stop Me From loving You".
Melanie C - "I Turn To You".
Wah! - "The Story Of The Blues".
Orchestral Maneouvres In The Dark - "Enola Gay".
T'Pau - "Heart And Soul".
Black - "Wonderful Life".
The Cult - "She Sells Sanctuary".
China Crisis - "King In A Catholic Style".
The Boo Radleys - "Wake Up Boo!".
Frankie Goes To Hollywood - "Two Tribes".
Elvis Costello - "Alison".
The Icicle Works - "Little Girl Lost".
The Real Thing - "Can't Get By Without You".
The Teardrop Explodes - "Reward".
The Lotus Eaters - "The First Picture Of You".
A Flock Of Seagulls - "I Ran".
Echo And The Bunnymen - "The Cutter".
The La's - "There She Goes".
Dead Or Alive - "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)".
The Christians - "Born Again".
The Zutons - "Valerie".
The Coral - "Dreaming Of You".