SEO – search engine optimization; it’s a hugely important factor in having an online presence. This particular John Williams has spent a long (and hugely productive) time under the radar in the music business. Now he’s released an album under his own name and he has to compete with a world-renowned classical guitarist and an equally-renowned film soundtrack composer. John Williams of the John Williams Syndicate has plugged records, produced records and BBC sessions, headed up an A&R department and made his own records. So it’s about time to make a few calls to former clients, and a few new discoveries, and work on that solo project in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

There are a lot of things to admire about “Out of Darkness”; as you would expect, the quality of the playing is masterful and the standard of the arrangements and production is superb. As well as pulling in vocal contributions from Petula Clark and Claudia Brücken and a co-write with the legendary Iain Matthews, John also enlists upcoming singers Slicko DiCaprio, Amber Prothero and Isabella Coulstock for lead and backing vocals on the album. Which brings me to the only minor criticism I have; with so many different singers and varied musical stylings, it’s difficult to find a sense of musical cohesion across the album as a whole, although there is a theme of renewal, springing out from the penultimate song, “Nothing” which, unusually, has some lyrical popular culture references set against a seventies singer-songwriter arrangement (maybe a hint of Al Stewart) with a vocal that hints at Stephen ‘Tintin’ Duffy’s Lilac Time period. Everything else on the album is a consequence of this rebirth.

Picking out a few standout moments, “Spanish Song”, co-written with Adrian York, Isabella Coulstock and Slicko DiCaprio, is the most contemporary pop song on “Out of the Darkness” with a Latin tinge and some interesting Spanish/English counterpoint vocals. The album’s final song, “Don’t Give Up on Me”, also has a Latin feel; the lyrics are minimal, but the playing is outstanding with lots of mini solos, including a sax/trumpet counterpoint solo; it’s memorable. “You Got Me from Hello” is cool jazz with Latin rhythms in a Carlos Santana/Rob Thomas style, while the piano-led “Luminescent”, with programmed percussion, nods in the direction of early Kate Bush.

This album is a serious musical project from a serious player; even the packaging is lush, with a thirty-two page booklet containing credits, lyrics and some Tim Hobart abstract paintings. The contributions from the established musicians are predictably excellent, but it’s even more gratifying to hear emerging talents like Isabella Coulstock, Amber Prothero and Slicko DiCaprio taking the opportunity to shine.

“Out of Darkness” is out on Friday June 6th on Wulfrun Records (WULFRUN 1).

And just to give you a flavour of the album, here’s the lockdown video for “You Got Me From Hello”:

We decided to let Allan share another set of photos from 2020 while we wait for contributions from some of his fellow photographers. He was more than happy to pick out a set that reflected the positivity we’ve been seeing from our contributors so far.

It’s a privilege to work with performing musicians to create photographs of people on stage doing what they love and creating a shared experience with an audience; I’ve missed it for a big chunk of this year and I’m desperate for its return. The beauty of working in smaller venues is the intimacy between the performer and audience (and the photographer); everyone’s closer together and everyone can make eye contact. Here are a few photos where I think I managed to capture the artist’s response to the audience (and the camera) and a few big smiles:

 

Simeon Hammond Dallas @Greenwich Blues & Beer Festival

This was from the first gig(s) I did after the first lockdown ended. It was initially an outdoor event at the end of August, but the traditional August Bank Holiday weather meant that most of it was moved indoors. This is from one of the sessions that wasn’t; it was the first session on Sunday and let’s just say it wasn’t a balmy British summer morning. I’ve photographed Simeon Hammond Dallas a few times before; her songs are powerful and her delivery is perfect. She puts everything into her performance and when she laughs, she really laughs. Can you tell how cold it was on that Sunday? Simeon definitely dressed for the weather.

Lisa Canny @The Big Gig

This wasn’t an intimate little venue; it was the main room at 229 The Venue and Lisa was playing with her full band. I’ve photographed Lisa in many different venues, both solo and with her band and she always gives the absolute maximum. She plays harp (the Celtic not the blues kind) and banjo, does loop mixes and has a great line in anecdotes as well. This was a full band gig on a big stage celebrating the second anniversary of the Talentbanq organisation; the room was full and the band was cooking on gas. There’s an intensity to Lisa’s performance that shows on her face; it’s all about knowing when to press the shutter.

Isabella Coulstock @The Bedford

Way back in pre-lockdown days (and my first gig of the year), this gig was a cracker. The line-up was Rebecca Riedtmann, Hope Winter and Isabella Coulstock, three gifted performers and songwriters. The Bedford’s a fabulous live music venue with some great photographic angles and (pre-lockdown) the opportunity to get really close to the performers. Which is exactly what I was doing, with a 35mm lens, when that lovely interaction between performer and photographer happened and Isabella stuck out her tongue, creating a perfect cheeky shot.

Martha L Healy @ Cash Back, The Woodside, Aberdour

I was so chuffed to get an invitation to this gig but concerned that it might not happen because of the impending lockdown. It did go ahead and I saw some incredible performances from established Scottish legends and new talents. This is no criticism of the venue, but the lighting for most of the performers wasn’t perfect for photography; it’s something you have to live with. However, there was a sweet spot on Friday during Martha’s set where there was a bit of contrast and colour. It’s not a typical performance shot, but I think it captures Martha’s warm personality. This was a case of eventually finding the right angle with reasonable lighting and grabbing something that worked.

Sadie Horler @Eccleston Yards

Between lockdowns and following lockdown lite, Talentbanq has been providing artists for a music stage at the Sunday markets at Eccleston Yards in Victoria. I’ve had a few good Sunday afternoons there and managed to grab a few good shots. On this particular afternoon, Sadie Horler, who I first met when she supported Sound of the Sirens, arrived breathless and just in time for her closing slot, did a quick sound check and went straight on stage. Sadie performs a lot of her own material and has a certain knack with a cover version as well – how about an acoustic version of “Creep”? Another thing you should know about Sadie is that she has a smile that lights up a room (or a yard in this case). Again, find the right angle, just wait and press the shutter at the right time.