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Albert Hammond - Memorial Hall, Sheffield, 21/5/2014

  by Nicky Crewe

published: 6 / 6 / 2014

Albert Hammond - Memorial Hall, Sheffield, 21/5/2014


At the Memorial Hall in Sheffield, Nicky Crewe watches musician and producer Albert Hammond play a revelatory set from across his fifty year songwriting career

“ I like Albert Hammond but he does too many covers”. With this jokey remark, Albert Hammond introduced himself. This is his Songbook tour, in Sheffield for one night only, in the intimate setting of the Memorial Hall. The stage is small, and the drums were behind a perspex screen, making it a peculiar visual experience. Albert Hammond is a songwriter, producer, collaborator, performer and musician. He is father to Albert Hammond junior, of the Strokes. He has had an equally successful career in the Spanish-speaking world. He turned seventy on May 18th. His career spans fifty years. He is a remarkable man and a formidable talent, and he was among friends and fans in Sheffield. He is one of the elite group of talented songwriters who have passed their songs on to others to perform, making them fame and fortune as well as success. He can be compared to Graham Gouldman, Carole King, Jim Webb, Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Graham Lyle. It turns out that he has written and worked with many on this list too. His songs come from another era, with a different attitude to love and romance. He has worked both sides of the Atlantic. Some of his songs sound like American classics; others are typically poppy novelty songs. As he ran through his choice of songs for the night, taking impromptu requests from the audience, his musical range became apparent. Blues, country, reggae, soul, power ballads and novelty pop. Each song he sang – and he was in fine voice with a great band – was accompanied by anecdotes and stories, setting the song and its success in context. There were more name checks than Tom Jones on 'The Voice', including Tom Jones! Many of the songs he has written have been huge international hits, making reputations for the artists who have recorded them. He has star quality too. His songs could fill arenas, but we were privileged to be up close to him. At one point he moved through the audience, shaking hands, making contact. His songs are about memories too. They are story songs and those stories become part of the lives of his fans. He has worked with the best, both co-writers and performers, and, even though I was familiar with his work, there were still some surprises, when you realised that he was responsible for so many well known hits. He played for two hours without a break, with no encore. Here are some highlights from the set, which included a beautiful song sung in Spanish, in response to a request from a fan from Gibraltar: ‘I Don’t Want To Live Without Your Love’, a power ballad hit for Chicago. ‘Careless Heart’, written for Roy Orbison in the 1980s. ‘Freedom Come, Freedom Go’, recorded by The Fortunes. Incidentally, Freedom isn’t a philosophy; she’s the daughter of a debutante. ‘Good Morning World’, recorded by Blue Mink. ‘Gimme Dat Thing’, recorded by the Pipkins. I could picture Pan’s People dancing to this on 'Top of the Pops'. ‘Make Me an Island’, recorded by Joe Dolan. ‘Give a Little Love’, recorded by Aswad. He chose to sing this rather than ‘Don’t Turn Around’. ‘The Peacemaker’, a hit for him. ‘Smokey Factory Blues’, recorded by both Steppenwolf and Johnny Cash. ‘When I Need You’, co-written with Carole Bayer Sager and a huge hit for Leo Sayer. ‘I Don’t Want to Lose You’, co-written with Graham Lyle and a hit for Tina Turner. ‘When You Tell Me You Love Me’, a hit for Diana Ross. ‘I’m a Train’. ‘It Never Rains in Southern California’, revealed to have been written in rainy Fulham for all its West Coast vibe. ‘Free Electric Band’. ‘Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now’, a massive hit for Jefferson Starship. ‘The Air That I Breathe’, recorded by the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, Olivia Newton John and of course the Hollies. ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’, first recorded by Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdink, but later reworked as a duet for Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson. ‘99 Miles from LA’, co written with Hal David. ‘One Moment in Time’, Whitney Houston’s Emmy winning ballad, which got a standing ovation from the audience. Albert Hammond’s stories brought his songs and his career to life for us. I can even forgive him for Leapy Lee’s ‘Little Arrows’, now I know the story behind it. He met Leapy Lee when he was working as a bingo caller in Shepherd’s Bush. Albert was working as a potwasher when it hit the charts, listening to his song being played on a little transistor radio in the corner of the kitchen. The concert was a revelation and a celebration of a long career. His songs have their place in hearts and minds, memories and associations. Thank you, Albert Hammond.

Also at Memorial Hall, Sheffield

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Albert Hammond - Memorial Hall, Sheffield, 21/5/2014

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Interview (2017)
Albert Hammond - Interview
Multi-award winning performer and songwriter Albert Hammond rose to the challenge of releasing 'In Symphony', in which he reimagines some of his best known songs with the help of an orchestra. He speaks with Lisa Torem about fulfilling a lifelong dream and more
Interview (2015)



Legend II (2013)
Fantastic retrospective album from Albert Hammond, who has taken some of his best known songs from his fifty year career as both a singer and songwriter and reworked them

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