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OK, I know I'm supposed to be doing a Christmas Top 10 and I know this was the Song of the Day just a few weeks ago, but there has never been a better time to celebrate Jeff Buckley's version of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah.

I'm not one of those people who automatically dismiss anything to do with X Factor. Now that I'm a new dad I don't go out much on Saturday so I've been watching it a lot. Some of this year's singers have been pretty good and the best person probably won.

But I can't sit by and let Alexandra's (and for that matter JLS') versions of one of the best songs ever written go by without comment.

Stereophonics at Metro Radio Arena

By Reviews on Dec 13, 08 06:23 PM

By Helen Dalby

I'm nearly 30 years old and really should be beyond squealing at a rock star.

But the appearance at the Metro Radio Arena on Friday of the Stereophonics, fronted by Kelly Jones in his trademark little brown leather jacket, jeans and sunglasses, had me yelling like a banshee.

Christmas songs are bleedin' awful, aren't they? They might be pension plans for the likes of Noddy Holder, but by the time Christmas comes round you're generally completely sick of them.

Having said that, I reckon it's always nice to get in the festive period and I've set myself the challenge of finding 10 or maybe 12 properly good Christmas songs. So far I've got eight, so any suggestions are welcome (but remember, they have to be decent songs that you would listen to at any time of the year.)

To get us going is Badly Drawn Boy's Donna and Blitzen, a single off his soundtrack to the film About A Boy which is currently getting lots of play on the BBC's highlights of Christmas advert.

Aladdin, Sunderland Empire

By Reviews on Dec 12, 08 01:53 PM

Barbara Hodgson gets on her flying carpet to check out Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire Theatre, which plays until January 4.

It's been years since I was at a pantomime. I might know the main panto characters but I never remember how they connect in the story.

But then the story's probably the least important part: what holds panto together are the traditions and audience involvement, and everyone's an expert when it comes to hissing and booing.

Rush on Rock's Simon Rushworth reports back from Skilpknot at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena.

Nine masks, three drum kits, one clown and a decade of noise disturbance. What's 'Knot to like?

This was, according to Corey Taylor, the standout gig that Des Moines' finest had been waiting for almost 10 weeks into the latest leg of the All Hope Is Gone tour.

How can anyone not love the two-minutes-and-53-seconds of pop perfection that is Jimmy Mack?

Written - as so many great Motown songs were - by Holland/Dozier/Holland, Jimmy Mack was recorded in 1964, but not released because the Motown Quality Control team felt the recording was not suitable for putting out with the Vietnam War going on.

Fortunately, it was pulled from the vault two years later and released as a single in early 1967. (In 2005, Martha Reeves was elected as a city councilwoman in Detroit and has worked to improve things for young people in the city!)

Cinderella, The Journal Tyne Theatre

By Reviews on Dec 10, 08 05:38 PM

Sam Wonfor reviews Cinderella at The Journal Tyne Theatre... a panto soaked in a Geordie marinade and playing until January 3.

The team behind the current fun-time production The Journal Tyne Theatre grandly call themselves "The Newcastle Pantomime Company".

And so they should, because you'd struggle to find a panto more marinated in Geordie humour.

Written by Ronnie Wilkins and John Hurley, and originally recorded by Waylon Jennings on his 1967 album of the same name, Love Of The Common People is a belting tune.

Some of the lyrics might seem a bit hokey nowadays ("Tears from your little sister, cryin' 'cause she don't have a dress without a patch/For the party to go, but she'll know she'll get by, 'cause she's/Livin' in the love of the common people...), but it has a real humanity that has attracted a load of cover versions.

Paul Young's 1982 version isn't terrible (check out the video for some very Eighties dancing!) and it's also worth going on Youtube for Bruce Springsteen's take on the song during his Seeger Sessions tour and a reggae version by Nicky Thomas.


. Check out Waylon Jennings original version. The song has also been recorded by a wide variety of artists, including Elton John, Wanda Jackson, John Denver, Pat Boone, Stiff Little Fingers, Indigo Girls, and Paul Young.

I feel like I should whisper this, but it would seem that Take That have quietly become a really great pop band.

Sure, some of their early stuff was a bit ropey (and if you watch the videos they seem to be dressed like a very posh man's idea of what rent boys should be wearing.) But Back For Good was wonderful and since they've reformed and perhaps lost the pressure of being a mega boy-band, they appear to have blossomed.

Patience, Greatest Day and - best of all - Rule The World

suggest that Gary Barlow might just might have been a pop genius after all...

U.G.L.Y. by Daphne and Celeste may be one of the most immature songs of all time: I love it.

A friend of mine hates the song so much that she will leave the room when it's played and in truth it's hard to defend it. But I think it's hilarious, especially the bit when Daphne and Celeste list a load of insults, building to the climax of "Poindexter!"

As Daphne herself once noted: "Everyone is indeed ugly in their own special way." Arf.

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