Archive for the ‘Record Reviews’ Category

A Poignant Adios

Friday, June 16th, 2017

GlenCampbellAdios.jpg Glen Campbell’s slow decline due to Alzheimer’s is in many ways as sad as those pop and rock stars who check out too early. At least fans have been able to say goodbye to him in person during his farewell concerts, and there have been a number of farewell records. Adios, released last Friday, is a fitting final goodbye – recorded after the final concerts, and including songs that Campbell had always loved and never recorded.

Fittingly, one-third of the album included songs written by the masterful Jimmy Webb -all from Webb’s 1993 Suspending Disbelief album. There is a fairly fun cover of Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice ,It’s All Right, and heavyweights Vince Gill and Willie Nelson lend a hand. Overall, it’s a professional and poignant testament to Campbell’s talent and legacy.

Getting Out Of London

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Home Counties With album and compilation titles like So Tough, Good Humor and You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone, it’s not hard to see where Saint Etienne’s musical allegiance lies -even if sometimes they may seem more focused on the dancefloor than our beloved Brian Wilson.

They have also focused a lot on their beloved London, but for their latest record, they move just a little bit further afield to the Home Counties, the mix of rural areas and dormitory towns around the English capital, which also the title of their new album. As with much of Saint Etienne’s music, there is an element of nostalgia, but possibly for a past that never was.

As with much of their music, this is classic pop for the dancefloor. They have gifted us with 19 tracks and basically a double-album’s worth of music, but the immediate highlights for me include Whyteleafe and the atmospheric Sweet Arcadia. After more madness in London last night, What Kind Of World seems particularly poignant, asking “what kind of world is it we’re living in” and suggesting “let’s find another planet.” That may be a bit tricky, but for now Home Counties is a good substitute to escape to.

Yes They’re Back. No Ti Amo

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Image result for lucky soul no ti amo This blog has had a lot of love for Lucky Soul and seven years has been too long to wait for new music from them. But they are back, and you can read what has happened to them, and how they are responding to the very different world of 2017 (and pre-order their new album).  Meanwhile, they have released their first single, the reflective disco stormer No Ti Amo to remind us why we missed them so much. Like their best songs, you can dance to it at the party, bop along to it in the car and reflect on it at home.

The Revolution We Need

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Image result for a kind revolution Paul Weller’s record-making career now spans 40 years, and while there is a fair musical distance from 1977s In The City to Weller’s latest record, most of his work is connected by power, melodicism and also a desire to progress and not be constrained by the previous record..this is the person who broke up his band at the height of their success to “progress” his music.

Weller’s albums in the since 2008 have received quite a bit of acclaim for being willing to experiment and move beyond the “mod” rock boundaries. Weller has also been known to be quite political, especially in his Style Council, but his new revolution of his latest record moves the revolution from the political to the personal -to the radical idea that one may have to change oneself.

So his latest record, with a title reflecting that the world could do with a lot more kindness, sets out this new world mood as well his ongoing musical progression. It’s a bit more gospel-ly, a bit more melodic, even a little more hearkening back to the Style Council, but it is also testament to Weller’s ongoing drive for quality, meaning and good music. There are 10 solid tracks, with the picks being Long Long Road, The Cranes Are Back and The Impossible Idea which all move the album to an almost transcendental level with a mixture of hope and self-reflection.

Sounds Of Christmas 2016

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

In WinterProduct Details

I have two recommendations to add to your seasonal album collection in what has been a good year for Christmas music. First of all, Kacey Musgraves, who should be known to Brian Wilson fans for Guess You Had To Be There from Brian’s latest album, has released her first holiday album, A Very Kacey Christmas which promises a Christmas classic. There are some sassy versions of Christmas chestnuts, but the real meat is the originals, especially Christmas Makes Me Cry, which takes the season to a deep, emptional level.

Katie Melua may have less direct Brian Wilson connections, but her well-crafted pop may well already have a few fans on this page. Her Christmas album, In Winter, takes her to her Georgian roots with the Gori Women’s Choir and it is a lovely combination, with some truly transcendental moments, particularly on the more traditional songs such as the Ukrainian carol The Little Sparrow and Nunc Dimitis.

Toppermost Of The Poppermost

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys most significant single release- Good Vibrations, the only song released by the group that topped both the UK and USA charts, and marked the high point of the group’s commercial success. Musically, it was a bridge between Pet Sounds high production values and the modular approach that Brian would follow in attempting to put together SMiLE. We all know that story didn’t end well (at least for another 37 years), but for one shining moment, the Beach Boys were toppermost of the poppermost, with a song that was both ere-defining and timeless.

Brian Is Live

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Brian Wilson & Friends Brian Wilson continues his prolific later years release schedule, with a live album presaging both the No Pier Pressure album and the collaboration with Beach Boys Al and Blondie that has extended into the “never ending” Pet Sounds 50 tour. While there is nothing new here, the record is a nice testament to the ongoing ability of Brian to tour and share his music with fans around the world. More than that, the new songs fit in will with the rest of album and confirm Brian as an ongoing creative force.

The only regret is the non-inclusion (and non-performance) of the fabulous From There To Back Again, which would have been a wonderful showcase for both Al and Brian. But you can’t have everything, and in this age, we have a lot more of Brian than we deserved or ever expected.

50 Years Of The Beatles Weapon

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Revolver.jpgToday marks the 50th anniversary of the UK release of Revolver, the 7th Beatles album. Back in 1966 , it may have seemed something of a natural progression that could be seen in all the Beatles albums since Please Please Me, with a little help from Messers Wilson and Dylan. Looking back, it actually feels like a more innovative record than Sgt. Pepper and a landmark in rock innovation, as the basic guitar and drums pop rock evolved into psychedelia (I’m Only Sleeping), harder rock (She Said, She Said and others) , balladry (Here, There And Everywhere), soul (Got To Get You Into My Life) and even into songs eschewing anything conventional in rock with the classical (Eleanor Rigby) , Indian (Love You To) and experimental (Tomorrow Never Knows). George even gets three songs for the first and only time on a single Beatle record, and yet, even in all experimentation, there remains a commitment to melody and meaning. No-one may be able to definitely say which is the best Beatles record, but in retrospect, this was the biggest step forward musically for them , and for rock music.

Another Dexy Record Show

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Dexy’s records have been about as rare as…competent politicians, shall we say. It’s now 5 official albums in 36 years, but the good news is that their new record Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul, comes only four years after their last. As the title may indicate, this is a covers album -a project that seemed to have started with traditional Irish music, but expanded into covering some pop standards, and even the more modern How Do I Live.

If the covers concept may seem a bit of a cop-out, the attraction of the album is that the soulful, passionate nature of Dexy’s music is very much intact, and works well in the context of traditional music and classic pop. If the title may seem a bit confusing, mixing country, soul and Irish, let the record show that the soul is what stands out. And bar the occasional overwrought vocal, this is a record that may seem very out of time, but in it’s retro, nostalgic way, very much needed in these times.

It Really Is Time To Get Together

Friday, June 24th, 2016

The Explorers Club's profile photoIt’s already a cliche to say it’s been a tough year with more bad news than good -yet there have been a few shards of great joy. Brian Wilson performing his greatest work 50 years after it’s release is one; Leicester City winning the English Premier League is another. And now you can add to the list the release today of The Explorers Club third album, Together.

Readers of this blog will know my love of their first two albums, Freedom Wind and Grand Hotel. The quality of these two records certainly made the release of Together a much awaited event, and I am very glad to report that it doesn’t disappoint. While the record remains firmly faithful to the Brian Wilson sound, there is a harmonic quality to the album that takes it well past the realms of simply copying the California to something that is both transcendent and much needed in these disharmonious times. A reference point may be the Beach Boys album Sunflower, and this is to the extent that this record is very much the equal of the 1970 Beach Boys fan favorite album.

One can see the love and care that has been put it into all eleven of the main tracks of the album, but some of the standouts include California’s Callin’ Ya, simply one of the great tunes of this decade and with that ethereal quality similar to From There To Back Again, and Before I’m Gone,  with it’s fabulous ending. Quietly and Don’t Waste Her Time are timeless pop singles, while the title track will rightfully get you singing along in your head, even if it isn’t playing.

This year, including today’s events, we have heard a lot about a world that seems to be drifting apart. So now, more than ever, it really is time to get Together.