Archive for the ‘Record Reviews’ Category

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.

More Light In The Darkness

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

On the day of an unspeakable tragedy in Florida, it’s worth reminding readers about some more light in the darkness…the upcoming album Together from the Explorer’s Club, and the fantastic already released single, California’ Callin’ Ya. Have a look at the video, to remind you of the sunshine and good side of America. And buy the single, to support a fantastic band (and get a nifty B-side which would have fitted well on Friends. )

The 50 Year Party

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Well, I missed the anniversary by one day, but yesterday was the 50th anniversary of a somewhat different Beach Boys album. You probably all know the story of this – Brian was working on Pet Sounds, and Capitol wanted product! The result is this festive album, ostensibly recorded live at a party, but actually recorded at Western Studio with friends and family added to give a festive atmosphere.

The song selection veers towards some of the novelty hits of the moment (Alley Oop, Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow, Hully Gully), but you can’t go too wrong with a dose of 60s icons Dylan and the Beatles. There are also some nice slower harmony numbers, especially Brian and Mike’s voices combining nicely on Devoted To You. All in all, this was never going to be a great innovative step forward (although in retrospect, it could be seen as the first “unplugged” album), but it is a lighthearted, entertaining release with a dash of humor that was needed as we headed into the deep tangled emotions of Pet Sounds and beyond.

Enter Pop Heaven

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Wasting Away And Wondering The world isn’t perfect in pop heaven – there is still heartbreak, break-ups and the anxieties of new love. But when your soundtrack is pure pop breeziness, everything still seems better, brighter, more perfect, and even the heartache comes with a silver lining.

This is the world of The School, and the finest sounds to come from the principality of Wales. Now on their third album, they have found the heavenly formula and it certainly doesn’t need tampering with. We’ve already had three tracks previewed from the album in two single/ EP releases so we were anticipating the September release of Wasting Away And Wondering and it delivers.

Every Day is a punchy opener which should top the charts easily in pop heaven, and any other place with taste, while Don’t Worry Baby (I Don’t Love You Any More) is the match and more of any Spector girl group production, balancing heartbreak with sheer beauty. There are many other gems here, so delve in, and check out the band’s webpage including some gorgeous videos.

The Sound Of Mercy

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Music from Love & Mercy.jpg For a while, it looked like the soundtrack of Love And Mercy could be the latest of the Beach Boys  and related lost albums -with word that it should be coming out soon, but some unknown issue delayed releasing it alongside the movie (which would have seemed logical). As it happened, it has ended up in the slightly delayed category, with a digital release on 14 August and CD following on Friday September 18.

Of course, there is nothing really new here from a Brian Wilson perspective -the new song, One Kind of Love was on No Pier Pressure, and only the live version of the title song would be any sort of addition for collectors. What we do get though is Atticus Ross’s music, much of it a mash-up of Brian’s tunes, which ranges from very satisfying (Silhouette) to music which is probably better appreciated in the context of the film (Losing It). The Bed Montage is also haunting, especially with the ghostly sounds of ‘Til I Die in one of the most moving scenes of the movie -reminding us why this one of the absolute great songs.

It’s not a groundbreaking new Brian Wilson or Beach Boys release, but as a soundtrack to a very good movie, it does stand well by itself and worth the investment.