Reviews36

To the reviews index
 

SARAH BRIGHTMAN -
Symphony
The Blue Note 2008
The diva turns into the grand dame she’s supposed to be – again.

To call a Sarah Brightman’s album “Symphony” is a bit ironic: everything the English singer does borders with opera – well, save for the hilarious disco of “(I Lost My Heart to A) Starship Trooper”. Yet her latest records, "La Luna" and “Harem”, as fine as they are sounded somewhat strange with the diva’s magic voice detached from the instrumental wrapping. Brightman, quite able to operate in the pop music framework, deliberately goes for the operatic. Thankfully, Sarah’s latest allows the lady get out of the stylistic trap and still stand her own ground.

She seems to have been listening to what classic female singers, like Brightman herself, do in metal ensembles, and it’s hardly a coincidence that the title track is a cover of SILBERMOND’s “Symphonie”, that there’s Lisa Gerrard’s “Sanvean” in the heart of the record, and that “Fleurs du Mal” marries chamber choir and London Symphony Orchestra to guitar riffs which provides a guilded cage for the crystal soprano. Still, the metal audience must be drawn to this album by “I Will Be With You”, now, when KISS’s Paul Stanley’s duetting with Sarah, a ballad a tad flat if compared to the version recorded with Chris Thompson for “Pokemon”. There are more duets on “Symphony”: a pathetic “Canto Della Terra” with Andrea Bocelli, the discountrified, celestial “Sarai Qui” – that’s Faith Hill’s “There You’ll Be” – with
Alessandro Safina, the tremulous “Pasion” with the Spanish countertenor Fernando Lima.

These, still, are overshadowed by “Let It Rain”; curiously, this long-overdue pop song in acoustic garb is followed by purely operatic “Attesa” from Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana”. And even though the closing bombast “Running” would suit Meat Loaf more, the enchanting vocals of Sarah Brightman easily scales both rock and synphonic heights to ram it all home.

****4/5
 

MIKE OLDFIELD -
Music Of The Spheres
Universal 2008
The bell ringer re-imagining of the Musica Universalis theory makes heard the sound from within.

It’s all about curvy shapes and grand schemes again, but when it’s Mike Oldfield’s idea of resonance it can’t be bad, and this, his newest orchestral work revisiting some of the tubular themes unfurls a rich tapestry. “Harbinger” sets the master’s serene acoustic against the anxious strings in a new age fashion with an occasional brass thunderbolt, while “Silhouette” marries Oldfield’s guitar to Long Long’s blissful piano, and “On My Heart” introduces Hayley Westenra’s ethereal vocals. The second part of the programme could do with some more energy, though there’s an immense delicacy in “Harmonia Mundi” and the folk undercurrent of “Aurora” is delightful. “Musica Universalis”, a sort of grand finale, takes the listener some 35 years back, yet there’s no Big Bang, so the hidden depths will make no head go vertigo. Still, the cosmic flight is a joyride.

****
 

GILLAN -
Live At The Marquee 1978
Angel Air 2008
The first official release of much-bootlegged historical document. The Man In Black pays a visit.

1978 was a transitional time for Ian Gillan who’d just roped in John McCoy with a prospect to turn the jazz-tinged IAN GILLAN BAND into something tighter and harder in order to please his old fans longing for the DEEP PURPLE time. Cue GILLAN, with the IGB keyboard master Colin Towns, old McCoy’s friend Steve Byrd on guitar and drummer Pete Barnacle. Having released the so called “Japanese Album”, the line-up tested their collective muscle on The Marquee club legendary stage. And it’s from these December 1978 dates that this recording, well-known to collectors, comes from. The sound quality is not the best, still – be warned, that’s an audience tape, – but now the players finally get paid, and the performance is worth it.

Here, the opening “Secret Of The Dance” comes on as hurricane-like as the closing “Lucille” which sees Ritchie Blackmore bowing before his former bandmate’s blistering vocal work, and of course, three of their tunes – romping “Woman From Tokyo”, “Child In Time” and “Smoke On The Water” – get an airing. But the real delight lies in less famous songs such as massively sprawling yet tightly grooving “I’m Your Man” and the jazzed-up “Back In The Game” that this short-lived line-up take to like hungry vultures, with unrivalled energy. No wonder Ian Gillan turned down the offer to join RAINBOW: the future shock was on the horizon.

****
 

THE WRONG OBJECT -
Stories From The Shed
Moonjune 2008
Adventurous drift from the calm Continental place: here be monsters.

Having worked with some of the finest jazz rock players such as the great late Elton Dean they recorded their previous album with, this Belgian quintet are blessed and at the same time urged to tirelessly explore the new vistas. And that’s what the bunch try to do here, ushering the listener in with a poweful slab of Eastern European punk of “Sonic Riot At The Holy Palate” yet straightening up the aural front once the palate vault is ready for all the things delicious a la “Sketches Of Spain”.

Experimentation never too far, there’s a delight in “Strangler’s Fig” that’s glances over its shoulder on the classic jazz era. The wild dance of Fred Delplancq’s sax and Jean-Paul Estievenart’s trumpet comes on all mesmerising like a dervish’s swirl, yet “Sheepwrecked” shows the ensemble’s soft underbelly with a storm brewing under the surface where Michel Delville’s guitar glides over Laurent Delchambre’s sensitive drum rolls, the leading force of the “Lifting Belly” spiritual jolt. The epitome of all the seemingly loose threads is a two-part epic “The Unbelievable Truth” with progressive rock rearing its groovy head to gloriously ram it all home. Here’s one hell of a trek which begs for more tread-ons.

*****
 

ATOMIC ROOSTER -
Homework
Angel Air 2008
The seed the mighty bird didn’t pick up on… but if it did there’d be a high flight.

The end of the ’70s saw the new rise of the classic ATOMIC ROOSTER line-up of organist Vincent Crane, singing guitarist John DuCann and drummer Paul Hammond, but it was too short – which was strange given the NWOBHM’s debt to the band. Yet with all the contractual problems, the hopes were high, and, from 1977 to 1981, DuCann set to write a set of demos that partly made it to the band’s eponymous 1980′s album. The rest is here, so this is not the ROOSTER: this is what could have become their LP, plus a couple of great singles to show the sound these recordings lack. As fine as they are, they’re the bone in need of Crane’s meaty keyboards.

One can easily imagine the creepy beast to be borne out of “Make Me Strong” or “C.O.D.” had they been fleshed out in more colorful garb than the tentative riffarama. More so, “Leopards’s Skin” is nearing “Devil’s Answer” and “Tomorrow Night”, both featured on the bonus ’45s in concert versions, while “Mind Over Matter” and “The Devil In Me” feel like pure infectious pop the ROOSTER would have hardly pump the evil in. In demo form, though, there’s a certain continuity which binds it all into a sort of a concept album with nightmare-ish “Cat The Wire” the most ATOMIC centerpiece, and “Open The Sky”, the dark ballad that re-projects the “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” motif. Unfortunately, history knows no “if’s”, and it makes no sense to think how massive ATOMIC ROOSTER might become if the essence of the demos were shaped into vinyl – yet to have them on plastic is great anyway.

**1/2
 

DELTA SAXOPHONE QUARTET -
Dedicated To You But You Weren’t Listening -
The Music Of Soft Machine
Moonjune 2007
Hushed brass, wild imagination: on, where even Robert Wyatt feared to tread, Hugh Hopper hopping onboard.

Four saxes are what it takes to render beatiful one wonderful idea of a record which works two ways. A casual listener is welcomed to an avant-garde kind of lounge bliss, while a SOFT MACHINE rider is in for a special treat that present these 14 cuts of the band’s tunes re-imagined by modern composers and laid out for the reeds quartet. Imagination leads into the deep here, with the deliate “Dedicated” built around the lead-in notes of Hugh Hopper’s titular number and the meister himself adding bass to “Facelift”, where Chris Caldwell’s baritone, Graeme Blevin’s soprano, Peter Whyman’s alto and Tim Holmes’ tenor gentle beasts sing in unison before running amok each on its own to get back in the pack again. Talk about blessing, then, as the London’s Kingston University resident ensemble’s other guest is MOTT THE HOOPLE’s organist Morgan Fisher providing otherworldly vocals and hurdy gurdy for “Outrageous Moon”, a handsome bastard son of “Moon In June” and “Out-Bloody-Rageous”. Program it all right with the stately “Noisette”, and the consise alternative version of “Third” comes into the light.

The most quirky the drift gets when the foursome harness their own wind with the classic spirit to fill the sails of “You”. Yet while the soprano solo of “Everything Is You” whispers Faure, the burlesque jive of “Mousetrap” removes all suspicions that the players take it all all too seriously. That’s the secret of all the joy here, so there’s no excuse now for those who weren’t listening the first time around. Bravissimo!

*****
 

STACKRIDGE -
The Forbidden City
Angel Air 2008
Fooling about on Fools’ Day 2007 can’t get more elegant than this. Who’s fooling who, then?

It’s not so much of a surprise that in their quirky way STACKRIDGE didn’t have a live album out during the band’s first lifespan in the ’70s, so this one’s a blessing – and a curse, too. With the legacy burden on their collective shoulder not to be shaken off, there’s still a stir in the self-reverential delivery, with Crun Walter’s bass punctuating the message of the opening “Fundamentally Yours”. Vaudeville motifs abound, a pinch of nostalgic reverie in “Fish In A Glass” adding to the effect, that’s fun of the high caliber, indeed – just how it’s ought to be on April 1st with the band whose very name have been a synonym for mirth to so many people who missed this bunch while they were away. Maybe that’s the reason for bringing on-stage the vibrant “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” which Andy Davis and James Warren cooked up as THE KORGIS – but then, it’s close in its mood to the classic “Syracuse The Elephant” hung on Mutter Slater’s lyrical flute.

The arrangements are complex, yet the band takes it all easy, and vocal harmonies of the likes of “Friendliness” hit the soft spot of even the hardened listener. During the second part of the show, though, right after the thunder of “Lummy Days”, the drift gets too mellow for such an extravagant ensemble – the influence of two ladies on violins in the line-up, perhaps? But if it’s a bit unlikely, nothing that STACKRIDGE have been doing seems likely, and live takes on “Slark” and “The Last Plimsoll” are nothing but brilliant. They’re surely still nobody’s fools, and now, once the dice are unloaded, is the time for a new album.

****1/3
 

TOKYO ROSE -
Tokyo Rose
Tokyo Rose 2007
Toil and trouble? Rather a reason for a rhyme! Get pricked on the thorns.

In today’s landscape of pop music with a nerve, this English band must be talked about in reverential tone – but they aren’t, and the reason may be that TOKYO ROSE sound as modern and still refuse to be a part of the past. Why, when there’s the future? Their stubborness is fabulous: while the quartet’s MySpace lofts are being perpetually deleted, one by one, the veterans find it funny enough to lay it all out in the sharp shuffle of “My Place”. Three years after the "Tokyo Rose EP" signalled the combo’s return to the radar, Derek Buckham and his cohorts follow it up with the first real full-lenghther, full of bristling punky energy and a pinch of a post punk shoegazing, so delicious in “Devil’s Run” and “Phone”. “We’re going to get ya” is no vain threat, but there’s a catch: longing to spill it all out, the band put in some fine songs that stylistically stick out like a sore thumb such as “Go For Gold” with its neo-classic metal guitar and the infectious rockabilly of “Party Party”. Yet when it comes to the two-part ballad “Dry Your Eyes” the eyes go wet. That’s the nerve!

****
 

STRAPPS -
Live At The Rainbow 1977
Angel Air 2008
In time to reclaim their legacy, the forgotten heroes of heaviness step up lively.

Unfashionable, they fell between hard rock and the wrong times, tapping into Spinal Tap way before the glove was smelled by the masses, and they were massive in their bluesy stomp. They were STRAPPS, a concoction of Australian belter Ross Stagg and drummer Mick Underwood who served time with many a great ensemble including those with future DEEP PURPLE members, and QUATERMASS this quartet can be thought as a continuation of – which by the mid-’70s was out of favor. Still, the bunch knew how to rock. Opening with tight but loose “Pain Of Love”, the band swing on Joe Read’s bass riffs with Stagg cutting it with guitar ever so sharply, and Noel Scott’s organ beefs up the groove for the audience to get hooked on the spot.

Their goal might be to promote the STRAPPS’ second album, “Secret Damage”, and here the band perform six out of the LP’s seven tracks, but the guys were confident enough – not a feat with tunes so infections – to deliver one unreleased song, funky “Understand It”, featuring Underwood’s blistering work. There’s enough commercial gloss in the likes of “Child Of The City”, but who listened? Surely, not punks who could relate to “Down To You”. Surely Ian Gillan for whom the foursome opened that night and who snatched his old pal Mick for GILLAN and thus effectively put an end to STRAPPS before they fell out of grace with amazing wigouts like cosmically orgastic “I Wanna Know”. And before deep-felt ballads like “Violent Love”, wonderfully linked on-stage with the charged “Secret Damage”, became fashionable again. All of this sounds rather modern three decades on, so it’s quite a time for the band’s studio albums proper re-issue, three bonus tracks on this CD hinting at some treasures in the vaults.

****4/5
 

THE TREAT -
Phonography
Rockular 2007
As retro as it sounds, it’s all about the future sounds.

Four years on since their spectacular debut, the Oxford trio might be in the same place geographically, but they’ve moved on music-wise. While most of the modern rock crop take on the superficial gloss of the ’70s, this bunch dig deeper to the basics: the opening Eastern-flavored motif captures a listener by the throat before dipping into the swampy riffage of “Fanfare For The King” with a neat neo-classic lace woven into its fabrics. But even this doesn’t prepare the ears for the “Haitian Morning Dress” pure, harmonica-oiled country blues as well as for vibrant instrumental “Effervescence”.

The song titles say it all: with all the seriousness of the music, the humor pumps the gears here, but there’s no showing-off from the band leader Michael Hyder who sets a perfect gutar-and-voice unison in the edgy “Make You Crawl” and has a good time in the infectious romp of “Roaming”, it’s the old-school lessons learnt-well and re-imagined for the new age, and what a groover the dynamics-exploring “Bolivian Diary” is! Growing on with every spin, “Phonography” is one of the best albums of the year.

****2/3
 

RICK WAKEMAN -
Amazing Grace
Classic Media 2007

See the DVD

Old age blurring into the new millenium: inspirational hymns played by the too-relaxed maestro.

Over the years, there have been a few classical themed interpretation albums from Rick Wakeman, both secular and spiritual, but this one, accompanying the DVD, sees the keyboard wiz setting mundane into the celestial. Here, the veteran rarely keeps the balance and tends to either underplay, like in the title track too studiously sung by his daughter Jemma, or overplay like in Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”, and uses the sustain pedal too much – but the nature of the music and the purity of the delivery moves one’s soul anyway.

All of this immaculately comes together in the majestic piano of “Glad That I Live I Am” and “Morning Has Broken” the version of which Wakeman first recorded aeons ago with Cat Stevens and now it’s improved like a good wine. And even though the synthesizer-led tunes work worse, “Jesu, Lover Of My Soul” comes off brilliant, not overshadowed by the aching “Nearer, My God, To Thee”, and elegiac mood serves “Hills Of The North, Rejoice” all too nicely, yet never more so than in “The Day Thou Gavest” that Rick incorporated into “Anne Boleyn” way back in 1973. So there’s a continuity in this album, that’s what the real amazing grace is.

****
 

SHIRLEY BASSEY -
Get The Party Started
Decca 2007
The Dame gets hipper by the year, the lame stick out attentive ear.

Since the PROPELLERHEADS collaboration on “History Repeated”, it’s seemed inevitable the modern club scene would catch up with the lounge diva, but that’s strange it’s taken 10 years for such an album to appear. Mostly the staples of the singer’s repertoire, the rocking “Big Spender” in its 40th-year-run included, the record features a sympathetic production from the various teams – with varying results. Fortunately, at 70, Ms Bassey shows no sign of aging: her take on the title track surpasses Pink’s one, the vocal grandeur immaculately melding with the beat track by NEVER THE BRIDE who supplied the Dame with another new song, the majestic “The Living Tree” adorned with Clem Clempson‘s guitar solo.

As the record progresses, though, the grooves become tedious and distracting from the tunefulness of tentatively sure-fire compositions like Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive” and Lionel Richie’s “Hello”. In the ballads department, Cagedbaby-supervised “This Is My Life” comes as a tear-jerking winner, while “Kiss Me Honey, Honey” feels too relaxed in its bossa nova guise. Still, many sides of the Welsh diamond are shown here, and possibly more brilliant projects lie ahead. Long may the Dame live.

****1/3
 

THE BRITISH BLUES QUINTET -
Live In Glasgow
Angel Air 2007
What’s in a name? This time you can judge a book by the cover. But there’s more than only covers.

Not a loose bunch of jammers but the tight band, that’s what’s striking about this supergroup whose collective CV covers a great part of the British blues territory. The BBQ are Maggie Bell on vocals, her STONE THE CROWS pal Colin Allen on drums, Colin Hodgkinson who cut his teeth with Alexis Korner and played, among others, with WHITESNAKE, on bass, former Keef Hartley sidekick, Miller Anderson, on guitar, and none other than Zoot Money on keyboards. With no studio cuts under their belt, the band go for the throat with a fine selection of the blues classics and their own songs, and here, not knowing their engineer is recording the performance, the BBQ are as natural as it gets.

The rollicking shuffle of “What You Got Is So Good” is a perfect tone-setter, but this band know all the sides of their title genre to mold it the 12-bar-purest in “Penicillin Blues”, to countrify the groove with Anderson-delivered “Tamp ‘Em Up Solid” and “San Francisco Bay Blues” which Hodgkinson does alone over his four-string acrobatics, and to roll it out jazz-way with Money’s “It Never Rains But It Pours” where Zoot’s organ and Miller’s guitar swing the joint while ripping it up. Surprisingly, when the beat changes for “Wishing Well”, the combo sound thinner, the “Hasta la vista” remark from Maggie making the serious message of the FREE smash frivolous to link it up with the light “That’s The Way I Feel”.

There’s a lot of humor with this ensemble – up to the Grieg quote in “Houston” – and they’re equally powerful either waxing lyrical as in Anderson’s “Fog On The Highway” or having a blast in the vocals-passed-around “Respect Yourself”. These are the inherent features of the British blues, and till combinations such as the BBQ are possible, the great tradition is alive.

****2/3
 

VARIOUS ARTISTS -
Let’s Get Stoned Again -
A Tribute To The Rolling Stones
Store For Music 2007
Gathering no moss, the old nuggets get turned one more time.

Tribute albums are a ubiquitous commodity these days, and producer Nick Smith had one hell of a job finding the performers who could do the Jagger-Richards catalogue justice. He succeeded, but only a handful of those who submitted tracks to this record have put their soul into it and made the classics their own. The first and foremost on this front is the old STONES’ friend, Chris Farlowe, with his tremendous reading of “Paint It, Black” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” full of pull and swing. Almost the same groove propels Paul DiAnno‘s beasty attack on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, and “Honky Tonk Women”, sung by heavyweight Nicky Moore who shows his lyrical side on “Ruby Tuesday”. As if to balance it, FM’s Steve Overland renders “Angie” too cheesy, and Chris Thompson fails to convey the sneer of “19th Nervous Breakdown”. And not that Doogie White and Leo Hawkes did the job wrong, but why bother with “Not Fade Away” and “It’s All Over Now” which THE ROLLING STONES covered themselves?

Still, there’s a logic in this collection: having listened to this, one will reach for the original versions to enjoy them ever more.

**
 

MAGGIE BELL & MIDNIGHT FLYER -
Live Montreux July 1981
Angel Air 2007

See the DVD

When the blues come knockin’ at the wrong time, they might be led astray.

They didn’t fly high, but that night the blues brigade were over the top for the Switzerland crowd to enjoy. The problem was the band sped the blues up to make it rock and roll, yet the early ’80s treated the genre bad, and even a singer as great as Maggie Bell found it hard to do what she does best, and with the group as good as this. Still, they sound like winners, and do so by the sheer power they attack the hurricane-like “Too Much To Lose” and the opening “Hey Boy” with, Tony Stevens’ bass chopping the air for Ant Glynn to thread the guitar riffs on.

More soul to the mill with “Love Games” written and propelled by the drummer, Dave Dowle, that’s where the groove seems most right. But it’s when Chris Parren’s piano leads the heartfelt ballad “Rough Trade”, that MIDNIGHT FLYER soar. And it’s when they go into the deep with “Penicillin Blues” after a bass solo take on Monti’s Csardas, that the real power of the ensemble strikes to celebrate the spirit in the company of Taj Mahal and Albert Collins who were on the bill that night and came wailing with Maggie for two pieces, including infectious “Chain Gang”, each. Talk about the unrealized potential yet, without this recording, the history of modern British blues can’t be complete.

***1/2
 

JOHN FOGERTY -
Revival
Fantasy 2007
The pure faith’s restoration with a tamed spirit of prairie rebellion.

“You can’t go wrong with that Creedence song”, goes a refrain of, er, “Creedence Song”. John Fogerty’s right with that, though he never really broke up with rock ‘n’ roll which seemingly is being revitalised here. What he’s back with, indeed, is Fantasy, the label the veteran’s been fighting against for more than 30 years. Now, “Zanz Kant Danz”, isn’t an option, the belligerence factor not as prominent on this record, and even the anti-war sentiment comes off well-hidden.

Instead, there’s an enviable ardor in the idealistic optimism of “Don’t You Wish It Was True” and youthful serenity of gospel-based “River Is Waiting”. A deja vu feeling may pay a visit all too often, but there’s no room for self-parody: Fogerty can’t be anyone other than himself, even though “Summer Of Love” presents him in the CREAM guise. Easier still, John plunges for the scintillating swamp rockabilly that’s “It Ain’t Right” which ends abruptly only to gain speed and break into “I Can’t Take It No More”, an almost atomic result jolting close to “Travelin’ Band”. Emotionally, critical mass is not quite reached, yet the album’s title feels justified.

***3/4
 

BABYSHAMBLES -
Shotter’s Nation
Parlophone 2007
The snotty’s little poem book which weaves into yer psyche.

That’s a paradox. Pete Doherty’s more exposed a scandalous lad now but it’s Music, with a capital “M”, that everybody expects from the fella. Talk about THE LIBERTINES’ legacy, then. His new band, BABYSHAMBLES, aren’t up to the standard yet, though their second album feels too good to overlook.

The opener, “Carry On Up The Morning”, so elegantly throws a listener back into the tuneful ’60s that one can’t be un-sympathetic towards Pete. The same goes for the follow-up, “Delivery”, two-and-a-half minutes of top-notch garage rock. But then there’s alienation when, in “UnBiloTitled”, Doherty poisonously, if gently, tells his lover to fuck off, and plays a fragile Jim Morrison in “Crumb Begging Bughead”. Often, he’s brusque but acoustically delicate in “Unstookie Titled”, while “There She Goes” shows vaudeville-like playfulness: these mood swings make the singer much more human than tabloids want him to be.

Still, Doherty knows his weaknesses, and taking bows with a tender ballad, “Lost Art Of Murder”, is not accidental. He knows he’s loved and there are hopes heaped on him, and now these big hopes are starting to get real.

***1/2
 

RACING CARS -
Second Wind
Angel Air 2007
They do records, don’t they? Once in a while, and right on the money, though not one for the money.

It’s becoming a good pattern for old, broken up bands to get back, get in the gear on the road and then get to the studio to emerge with an album picking up where they left off many years ago – like EAGLES or their British soft rock counterparts, RACING CARS. Rejuvenated with the success of their live CD and DVD, Morty & Co sound like they mean it, insistent piano line of the “The Wrong Road” hardening into a welcoming riff. And there’s a surprising lot of riffage on the album, “Cuckoo Spit” cutting as sharp as it gets, while a fine rocking swing in the infectious questioning of “Waving Not Drowning” sits alongside delicate “Hate To See A Woman Cry” with Graham Williams’ acoustic jazzy solo. With no filler material, “Second Wind”, ready to fill the FM waves, is better than anyone could expect. And if anthemic “The Heart Of You” feels too cheesy against the rest, “Bolt From The Blue”, a top-notch follow-up to the band’s smash “They Shoot Horses”, more than makes up for it. As a whole, the warm touch of the album can make your day.

****2/3
 

KT TUNSTALL -
Drastic Fantastic
Relentless 2007
A zoom out of the gloom, the Scottish flower in the fool bloom takes the whole world in her room.

Maybe Kate got bored to be playing a nu-urban-folk princess or she’d like to embrace the wider audience, but here she is, different yet not as much as her new album’s title suggests. Wrapped in a full band cloth but still acoustically driven, Tunstall unleashes her pop side, kickstarting the proceedings with an electric take on the fans’ fave, “Little Favours”, and holds her head up almost to the end, where it all goes awry with a couple of back-to-the-roots sad ruminations on life. Quite an opposite is “Hold On”, an optimistic slab of Latin dance resignation that etches a “world will turn if you’re ready or not” notion into one’s subconscious. Still, the in-your-face approach comes as an option, and in “White Bird” the singer sounds very vulnerable, almost Nick Drake-like, while “Funny Man” radiates friendly warmth. She’s a bit detached in the upbeat ditty “Saving My Face” with just a little touch of the rasp that makes Tunstall so close to the listener’s heart. It’s a rare entity, a big-time artist as natural. And there’s a bigger time ahead.

****
 

MOTT THE HOOPLE -
Fairfield Halls, Live 1970
Angel Air 2007
Rough an’ ready but still not duded up: the earliest concert tapes of the brain capers.

Their rawness have always shone through the glam, and if the roughness was the quintet’s quality marker, this recording is the best one can get, especially if the one’s a fan, as the fans have been hunting for these tapes for decades. So here they are, officially out for the first time and remastered under drummer Dale Griffin’s eye. Guy Stevens, the mad shadow behind the band, considered the tapes below par, and was wrong, at least in retrospective. But it’s much more than a mere nostalgie factor which is at play here, with a relenltess energy oozing out of every piece that follows the opener, “Ohio”, the only previously released track on the offer, where Ian Hunter does a great Neil Young impersonation.

Overend Watts’ bobbing bass propels the hairy drive of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen” which comes linked to the red-hot potpourri of the evergreens such as “Keep A-Knockin’”, “I Got A Woman” and “Shake, Rattle & Roll”: so much for the influences. Yet there’s a shaggy soulness to “No Wheels To Ride” with Verden Allen’s organ interspersed with the singer’s piano splashes and topped with Mick Ralphs solemn guitar solo, and a vertiginous cinematicity in “Thunderbuck Ram”. Altogether, it’s a charged set, so there’s a little surprise the punters, beckoned by such an electric storm, stormed the stage during the performance. It’s a rather short show, and a handful of bonus tracks from five months later gives the package the weight – which, fully-fledged it doesn’t need so much.

*****
To the next reviews page
Top

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>