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Bop Till You Drop
Bop Till You Drop
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Where it all came together, 9 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Bop Till You Drop (Audio CD)
This is where it all came together for Ry Cooder. After a string of good to very good solo albums and a stellar career as a session man – they are really two different Cooders – with this album, he got everything spot-on, and it’s arguable that he’s never quite reached this height since. You know what you’re going to get from the perfectly-photographed cover shot onwards, and there are no disappointments. As always, he has an unmatched gift for mining the American songbook, from the obscure Elvis b-side Little Sister that opens it, with its fanfare riff, to the soulful, tear-jerking closer, I Can’t Win, achingly sung by Bobby King. There’s even a self-penned contribution, Down in Hollywood (“better hope that you don’t run out of gas”), and it’s one of the highlights.

Ry is backed here by a stand-out crew of musicians, including the ubiquitous Jim Keltner – surely second only to Hal Blaine as a go-to session drummer, if indeed he’s second – and Jackson Browne’s longstanding shotgun, David Lindley. I think that’s him playing lead on the instrumental, I Think It’s Going to Work out Fine. Chaka Khan sings on two tracks, and his male backing singers are superb, especially King. And of course there’s Ry’s own playing: he’s a true virtuoso, and some of his work, not just here, is staggering. This isn’t a 4.5 or 4.9-star album: it’s 5, all the way.


Spilt Milk
Spilt Milk
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Nice album, 9 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: Spilt Milk (Audio CD)
This is a Nice album, from someone who's now something of a veteran, making music since the 80s. If you know him, it's probably through the Weather Prophets. I saw him twice last year, supporting Ultimate Painting, and it was good to see him back - not that he's ever really been away, just drifted below the horizon now and then. The connection with UP is here on this album too, in the shape of James Hoare, one of its halves, who plays a major role: lead guitar, bass, keyboards, backup vocals, occasional drums, and recording. Consequently, the album has a lot of UP trademarks, notably Hoare's note-bending guitar counter-melodies, so reminiscent of Sterling Morrison's on late-period Velvet Underground sets. Other musicians include Susan Milanovic in the Mo Tucker role of stand-up drummer.

There are no real flat spots on Spilt Milk, and it's an album you can come back to and reliably enjoy, over and over. It won’t challenge you, but it’ll make you smile, not just with it’s music, but with the words as well. There are some of Astor’s characteristic lyric flourishes here and there: "I can't move for artists bleeding" - he must live in Hoxton. But there are few really high spots either. A glaring opportunity is missed with Mr Music, previously released as a single. Live, it's punchy, instantly memorable, and veers close to rock, but here, it sounds like a rather languid demo (you can find more rousing live versions on YouTube). It's crying out for some more assertive drumming and double-tracked vocals, both of which are used effectively elsewhere, such as on Very good lock and the excellent closer, Oh you.

So all in all a three-and-a-half-star album which might have been more. It rounds up, anyway. And I'll be sure to catch him live again. That’s where he’s at his best.


Killjoy
Killjoy
Price: £12.54

3.0 out of 5 stars Better next time, 4 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Killjoy (Audio CD)
Released in 2013, this album came with high expectations attached, after her previous two musical collaborations with her husband, Black Francis, as Grand Duchy. She was if anything the dominant partner on both of those, and they rank as some of his best work in years - maybe since 'Bluefinger'. She's a major talent, then. So it's a shame that, on this record, she hasn't reached those same heights. At just under 30 minutes long, there seems to have been a lack of quality material available. Indeed, only one track of the eight, the excellent Pure O, stands alongside her Duchy work. It features Francis on acoustic and Kim Deal-style bass, but that's not the reason - it's just a tremendous track. It'll remind you of Garbage. There are good moments elsewhere, but this is not an album of end-to-end quality. We hope for better next time.


Ultimate Painting
Ultimate Painting
Offered by YouWantIt-WeGotIt
Price: £17.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars and espouses one of the 60s' great virtues: wonderful songwriting, 9 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Ultimate Painting (Audio CD)
I came to this album via Mazes, a band I discovered last year, when their second album came out: UP are a duo, consisting of Mazes' mainman, Jack Cooper, and James Hoare, from Veronica Falls. All three outfits wear their largely 1960s influences on their sleeves, and here they really come to the fore. So UP: a mere side project? Far from it. To these ears, this album outstrips anything the duo's parent bands have done, and espouses one of the 60s' great virtues: wonderful songwriting. Every track here is a little gem, and the whole adds up to something approaching perfection. The opening bars make you think you're listening to Lou Reed and Mo Tucker, but then those sublime melodies and structures kick in, and before long, you're in earworm territory, and hearing echoes of the Beatles and Lennon (who is namechecked twice), the Byrds/Crosby, Beetlebum-period Blur, even Syd Barrett. The VU flavour returns on Central Park Blues, which gives us a What Goes On-style instrumental track with a commentary apparently relating a day during Mazes' infamous snowed-in stay in New York (city and state) to record their third album. Riverside features haunting thrift-store keyboards, Ten Street and Rolling in the Deep End give us back some male harmony singing, an endangered species in rock music recently, while Three Piers' extraordinary melody makes it the standout, for me. The album concludes with Winter in your Heart, its most Lennonesque track, all soaring harmonies and wide-scope melody.
Is it possible for Hoare and Cooper to carry on with this project while keeping their main bands going? We can only hope. It would be a shame to lose any of them. This is the best songwritten album I've heard for many years. You've got to be good to get to this standard; to sustain it takes genuine brilliance. They're very close.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Jan. 2015
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It's an inner tube! As long as a it fits, and inflates, there's not going to be a problem.


At The Down-Turned Jagged  Rim Of The Sky
At The Down-Turned Jagged Rim Of The Sky
Price: £14.50

4.0 out of 5 stars If you like White Chalk-era PJ, 11 Sept. 2014
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If you like White Chalk-era PJ, the Cocteau Twins, early Cure, later Sonic Youth, chances are you'll like this too. A friend tipped me off about this artist, and I'm glad she did: it's a real discovery.


Paradise Life Design Floral Bloom Skull Grateful Dead Psychedelic Attractive Hard iPhone 4/4s Case Cover
Paradise Life Design Floral Bloom Skull Grateful Dead Psychedelic Attractive Hard iPhone 4/4s Case Cover

5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Dead heads, 10 Feb. 2014
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Phone covers are like kids' names: there are thousands, but it's hard to find one that suits. Happily, this one, based on the Kelly/Mouse 'Skull & Roses' design for the Grateful Dead's second live album, hits the spot dead centre (so to speak). It's impressed even people who have never heard of the Dead. A good buy!


Black Pudding
Black Pudding
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £7.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trade-mark, 13 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Black Pudding (Audio CD)
Jon Landau one famously wrote of Bob Dylan that he'd buy a recording of Dylan just breathing hard, and Mark Lanegan's voice can have that effect too. Personally, I'd pay to hear him read the weather forecast. Not that he's breathing all that hard on this one. It's a two-hander, featuring Duke Garwood, who played on Blues Funeral, on various instruments; of the 12 tracks, the first and last are Garwood finger-pickin' solo pieces. This is a 'quiet' Lanegan album, then, though it contains a lot of the motifs familiar to Mark fans everywhere: vocals that shiver the timbers, from the trademark growl to the Jeff Buckleyesque high register, biblical imagery, and the Bubblegum drum machine. If you want to convert someone to the greatest rock singer of his generation, you probably won't use this - there isn't the raw excitement to offset the darker shades - but if you're already a believer, you'll be fine with this.


Oddballs
Oddballs
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inexhaustible, 13 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Oddballs (Audio CD)
Just when you thought Frank Black was no more (long live Black Francis), out pops this collection of outtakes from the seemingly inexhaustible vaults of Black. But 'outtakes' hardly does justice to this set; how great tracks get left off official releases (they've all done it) is a complete mystery to those in the stands rather than on the pitch. Judging by the personnel listing, which includes, praise be! the gifted Lyle Workman on lead, most of these tracks date from the late 90s: Cult of Ray-Yellow Album time, a period when he produced, in succession, his worst (the former) and best - certainly best-sounding - solo albums.

So here we have some fully realised tracks, such as the outstanding Can I Get a Witness, which goes straight on to my 2013 best-of compilation, and features the best use of the e-bow ever; Man of Steel and the Tom Pettyish You Never Heard About Me; alongside some rough-but-good run-throughs of nice rowdy things that were left behind. Plus: his version of Roxy's Remake/Remodel, long a live staple. As he said elsewhere: all killer, no filler.


Ores & Minerals
Ores & Minerals
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelation, 13 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Ores & Minerals (Audio CD)
It's often risky to buy an album by a band you've never heard of on the strength of a review, and most of us will have come unstuck this way at some time. But that's just what I did with this album, and thank heaven for that: it is an absolute revelation, the best album I've bought this year. Resemblances? A kind of muted Television, but without the great Verlaine's strangled howl; the vocals here are more Supertramp (but don't let that put you off). The opener, Bodies, indeed has something of Marquee Moon about it, including a climactic instrumental section, and the level barely slackens from then on, reaching a peak with the awesome four-note riffing and broken-glass guitar of Skulking. Along the way, we have one that starts off like a Jefferson Airplane outtake, with echoes elsewhere of the latter's Jorma in some of the guitar playing. Mix in some closing electronica, and you have a minor masterpiece. When are they going to play some dates?


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