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Fergal Woods "Axe Victim" (Leitrim, Ireland)
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Watershed
Watershed
Price: £13.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laid back, late night listening., 24 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Watershed (Audio CD)
kd returns after a long gap with a new set of originals. Not as immediate as most of her work the album repays repeated listening with a fine selection of sophisticated music that portray the artist at the height of her creative powers.

Songs are in the main slow with a slight leaning to soft Latin-tinged jazz, but there is sufficient variety to overcome this lack of fast material. Arrangements and production values are as high as ever with expert use of strings (if tending towards slight overuse), and the banjo accompaniment on a couple of tracks adds a new flavour (kd plays the 5-string on one of these numbers).

Some might be put off by references to country flavours in some reviews (including Amazon's own) but none of these songs will appear on Nashville radio, and just because a steel guitar is used (extremely tastefully here) or a banjo, does not make this country music! Ben Mink is not quite so much to the fore but the songwriting is well up to her normal standards. One slight quibble is too many songs end too soon, and the album clocks in at a shortish (by today's standard) 40 minutes. Maybe kd's self-professed writer's block has remained when it comes to writing song endings ?

"I Dream of Spring" has lovely harmonies and "Close your Eyes","Coming Home" and "Threads" are all vintage Lang. kd seems to be singing more often in her lower range but with perfect control and her voice on the closing track "Jealous Dog" had me reaching for the sleeve notes to check that it wasn't Lucinda Williams I was listening to!

Ms. Lang remains one of the music world's most talented and interesting performers and this release does nothing to diminish her standing. I notice that just in the last few days her Recollection album has been released. Really no record collection can be regarded as complete without having some (even most) of kd's albums. This is music to be savoured !


Hot Wire/Trapeze
Hot Wire/Trapeze

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchase for the classic "Hot Wire" !, 24 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hot Wire/Trapeze (Audio CD)
I have already reviewed Hot Wire before becoming aware of this release. That CD is now almost impossible to get so this issue is very welcome. From the opening riff of "Backstreet Love" I instantly fell for this album to such an extent that my vinyl copy was worn out years ago. I still would have to include it as one of my favourite all-time albums.

Glenn Hughes had left for Deep Purple leaving Mel Galley (with almost equally powerful vocal cords) to handle the singing department. The group was enlarged to a 4-piece and came up with a heavy funk masterpiece. The whole album blazes with commitment and confidence and memorable songs, especially the opener mentioned above, "Midnight Flyer" and "Steal a mile" and ,in my opinion, is an absolutely essential purchase. Not so the follow-up!! Hot Wire's songs average out at around 5 mins. each but "Trapeze" is quite short with 3 minute tracks in the main. I can't help thinking that they sound like a selection of B-sides rather than a follow up to the inspired creation that preceded it.

As Mr. Morris rightly points out in his review Wounded Knee should be complimented for the release but their lack of liner notes leaves much to be desired. It sounds to my ears that Glenn Hughes is doing the singing on "Chances" and nobody is credited for the brass, keyboards and what sounds like a pedal steel guitar on the "Trapeze" album. We are left in the dark on these issues. The 2nd album does have more variety (acoustic guitar, the different instrumentation referred to, and a honky tonk track in "Sunny Side of the Street") but on it's own I would only award it 3 stars. My 5 star rating is for Hot Wire and just treat the remaining tracks as a bonus !


George Pelecanos: Three Great Novels: The Derek Strange Trilogy: Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, Soul Circus
George Pelecanos: Three Great Novels: The Derek Strange Trilogy: Right as Rain, Hell to Pay, Soul Circus
by George P. Pelecanos
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No "great" novels here !, 23 Feb 2010
Thankfully I bought this volume at a greatly reduced price as overall it a quite forgettable series about a quite non-descript character and his equally cliched and forgettable side-kick. Set in Washington much of the stories revolve around race and I find Pelecanos quite condescending and childish in his musings on the subject. There is quite a lot of realism in his depiction of street and in gun culture in general but he sticks to a tried and tested formula that rarely reverts to originality.
The novels are basically stand-alone with no great attempt to link story lines and the one theme that runs and runs is the description of Strange's taste in music. I find this a bore, and overall GP is a humourless, by-the numbers author in this series at least.See my individual reviews for each of the 3 books but in a nutshell they all feature gangs and guns. Both Strange (the P.I.) and his aide, Quinn, have their own personal demons but there is little depth to their characterisations.The stories generally have 2 or 3 sub-plots as Quinn's girlfriend works at tracking down missing persons so there's a search for a missing girl as well as a or two to be solved in each book.There are usually good set-pieces but much of the time I'm left with the suspicion that this series is an attempt to write for a Hollywood blockbuster rather than giving us riveting reads and engrossing characters. Not essential reading !


Soul Circus
Soul Circus
by George P. Pelecanos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not that impressed., 23 Feb 2010
This review is from: Soul Circus (Paperback)
Overall I found the "Strange Trilogy" an anti-climax with the concluding part "Soul Circus" lacking in humour or passion or indeed action until the final few chapters. The scene had been set in "Hell to Pay" for Strange to defend a convicted murderer out of a sense of responsibility - however this is kept very much away from centre stage as a number of sub-plots are set up (most of which fizzle out!).You start to wonder what the story is about. Also Strange's partner, Terry Quinn is only mentioned fleetingly in the first half of this book which meanders aimlessly for over a hundred pages.

Pelecanos does not even imbue any depth in his writing with far too much description and not enough dialogue. We are left to work out much of Strange's character by taking note of his musical taste which is referred to ad nauseum. His main aim seems to be to preach about gun violence and working class deprivation. As most people in this side of the world at least would harbour the same opinion it smacks of condescension that these are almost the only themes running through the novel.

Action does improve in the second part of the book but the "baddies" are removed (or punished) rather too conveniently and the actual ending -other than one surprise- is much tamer than the violence that preceded it. Overall I find it hard to be enthusiastic about this author and certainly am in no hurry to purchase any more of his work !


Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Volume 2
Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Volume 2
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.85

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another superb collection from Fleck and friends, 22 Feb 2010
Acoustic music is becoming increasingly popular and this is mainly down to innovative instrumentalists like Bela Fleck who constantly push the boundaries while still managing to remain rooted in musical tradition.My review title was deliberately chosen as this is an obvious collaboration of "friends" who love playing together and who bounce ideas off each other in a seemingly endless stream of inspiration.

This is a similar line-up to the sextet which recorded "Drive" in 1988 (another 5-star release)but the extra 10 or so years has resulted in an even broader based canvas on which to paint these sound pictures.This CD is more roots-based than the highly acclaimed "Telluride Sessions" made with many of the same players and features a couple of straight bluegrass tunes - Polka on the Banjo (with the dream team harmonies of Ricky Skaggs, Tim O'Brien and Vince Gill) and "Foggy Mountain Special" which featurers Earl Scruggs.

The album is mainly instrumental with a wide variety of styles including a couple of nice waltz tempos.Some intros are pensive preambles before the rhythm kicks in while there are classical constructions in some of the contrasting sections (especially in "When Joy kills Sorrow" - which is musically what happens !)Fleck is a most democratic band leader as the majority of these tunes are stretched out by the individual members all adding their improvised parts and turning each piece into a lively conversation with many contributors.Fleck even adds an Irish trad touch with "Maura on a Bicycle" There are too many highlights to mention but Sam Bush deserves special mention for his playing and drive while Jerry Douglas and Tony Rice are as wonderful as ever.

Playing time is a very generous 75 minutes but this flies in the presence of such "timeless" music. My only slight reservation is that Bela's banjo tone is a bit "creamy" on 3 or 4 tracks but this is a matter of taste and does not stop this record from being one of the major acoustic releases of the last decade.Fleck in the sleeve notes very thoughtfully adds a suggested listening selection as well as naming his own banjo heroes and influences which is a very helpful touch.Thoroughly recommended !


Covered by Foghat
Covered by Foghat
Price: £10.78

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I Love to Boogie, 14 Feb 2010
This review is from: Covered by Foghat (Audio CD)
Firstly let me confirm this is a compilation of covers released mainly in the 70's and not a recent re-working. That said it's still great fun and if you haven't gotten round to replacing all your old Bearsville LPs this is a fine CD to complement any Best of collection you may have.

Foghat were well qualified to cover blues numbers as 3 of the group were members of the highly respected Savoy Brown, who decided to pack their guitars and cross the Atlantic and become one of America's most popular concert attractions for most of the above-mentioned decade. Mainstays of the group were vocalist "Lonesome" Dave Peverett and guitarist Rod "the Bottle" Price. Peverett (sadly deceased) was a much better singer than given credit for and could handle a wide range of material being especially at home in the blues.

Many of these songs are standards but Foghat's can stand comparison with any you'd care to mention (apart from "That'll be the Day" that is!) "I just want to make love to you" is suitably powerful but I've never liked the reverb used on the vocals here. My own favourite is "My Babe" with great slide work, and "Sweet Home Chicago" is in a similar vein. "Somebody's been sleepin" is from the excellent "Boogie Motel" album and is a very attractive number. The last 2 tracks are more recent - the Rodney Crowell-penned "Ain't Living Long Like This" and a rockabilly blast "Choo Choo Ch' Boogie". Pity this selection didn't include "Chevrolet" from "Stone Blue" or a very heavy version of "Terraplane Blues" from "Fool for the City" but otherwise it's very representative.

Not the greatest album ever recorded and purists used to hate their slightly irreverent take on blues but this is goodtime music by an underrated band. Well worth your consideration


Throw Down Your Heart - Tales From The Acoustic Planet Vol.3 Africa Sessions
Throw Down Your Heart - Tales From The Acoustic Planet Vol.3 Africa Sessions
Price: £12.26

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure hunt off the beaten path, 12 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you've ever been to sub-Saharan Africa you'll love this album. If you've never been to Africa you may well still love it ! Banjo master Bela Fleck has added another string to his bow (inappropriate methaphor I know) with a record of his African travels in search of his chosen instrument's origins which is chock full of delightful music. Fleck and his various collaborators may come from different parts of the world but they obviously share a joy in music-making, and there is a beguiling innocence about this recording that has been lacking in the music industry for decades.

A major surprise has to be how well the 5-string banjo suits the sounds and rhythms of African music. Fleck, to his credit, draws no attention to himself but knows innately when and what not to play. Even though I adore his bluegrass playing and have most of his releases this may well be his most melodic performance to date. Hopefully his musical intelligence and the (often) stark beauty of much of this music will reach the widest possible audience.

Almost all the songs have a live feel and some were recorded with an audience. The tracks are very varied with group singing (especially impressive!), solo singers and instrumentals and a nice variety of rhythms. Guitarists can't but be impressed by the playing on" Mariam", an exquisite duet. "D'Gary Jam" is the meatiest musical offering here, quite intense but with the surprise introduction of wordless Brazilian song to lighten the mood. "Djorolen" best represents the stark beauty I mentioned above.

It's hard to guess what avenue Fleck will explore next but this may well be his proudest moment. His liner notes (excellent) seem to point to a further instalment as he recorded hundreds of hours music during his soujourn.

Some listeners new to African singing and sounds may find this hard to get into but it is worth the effort. It could also provide the perfect complement to Paul Simon's "Graceland" album which highlighted South Africa's urban township pop culture - this is rural Africa's folk and country music. A lovely record !


Concert Classics, Volume 3
Concert Classics, Volume 3
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Best avoided, 11 Feb 2010
This is a poorly recorded album which has reasonable performances of the group's best numbers from their heyday in the 70's. You may enjoy loud peaks distorting various songs but I don't and this cd was binned pretty quickly. The group themselves had no control over the cd release and in their current reincarnation have released a couple of live discs which offer better options than this.

The Aces feature one of the best writers in country or country rock in Russell Smith and are well worth a listen but just not this disc. Guitar sounds are heavily distorted and are totally inappropriate for these songs. To make matters worse Cameron's soloing is very sloppy and for most of this recording - now taken off the shelves in the US (and repackaged at least twice !) - the sound is more like a poor bootleg than a proper live recording.

Their first 4 albums are available on "twofers" and I'd strongly recommend these, especially the "Stacked Deck/ Too Stuffed to Jump" pairing. This is a wonderful recording of great songs and is an essential purchase. There is now a new compilation "Best of" available, and interestingly when the group reemerged in the mid-90's they re-recorded 10 of their best (country-flavoured) songs for the album release "Ride Again".

All of these options make more sense than buying this CD. A far superior live recording from pretty much the same period called "Full House - Aces High(1979)" is available,has most of the same songs and has been properly engineered but it's now apparently only issued as a cd-rom.


The Ballad Of John Henry
The Ballad Of John Henry
Price: £14.77

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong album., 2 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Firstly let me say this review is not a JB vs. Gary Moore comparison as so many other writers seem to promote. They're very different players and I've always thought Bonamassa was far closer to Robben Ford in style and tone. You can also dismiss claims that Joe is the new Stevie Ray - they've little in common.

I don't see this as a 5-star album because (a) all the tracks that are on both this and his live DVD sound far better in the concert setting - this has to be an indictment of the production and arrangements used in the studio; and (b) Bonamassa's voice becomes slightly monotonous if you listen to the entire album in a sitting. In particular the singing style (constantly bending up a third at the end of lines) in the more overtly blues numbers hardly varies. This is a pity as his voice is very distinctive and some of his own compositions have quite good melodies.

His guitar playing is very accomplished (MUCH better live) but it's obscured in many places by what I consider to be overproduction, too many fx and a "slickness" that doesn't sit well with blues music. The title track and "Last Kiss" are live stormers but here they sound too repetitive. "Stop", "Jockey full of Bourbon","Lonesome road Blues" "Happier Times" and "Story of a Quarryman" are terrific songs but this album is not any better than "You & Me" or "Blues deLuxe" and I would recommend going for the Albert Hall DVD as a better option or his Rock Palast DVD (as a 3-piece) both of which are 5-star releases.


Partly Plugged
Partly Plugged
Price: £6.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Partly impressed, 1 Feb 2010
This review is from: Partly Plugged (MP3 Download)
I have mixed emotions about this release.Unplugged versions of greatest hits can be looked upon as gap fillers as you're waiting for inspiration for new material and I fear that's what we have here. Fans will already have all or most of the 6 re-recordings on this release and newcomers will prefer the original recordings.The 4 originals have their strong points but overall I find them less than convincing."Child of the Video Age" has lyrics I can readily appreciate but it sounds like a Nashville "Hat Act" trying to do country rock."I don't want to grow old alone" has a sad lyric but is a strong number unlike the first two tracks which are quite routine and devoid of the creativity for which this band was known and loved.

The live studio reworkings are remarkably similar to the originals but there is less harmony present(which I miss)."Alien" and "Angel" are my favourites from these."Do it or Die", with it's lovely chords, is ideally suited to the acoustic medium.Bailey's picked solos are remarkably clean sounding,if adding nothing to the originals, and Hammond's voice sounds better than it has any right to after a quarter of a century of rocking.

So overall it's still an expertly played album, with (mostly) excellent songs but it's not my ARS desert island disc and as such I'd advise newcomers to check out their older material before trying this one.


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