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Leonardo27 (London United Kingdom)

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Price: £11.74

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it ain't broke, don't fix it ****1/2, 22 May 2013
This review is from: Seesaw (Audio CD)
Difficult second album? Not a bit of it.

Carrying on where the sublime "Don't Explain" left off a couple of years ago, Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa serve up more of the same albeit that it's a litle more punchy than its predecessor.

Kicking off with the frothy "Them There Eyes", made famous by Billie Holiday in the thirties, the pair once again run the gamut of musical styles taking in jazz, blues and soul along the way.

I can think of few vocalists brave or perhaps foolhardy enough to take on Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits", and even fewer capable of nailing it quite as comprehensively as Hart does here.

Elsewhere, a cover of Al Green's "Rhymes" is an undoubted highlight whilst "A Sunday Kind of Love" is at once faithful to the Etta James original but also infuses it with a whole new freshness. Another Melody Gardot song, this time "If I Tell You I Love You", adds a more contemporary edge.

The fifth star is missing only because there's nothing that tingles the spine quite like "I'll Take Care Of You" and "I'd Rather Go Blind" off the first album but this is still a triumphant follow-up with hopefully more to come.

Unfinished Business
Unfinished Business
Price: £3.16

4.0 out of 5 stars If That's What It Takes, 21 May 2013
This review is from: Unfinished Business (MP3 Download)
After a decade spent reinterpreting classic Motown hits, Michael McDonald's return to original material is long overdue although this is still something of a tentative comeback, in the company of famed electric guitarist Robben Ford.

The lead track "La Marea Humana", by a comfortable margin the best thing on offer here, has already been in circulation for a month or two and is a classy Latin-tinged mid-paced shuffle that provides the perfect setting for McDonald's uber cool vocals that have lost none of their distinctive quality over time.

The other three tracks are rather more conventional and muscular r&b workouts, perfectly fine in their own right but not quite recapturing former Mike McD glories. But it's great to have him back, and hopefully the title of the EP proves to be prophetic.

All Fired Up
All Fired Up
Price: £7.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Deliverin', 6 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: All Fired Up (MP3 Download)
I'll be honest; I was fearing the worst. Eleven years on from "Running Horse", and with Rusty Young now the sole original survivor, my expectations weren't high. Especially since most of the previous album's best moments had been provided by the since-departed Paul Cotton, and bassist Jack Sundrud's contributions were some of the most incongruous and "un-Poco"-like songs ever committed to record by the band.

What a surprise, then, to find this latest line-up thoroughly invigorated and sounding like, well, the Poco of old.

Rusty's title track is a jaunty if ultimately slight singalong, strongly recalling the mid-seventies Poco, whilst "Regret" brings to mind a whole raft of songs that he's written before.

The real gem in the collection is "Rockin' Horse Blues", another Rusty Young composition that evokes memories of a Poco you thought had gone forever. And then there's "Neil Young", a wry and uncannily accurate pastiche of the Canadian singer-songwriter in which Rusty goes to great lengths to insist that he isn't Neil's brother.

Happily, Jack Sundrud's contributions are a much better fit this time round, his Don Henley-esque "Hard Country" a real standout.

Overall, it's something of a flawed jewel. For the most part, the lyrics are cliched and unchallenging but it's still a jewel for all that.

Against all expectations, it seems there's still fuel in the tank. It's a good feeling to know.

Finally Home
Finally Home
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Home, 5 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Finally Home (Audio CD)
Kenny Loggins is the household name in Blue Sky Riders, although that's not to demean Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman, both of them top-rated Nashville songwriters, each with an impressive string of hits to their name.

For all the success Loggins has garnered since his break-up with Jim Messina in 1976 there's been something strangely unsatisfying about much of his solo output; too often overwrought, over-produced and increasingly mawkish. Possessed of one of the all-time great country-rock voices, Loggins' transition into white-boy soul always struck me as such a puzzling waste of his natural talents even though it must have kept a succession of bank managers very happy indeed.

The passing years have also done little to dispel the nagging suspicion that the band format is the natural home for Loggins' creative abilities, freed from the burden of carrying the whole shebang on his own shoulders, and this release sweeps away any lingering doubts on that score.

So an aptly-titled album for Loggins' long-overdue return to his roots. This project clearly had its seeds in his last solo album "How About Now", to which Gary Burr contributed both co-writing and co-production, and which marked something of a throwback to the old days. In fact, a rousing revisiting of the title track closes the proceedings here.

Democracy is clearly the byword of Blue Sky Riders, with no obvious front person in the band. For the most part, both writing and lead vocal duties are shared equally across the board, and with the track record of each of these three you just know that the songs are going to be good.

Georgia Middleman is a highly accomplished vocalist who on this evidence has been standing in the shadows too long, her performance on "Little Victories" just one of a number of special moments. It's one of those songs you'd expect a whole raft of female singers to be queuing up to cover before very long.

Ably supported by a stellar cast of backing musicians the band rocks out impressively, drops in a tear-jerker or two and stops off at various other musical signposts along the way, all draped in impeccable three part harmonies. Thankfully, the songs are given room to breathe courtesy of a crisp and uncluttered production from industry veteran Peter Asher.

It's probably churlish to pick out individual tracks given the consistently high standard overall, but "Feelin' Brave", "Little Victories", the shuffling "You're Not The Boss Of Me" and "Windeer Woman" - the latter sounding like it escaped from an early Loggins & Messina album - are all immediate contenders for the replay button.

Welcome home.

And Still I Rise
And Still I Rise
Price: £11.59

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proud Heritage, 18 Nov. 2012
This review is from: And Still I Rise (Audio CD)
Led by estimable bluesman Junior Mack, who also fronted last year's splendid "Renaissance Man" album by Jaimoe's Jasssz Band, the Heritage Blues Orchestra's debut release is an astonishing record.

Journeying to the very heart of American roots music, this is a real roller-coaster ride taking in Chicago blues, gospel, New Orleans swing, acoustic country blues, field hollers and more.

It's become increasingly fashionable over the years for blues performers to incorporate horn sections into their music; the likes of Robert Cray and Taj Mahal have been doing it for years, whilst newer acts such as C.W. Stoneking and New York's bizarre but brilliant Hazmat Modine also haven't been slow to expand their musical palette in this way. But I'd venture to suggest that no-one has succeeded quite as spectacularly or deliciously in that regard as the HBO, in truly off-the-leash fashion.

Much of the material is traditional, Mack's "Chilly Jordan" the only original composition on offer, but given the jaw-dropping nature of the overall revamp you scarcely notice.

A spirited version of Son House's "Clarksdale Moan" sets the tone for an album that repeatedly challenges you to keep your feet still, whilst Muddy Waters must be dancing in his grave to what has to be the most energetic version of his "Catfish Blues" ever committed to record.

Most remarkable of all is the album's closer, with two radically different treatments of the traditional "Hard Times" joined together by an avant garde mid-section in which the horns take centre stage.

Lead vocals on the album are shared between Junior Mack, Bill Sims Jr. and his daughter the impressive Chaney Sims, all ably supported by a top-notch band that rocks and swings from start to finish.

Best blues album I've heard this year, no contest.

Live Clark Center for the Perf
Live Clark Center for the Perf
Price: £20.63

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen to a country song (again), 4 Nov. 2012
For this reviewer at least, Jim Messina has spent far too much of the last 20 years looking in his rear view mirror instead of on the road ahead.

There's no questioning his musical CV, having been a driving force behind the likes of Buffalo Springfield, Poco and of course Loggins & Messina. But there has to be a limit on how many different trawls through that admittedly impressive back-catalogue the world actually needs.

Having said that, Messina has never been in better voice, the years having now added a depth and richness that was conspicuously absent in his youth, albeit that his harmonies with Loggins were always pretty special.

Many of the usual suspects are here: "Watching The River Run" (one of the L&M songs that does actually reward constant revisiting), "Your Mama Don't Dance" (one of them that doesn't) and "Listen To A Country Song" among them.

More interesting are the less familiar tracks: "She's Gotta Rock", with more than a passing nod to "Your Mama Don't Dance", "Blacktop Cowgirl" and "Sinners and Saints".

Of course, it wouldn't be a Jim Messina release without at least one extra-long band jam, with "You Need A Man" once again pressed into service for that purpose.

With any last hope of a Loggins & Messina studio reunion now seemingly buried once and for all, it would be nice to see Messina stepping out of his comfort zone. In his mid-sixties, Loggins has formed a new country-rock band Blue Sky Riders, the early signs of which are very encouraging indeed. There's surely room for Jim Messina to do something similar.

When I'm President
When I'm President
Price: £15.63

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll, 26 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: When I'm President (Audio CD)
It must be something in the water. This year has witnessed an unprecedented number of fine new releases by some of rock's elder statesmen but, whaddya know, this one might just top them all.

At the remarkable age of 73 former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter delivers probably the best album of his entire career, growing old disgracefully and apparently loving every minute of it.

Hunter roars, rocks and croons his way through eleven classic examples of the rock 'n' roll songwriter's art, revealing along the way a depth of lyric writing for which he is rarely given sufficient credit and challenging the familiar assumption that "Rock and rollers, you're all the same..."

Despite his advancing years, Ian Hunter is clearly still one of the boys.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2012 3:29 PM GMT

Sunken Condos
Sunken Condos
Price: £5.99

47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth blows the Don, 15 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Sunken Condos (Audio CD)
You know exactly what to expect from Donald Fagen: that distinctive nasal whine, unpredictable chord changes, jazzy grooves galore, acerbic lyrics (some very nice stabs at self-deprecation here), and some top-notch horn arrangements, all expertly packaged and smoothly (if at times a little too smoothly) delivered by a band as tight as the proverbial you-know-what.

It's never been particularly easy to draw a neat dividing line between Don and Dan, but for a band notorious for its meticulous (if not downright obsessive) attention to detail Fagen brings an unexpected lightness of touch to "Sunken Condos", perhaps the result of having shared production duties with long-time cohort Michael Leonhart.

For all that, the album boasts some notable Danesque moments - the bluesy "Weather In My Head" and "Miss Marlene" two strong examples.

Some highly elegant soloing elevates tracks such as "Memorabilia" and "Planet D'Rhonda" whilst a surprising choice of cover in Isaac Hayes' "Out of the Ghetto" is deconstructed and given the full DF treatment but survives to tell the tale, dropping another memorable solo along the way.

For an artist into his fifth decade of making music it's hardly surprising that parts of this album should sound a tad familiar. "Good Stuff" borrows both melody and rhyme scheme from "Two Against Nature" whilst "The New Breed" has strong overtones of "Janie Runaway".

A little more grit would have been welcome but by and large "Sunken Condos" comfortably maintains Fagen's proud quality-control standards, even if ultimately it breaks little new ground.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2013 5:24 PM GMT

Bang Bang Boom Boom
Bang Bang Boom Boom
Offered by MLG Merch
Price: £9.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Boom Time for Beth, 10 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Bang Bang Boom Boom (Audio CD)
Last year's stunning collaboration with Joe Bonamassa brought a whole new dimension to Beth Hart's music. This new collection, all originals this time, carries on where "Don't Explain" left off, with producer Kevin Shirley again at the helm.

Although there have been indications aplenty from previous releases of a substantial songwriting talent at work, the Bonamassa alliance seems to have provided Beth with a new-found confidence which finds expression in the most sophisticated set of self-penned songs she's yet put her name to.

As with "Don't Explain", the album runs a gamut of styles from hard rock to tender ballads by way of gospel, swing and jazz, but without ever seeming less than an entirely cohesive and integrated single body of work.

Immediate standouts are the sultry "Baddest Blues", the devil-may-care title track and "Caught Out In The Rain".

Following a five-star album like "Don't Explain" with a set of her own new songs was always going to be a mighty challenge, but it's one to which Hart rises impressively.

If this doesn't finally propel her into the big time, it's hard to imagine what will.

Mystic Pinball
Mystic Pinball
Price: £10.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sure Plays A Mean Pinball, 27 Sept. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mystic Pinball (Audio CD)
His fourth new album in under five years. The older John Hiatt gets the faster he seems to churn them out. And yet this is another quality release, in fact probably his most consistent and cohesive album since his eighties heyday.

And this one sounds like a proper band album, rather than just the main man with a backing group in tow. Credit producer Kevin Shirley for that, probably. Rockers "My Business", "We're Alright Now", "You're All The Reason I Need" and "Bite Marks" plus the shuffling blues stomp "One of Them Damn Days" give the record its real teeth - the meaty guitar solos were doubtless Shirley's idea too.

The countryish "Give It Up" and "I Know How To Lose You" sound like they escaped from "Slow Turning" or "Stolen Moments" when no-one was watching, whilst "Wood Chipper" is a kind of "Trudy and Dave" for the 21st century, a dark tale of shady characters and hidden menace.

And there's still room for a couple of Hiatt's tenderest ever songs - "No Wicked Grin" and "Blues Can't Even Find Me".

Impressive and enjoyable.

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