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Leonardo27 (London United Kingdom)

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Take Love Easy
Take Love Easy
Price: 13.75

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The queen of cool, 3 Mar 2010
This review is from: Take Love Easy (Audio CD)
All of a sudden, there seems to be an absolute plethora of female jazz vocalists all vying for our attention, but Sophie Milman's latest release confirms her entitlement to be ranked alongside the very best.

Another striking collection of top-notch vocal performances simply reinforces her standing as a supreme and original interpreter of jazz and pop standards, more often than not breathing new life into the material as she goes.

And that sultry come-hither voice is as compelling as ever.

"Be Cool" would have been a more appropriate choice as the album's title track, as accurate and concise a summary of Ms Milman's craft as any. Her stunning arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" might just stake a claim to being the definitive version of that tune, whilst a neat reworking of Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" shows her unafraid to venture into pop territory.

What sets Sophie Milman apart from much of the competition is an unmistakeable 'world' feel to her music, informed no doubt by her exotic upbringing - born in Russia, raised in Israel and Canada. But ultimately, it's all about that sensational voice. Well worth checking out.

Jungle Blues
Jungle Blues
Price: 20.41

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ston(e)kingly good album, 3 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Jungle Blues (Audio CD)
For the uninitiated, the first shock on listening to this is discovering that it was recorded in 2008, and not some eighty years earlier. The second is that the artist is, in fact, a young Australian and not a grizzled Delta bluesman holed up in some southern swamp.

Perfectly capturing various musical styles and moods of the twenties and thirties without the slightest hint of pastiche - field holler, calypso, blues, voodoo and folk are all brilliantly represented - the album is a joy from start to finish and is even better than Stoneking's stirring debut 'King Hokum'.

The likes of Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal have been here before, but whereas Cooder in particular had the unerring knack of uncovering and reviving precious gems from a long-gone era, here with the exception of Wilmoth Houdini's 'Brave Son of America' these are all original compositions by Stoneking that you'd bet your mortgage had been around for generations, such is their apparent authenticity and uncanny attention to detail.

'Jungle Blues', 'Jungle Lullaby', 'The Love Me Or Die' and the Houdini cover are simply inspired, the real standouts in a truly striking collection.

It all sounds remarkably like the soundtrack to a retro movie that's just waiting to be shot. The man's a true original.

The Courage Of Others
The Courage Of Others
Offered by Sent2u
Price: 7.45

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misplaced courage, 28 Jan 2010
This review is from: The Courage Of Others (Audio CD)
Never mind the courage of others, it's the band's own bravery on display here as they admirably opt against churning out 'Van Occupanther 2' which would have been the safe and easy option. But beneath the surface of this beautifully sung, beautifully played and immaculately produced new collection something has sadly been lost in the process, namely texture, light and shade, and the ebb and flow which made Van Occupanther such an unmitigated delight.

I suspect that this is going to be an unpopular view amongst those for whom Tim Smith and his cohorts can do no wrong but whilst on its own terms it's a fine body of work, in no objective sense is 'The Courage of Others' as good as its predecessor. 'Acts of Man' is truly a great opener but after that too many of the songs sound like derivatives of each other, descending into the same cosy and predictable multi-part vocal harmony. Taken as a complete body of work, the album is largely one-paced and by half-way through I found myself desperately longing for a gear change that simply never arrived.

If by means of some time warp this had been the band's second album and 'Van Occupanther' its sequel, it would all make perfect sense. But this way round, to these ears at least, it's a record out of its time which, despite its obvious attractions, still leaves one with the feeling that it could, and should, have been just that little bit more special.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 30, 2010 8:01 PM GMT

Empire and Love
Empire and Love
Price: 13.61

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best 10-piece Anglo-Asian Folk Jam Band In the world, 15 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Empire and Love (Audio CD)
Heavens, another genre-bending cross-fertilisation of traditional English folk music. This album, the second by Simon Emmerson and Martin Carthy's eclectic assortment of British-born Anglo-Asian musicians, is a much more cohesive effort than its predecessor and suggests that what was formerly a rather ramshackle collective has now formed itself into a proper band, with startling results.

As folk music goes, whilst never betraying its roots this is a million miles removed from the Arran jumper finger-in-yer-ear stereotype with which the genre has long been saddled. Indeed, some of the tracks feature a rhythm section of which many a self-respecting rock band would be proud. Go bhangra the drum.

Like much of this style of music, it's predominantly dark and sombre. The opening track 'My Son John', about a man who loses both his legs in battle sets the overall tone, with only a couple of songs like the jaunty tongue-in-cheek 'Space Girl' to lighten the mood.

If your only connection with 'Scarborough Fair' is Simon & Garfunkel's angelic version then both versions on offer here will come as something of a shock, each a different manifestation of melancholy - one with sitar preponderant, the other swathed in brooding strings. Similarly, the agitated 'Rosebuds In June' is a long way removed from, say, Steeleye Span's colourful version. Elsewhere, the largely instrumental 'Mermaid' sounds like it's just waiting for an inspired club remix.

Only an all-too-knowing rendition of that traditional olde-English folk staple 'Cum on Feel The Noize' fails to fully convince, the sheer audacity of the idea rather better in the end than its actual delivery.

Quite what the purists and the old beardies will make of this, heaven only knows.

Cate Brothers
Cate Brothers
Price: 15.19

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At long last, this little gem makes it to CD, 4 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Cate Brothers (Audio CD)
Considering the immeasurable volume of sheer dross manufactured and released on CD each year it's little short of criminal that it's taken more than three decades for Earl & Ernie Cate's sparkling debut to achieve a digital release. But no matter, it's better late than never. Well done Wounded Bird.

The Cate Brothers recorded four albums for the Asylum label in the US in the mid-to-late seventies, and this first one was the best of the lot featuring a stellar line-up of guest musicians including Steve Cropper and Levon Helm. After the lengthy hiatus that followed, they eventually resumed recording in the nineties but the results were unspectacular and largely forgettable.

An appetizing blend of r&b, country and rock, this album showcases the brothers' songwriting and performing talents to the full on some truly memorable tunes, the best of which include "Union Man" (a UK single back in the day, if I remember correctly), "When Love Comes", the reggae-influenced "Time for Us" and "Standing On A Mountain Top" and the achingly gorgeous ballads "Always Waiting" and "Easy Way Out".

With this first release, the Cates set themselves what proved an impossibly high standard that they never subsequently managed to emulate, although at times they came close. Of all the Cate Brothers releases, this is definitely the one to own.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2011 10:39 PM GMT

By A Thread
By A Thread
Price: 13.41

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You Gotta Get Behind The Mule, 4 Jan 2010
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This review is from: By A Thread (Audio CD)
Comfortably the Mule's best studio album, "By A Thread" touches all their familiar bases and then some. It's a work of remarkable variety and maturity which never loses sight of the band's southern rock roots.

Proceedings start with a bang, the rocking 'Broke Down On The Brazos' given one mighty turbo charge by ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons - his most blistering guitar work in recent memory. 'Any Open Window' also keeps the pedal to the metal whilst other highlights include the grimy sleazy blues of 'Inside Outside Woman Blues #3', 'Railroad Boy' - a Warren Haynes arrangement of a traditional English murder ballad and the jazz-rock / psychedelic 'Scenes From A Troubled Mind'. There's even room for a gentle ballad 'Forevermore' providing colour and texture to a strong and well-balanced set that shows a band unafraid of stepping outside its comfort zone.

Clearly, this particular mule can still pack quite a kick.

Under A Mojito Moon
Under A Mojito Moon
Price: 5.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We Gotta Get Back (with Kenny Loggins), 23 Dec 2009
This review is from: Under A Mojito Moon (MP3 Download)
Of all the bands substantially greater than the sum of their parts, Loggins & Messina are surely one of the most notable examples.

And yet, despite two hugely successful reunion tours during the last four years the prospect of a new L&M album appears as frustratingly remote as ever. Which is puzzling, given that Loggins' solo output has become increasingly more formulaic and uninspiring as time has gone by whilst Jimmy Messina's solo career never meaningfully got off the ground in the first place.

This latest solo release from Messina, his first for over thirteen years and his first new material for a generation, is as enigmatic as ever. After all that time, only six tracks? And two of them re-recordings of old songs?

In terms of style, the record is a throwback to the Cuban / Latin feel of Messina's debut solo offering 'Oasis' and it's a genre he's clearly comfortable with, the multi-instumentalist content this time with just an acoustic flamenco guitar, which by the way he plays beautifully.

There are no real surprises; the record immediately settles into a laid-back Cuban shuffle which it maintains through to the end. And if the lyrics aren't exactly compelling they do complement the music, the band is tight and the set is sympathetically produced. The title track is the best of the new tunes, whilst (predictably) the revisited 'Keep Me In Mind' is the album's overall standout, perhaps even trumping the original Loggins & Messina version. Messina's expressive solo guitar on this tune is an undiluted joy, even if Larry Sims did sing it better.

But the retread of 'We Gotta Get Back', Messina's co-write with Doobie Brother Pat Simmons which originally appeared on Messina's 'One More Mile' album in the early 1980s, seems utterly pointless and adds nothing at all to the original. Is Jimmy so short of new songs that this could ever have seemed like a worthwhile idea?

The album is actually tagged 'Under a Mojito Moon Part 1' which suggests that there may be more to come, but quite frankly this is just a sideshow. We continue to wait (and hope) for the main event.

Three and a half stars.

Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop'N'Stroll
Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop'N'Stroll
Price: 15.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basically, a Ronseal album, 14 Dec 2009
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An album perfectly described by its title, this is a good-natured full-throated balkan-influenced knees-up. An unashamedly theatrical and brazenly vaudevillian entertainment conjuring up images of a debauched travelling show for your delectation and delight. If you can imagine Shane MacGowan getting it down with DeVotchka you won't be too wide of the mark.

Standout tracks include the infectious rock n' roll romp 'Always Out', 'No Bail Blues' 'Getting Hot Going Down' and, best of all, 'Stole My Dog' - a bitterly sardonic reflection on a failed romantic relationship.

You never lose the sense, though, that the whole shebang is basically an elaborate act, a carefully staged piece of theatre, rather than a life actually lived by its creators. But for all that, it's impressively choreographed and enormously enjoyable.

Glitter and Doom Live
Glitter and Doom Live
Price: 14.28

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such a scream, 23 Nov 2009
This review is from: Glitter and Doom Live (Audio CD)
Tom Waits has long presided over a fantastical musical universe all of his own, the undisputed king in a category of one.

Beat poet, raconteur, carnival barker, crazed preacher, balladeer and philosopher, this latest release effectively showcases last year's acclaimed Glitter and Doom tour in all its variety, energy and madness.

Never content to merely replicate the studio versions of his songs, Waits tears them apart, mashes them up and breathes new life (and often fire) into them. Heck, you can even dance to some of 'em - "Goin' Out West" and the marimba-led "Singapore" to name but two.

"Live Circus", complete with some genuinely funny ad libs, represents Waits' trademark narrative storytelling at its best, and eclipses the other spoken word offering "Story" which is lightweight by comparison.

"Get Behind The Mule" and "Metropolitan Glide" are both transformed into impressively funky romps, with Waits' junkyard orchestra firing on all cylinders, whilst "The Part You Throw Away" is reconceived as a gentle waltz complete with a truly gorgeous middle instrumental section embroidered by flamenco guitar.

The delightfully syncopated "I'll Shoot The Moon", with its saxophone needlepoint, is a throwback to the artist's bar-room crooner days, whilst the piano-accompanied "Lucky Day" closes the proceedings with all the poignancy remembered from his early Asylum albums back in the 1970s.

The second disc, "Tom's Tales", a compendium of between-song banter culled from the various dates on the tour, consists of a mixture of Waits' wry wit and some truly bad jokes and probably doesn't reward repeated listening but it's an interesting document nevertheless.

The "You needed to have been there" factor, common to almost all live albums, is never completely banished but for those unfortunate to have missed out, this beautifully recorded album is as good a consolation prize as one could reasonably hope for, apart perhaps from a DVD release (Anti, are you listening?).

With such a vast catalogue to choose from, opinions will vary on the song selection - personally, I'd have preferred a couple more piano songs - but whatever the case, and whilst some renditions work better than others, for its sheer variety and exuberance it would surely be churlish to award this less than five stars. There's reportedly a new studio album on the way, and this will fill the gap nicely till then.

Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks
Things About Comin' My Way: A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks
Price: 13.96

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sheiks rattle and roll, 16 Nov 2009
A genuine 1930s country blues supergroup, The Mississippi Sheiks were as responsible as anyone for the cross-over of the blues from what had hitherto been an almost entirely black audience. They achieved considerable success with an innovatory style based, unusually, on the interplay between acoustic guitar and fiddle. Their songs were riddled with double entendres and were sometimes downright lascivious, but the band were important custodians of the blues tradition and rapidly became an indelible part of the genre's history. Much of their claim to immortality stems from "Sitting On Top Of The World", subsequently recorded by countless artists including Howlin' Wolf, Ray Charles, Cream, Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal and John Lee Hooker to name just a few. And covered here by The Carolina Chocolate Drops in reverential, if not ground-breaking, style.

Fast forward three generations to this lovingly compiled, if belated, tribute to the band featuring a host of stellar roots musicians. By and large, the featured contributors perform in their own distinctive styles instead of trying to imitate the Sheiks' own originals, which makes for a much more interesting listening experience, whilst a top-notch "house band" ensures continuity and prevents it from sounding too much like a random compilation.

The North Mississippi Allstars (including the recently and sadly deceased Jim Dickinson) set the overall tone with the sexually suggestive "It's Backfirin' Now", whilst the likes of John Hammond, Madeleine Peyroux and Bob Brozman all deliver the type of performance you'd expect.

It's good to hear Kelly Joe Phelps finally returning to what he does best, on the solo country blues of "Livin' In A Strain"; it's just a shame that it has to be on someone else's album instead of his own.

If there's a default mood for the album, it's that revivalist blues territory so successfully mined by Ry Cooder in the early 1970s. In fact, Cooder was apparently one of the names on the original shortlist for this project but, for whatever reason, he never made the cut.

Other highlights include "Bootlegger's Blues" by Oh Susanna complete with trademark Van Dyke Parks string arrangement, Bill Frisell's fine guitar and trombone treatment of "That's It" and, most astonishingly of all, the closing piece by Robin Holcomb who of all the performers here has travelled the farthest away from the style of the original. Holcomb's fans will be familiar with her uncompromising avant garde style (by the way, check out her album "The Big Time"), but even so her gender-changing deconstruction of "I've Got Blood In My Eyes For You" and its stark re-assembly into a brooding and unsettling exploration of the destructive power of lust is remarkable and is by far the most powerful and disturbing performance on the record. The effect is rendered all the more chilling in that it closes the album on a moody and sombre note after a truly joyous and upbeat rendition of "He Calls That Religion" by The Sojourners.

All in all, a fine record, and a worthy tribute to an important if often neglected group.

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