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Barry McGloin "Baz" (Canberra, Australia)

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London Blues 1964/69
London Blues 1964/69
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £49.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Brit Blues, 23 Sept. 2015
This review is from: London Blues 1964/69 (Audio CD)
John Mayall's band The Bluesbreakers was regarded in the 1960s as representing the real blues. His 1966 second release 'Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton' was a classic and remains so, not merely historically but it retains its power. By that time the Stones had moved beyond the blues, having released anarchic rock such as 19th Nervous Breakdown, Have You seen your Mother Baby Standing in The Shadow, Satisfaction etc but the blues for them curled around and flickered into all they recorded.

On the way home tonight I was listening to Muddy Water's One More Mile compilation, the second disc which has Muddy playing live with Louis Myers (acoustic guitar) and Mojo Buford (harp) in a drummer-less setting, and I thought that the subtlety of expression, the rhythm, the phrasing, the space between the notes, the punctuated light and shade is just perfect, a work of art. And it was rarely matched.

The Stones played R&B like Chuck, like Bo, like Slim Harpo, not deep blues, no, but they could swing and they could rock, and this they had in front of most of their contemporaries. The Brits appropriated the form and made it into something different. It became garage rock (a precursor to punk), rock and finally heavy metal. Which was better? Your choice. Or you might enjoy all or some of it.

Take Clapton's solo in Have You Heard, curiously not included in London Blues.
He creates such marvellous tension and attack in his playing and use of texture and tone which provided a blueprint for Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and the lugubrious beast that became heavy metal. And you might say downhill from there, depending on your preference.

This compilation is essential to anyone's understanding of the Brit blues form. It has some of the finest Brit blues. Only Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac could match it, and for my taste, better it.
Greeny replaced Clapton for Mayall's third album, A Hard Road, another excellent album. The nucleus of Fleetwood Mac can be heard backing Mayall on It Hurts Me Too and Double Trouble. Mick Fleetwood was sacked soon after for his extravagant thirst, so the story goes. Greeny departed and formed Mac, replaced by Mick Taylor, pre Stones.

So, there are a bunch of luminaries in Mayall's bands, and that is what raises this material and compilation above the average crop. Mayall himself was a good band leader and musician, guitar, organ, harmonica and a singer and songwriter of varying standard, some of it very good.

I recall seeing Mayall at the Punchbowl Pub, Sydney in 1982 with a crack band consisting of Mick Taylor and John McVie and Colin Allen on drums (from the 'Laurel Canyon' band). The pub was aptly named, with everything nailed down, beer in plastic cups, prisoners on day release, and there was Mayall, bare chested, suntanned and an electric fan strategically placed behind his head so that his long silky conditioned hair could be blown, just so, as he sang 'It's a hard road 'til I die'. Irony, yes indeed? But the crowd loved it.

The two Cds were compiled with John Mayall's assistance and yes, they are pretty well what I would have chosen. I would have replaced Double Crossing Time with Have You Heard. I might have included Peter Green's Curly instrumental as an example of blues going towards rock but I don't think Mayall plays on it – ok well The Stumble – Greeny was a great player (check out the version on Live in '67 where he takes it to the ozone), and removed the nondescript early instrumental Blues City Shakedown. Well, you can make up your own. Oh yes and I would replace All My Life with its extravagantly echo laden vocals with Little By Little (also with Paul Butterfield). Apart from that, all good. The booklet has bio info, photos, session details plus good notes by John McDermott.

Music in Exile
Music in Exile
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Rhythm and Blues from Mali, 2 Sept. 2015
This review is from: Music in Exile (Audio CD)
Songhoy Blues are a welcome addition to the recorded music from Mali, a very musical country with its many cultures, tongues and tribes.

Those of you who are familiar with Malian guitar bands may think of Tuareg desert blues bands such as Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Terakaft and Bombino. You will no doubt also recall the guitar work of the late Ali Farka Toure and his son and musical heir Vieux Farka Toure and yes, the guitar lines do bear some similarity in the snaky, sliding silvery tones but Songhoy Blues are more R&B and boogie.

The opening number, Soubour for example sounds like Tinariwen meets The Yardbirds or some mid 60s garage rock band. Check out the YouTube video – the skinny white guy standing behind is producer Nick Zinner, the guitarist/keyboards from the NY post punk, art rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

The first six tracks drive along with call and response, handclaps and rhythmic, incisive guitar. The fifth track 'Nick' adds some fine rock guitar from Amadou Bagayoko, of Amadou and Miriam. Nick Zinner adds guitar on eight tracks, organ on two and percussion on five.

The latter five songs ease the pace somewhat and add female vocals to two tracks, and more choral harmonies particularly on Desert Melodie to great effect. The final song Mali is a solo acoustic reflection on hope.

The production retains the raw edge of the group. It was recorded in Bamako, overdubbed in LA, post produced in Paris, and finally mixed and mastered in London, and the executive producer is Marc Antoine Moreau.

The liner notes by Andy Morgan are especially good, describing a performance in Bamako in front an audience who have also fled their northern homes. The notes provide political background – the intimidation by religious extremists who declare music to be a sin, in Mali where 'music has always flowed like water, like blood'.

The performance invokes the spirits, spirits of nostalgia, of Songhoy tradition, musical and ancestral heroes of Mali, of the blues and R&B, and now the spirit of youth and hope, of continuum. These spirits can be heard on this album, Music In Exile, in songs about the environment, global warming, ethnic harmony, patience, and about Mali 'beyond cynicism and hate'. Lyrics are not provided, but music has its own universal language.

Aye - The Best Of Martyn Bennett
Aye - The Best Of Martyn Bennett
Offered by Assai-uk
Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Musical Adventurer, Aye - a Worthy Selection!, 11 Sept. 2013
Aye is a best of Martyn Bennett, surprisingly without Hallaig, his adaption of the poem by Sorley MacLean from the Bothy Culture album, a superb track and one which I would have included. That said, Bothy Culture stands in its own right and would be my first choice for the uninitiated, given its availability, cost, abounding fun and - by comparison with Grit - pastoral ha ha, well... less industrial dance beats!

Aye contains two tracks from Bothy Culture - Ud The Doudouk and 4 Notes, two from Grit - Blackbird and Liberation, two from his eponymous first album - Swallowtail and Stream, two from Hardland - Harry's In Heaven and Distortion Pipe. In addition there is a remix of Peter Gabriel's Sky Blue and two unreleased tracks Paisley Spin and Crackhorn.

The album booklet also states that 'MacKay's Memoirs is an exclusive track that is available for download only'. The booklet provides the history behind the track but does not say where it might be obtained. Another reviewer suggested ITunes and so I downloaded it from there for AUD3.39. It is a wonderful piece of music which shows Martyn's formal compositional abilities, featuring orchestra with choir, pipes, clarsach and voice and it was performed at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament. The performance on the download is by Mr McFall's Chambers who have released an album of Martyn's music called Birds & Beasts. MacKay's Memoirs had me smiling with pleasure and then gave me a lump in the throat when I thought that the creative mind and personality behind it are no longer with us. But thankfully we have his legacy.

Martyn Bennett was the first folk musician to win a scholarship to the City of Edinburgh Music School where he was trained in classical composition for three years. He then studied violin and piano at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, while playing bagpipes at pub sessions. After graduation he was attracted to the dance and rave scene 'as it encapsulates the same musical ethos. It is principally about sound and scale, tension and release, power and detail - much like an orchestral canvas'. Much more information can be viewed on his generous and attractive website [...]

This album is full of excellent material, and if you have an adventurous open minded approach to music you should love it. I have Bothy Culture and Grit, but the other tracks here are well worth getting, plus the aforementioned MacKay's Memoirs. The booklet is very attractive, with photos, a fine essay by Sue Wilson, and the background to each inclusion.

Martyn Bennett melded the traditional and modern in a new way which to him was natural, not incongruous, a reflection of modern Scotland, including its multiculturalism. There is mirth but also respect - reverence even, humility and grandeur, mayhem and awe - you sense that it brought him great joy as he cast 'the old ways in new surroundings' and transformed his studio into 'a chamber of sheer sensual delight'. May the delight be yours.

Bouger Le Monde
Bouger Le Monde
Price: £12.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vibrant and Real, 28 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Bouger Le Monde (Audio CD)
Staff Benda Belili Bouger Le Monde

Well I'm amazed that there are so few reviews (at the date of writing) of this fabulous album,
IMHO it is at least on a par with their acclaimed 2009 Tres Tres Fort.
Unlike the previous album which was recorded on the run in a number of locations, including the derelict Kinshasa Zoo where the band had found accommodation, Bouger Le Monde (Make The World Shake) is a studio analogue recording, with all the warmth and punch which that medium provides. In fact the production, courtesy of Vincent Kenis again, is superb with the percussion cracking around the speakers, the bass well defined, rhythmic and propulsive and the vocal harmonies textured, raw yet tight and powerful. There are eight vocalists among the ten members and lead vocals are shared, often with multiple leads in the one song.

The guitar players are now augmented by the lyrical soloist Amalphy Masamba, and Roger Landu again adds his electrified single string homemade satonge (a Congolese diddley bow?), to provide a unique upper register singing and stinging string of sound, a sweet mosquito perhaps, a kazoo bird, how would you describe it? Someone has described this as Hendrix on one string and indeed track 5, Kuluna/Gangs uses the same chord structure as All Along The Watchtower and the satonge soars in above the rhythm and vocals, rising in some sort of elemental climax then dives to a lower earthy sound - a detuned satonge perhaps, or maybe guitar - anyway, my favourite track, amazing. And this is followed by the eerie voodoo like Djambula, with its unearthly whistling, percussion racing like a heartbeat over the ominous chant, proclaiming an evil spreading everywhere, unscrupulous priests in shady business and politics.

Djambula is composed by Montana Kinunu and the group longevity is assured artistically because there are many composers and variations in styles, including South American influenced rhythms - cross fertilisation continues. My third favourite track is Souci/Worries with its wonderful plaintive harmonies, lead vocals, blend of instruments and changing tempos. Composed by Coco Ngambali the precis says that 'I'm going on a trip and I'm leaving you with worries' and 'each musician goes on to evoke a friend he left behind'.

The CD is softcase, the booklet is an attractive design and each song is given a precis in terms of a verse or two. I would have preferred the complete translation but it was surely impractical given the number of verses and spoken word in some songs. As with other African musics you don't need the lyrics to appreciate the songs. As with other roots music this is not studio manufactured confectionery, this is infectious, energetic, sounding spontaneous yet cleverly arranged. This is real. It deserves to be acclaimed, as do the musicians who made it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2013 7:15 AM BST

Original Album Series
Original Album Series
Offered by msales-8
Price: £8.93

75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Good Post Blues Pre Mega Fleetwood Mac, 19 Jan. 2013
This review is from: Original Album Series (Audio CD)
This set of five albums covers Fleetwood Mac's album releases from 1969 to 1973, excluding Penguin from 1973 and replacing it with Mystery to Me, their later release from 1973. It is an interesting and inexpensive package to explore the development of the group from Peter Green's blues rock through various styles including the emerging pop rock harmonies that would distinguish the Buckingham / Nicks hit making outfit of 1975 onwards. These albums were not mega sellers on release, although they continued to sell steadily as the group became popular. Then Play On reached number 4 on the UK charts and Kiln House charted in USA, UK and Australia, and both Future Games and Mystery To Me are now certified Gold and Bare Trees is certified Platinum.

The albums cover four incarnations of the group, but the propulsive and inventive rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass remains throughout. The sound is ok - it could be better given that three of these albums were recorded using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio - the transfer to digital would benefit from a remaster - I recently reviewed Howlin Wolf's London Sessions (DeLuxe edition) and the remastered sound on that 1971 double disc is superb.

Then Play On (1969) was the final Peter Green album and saw the development from a pure blues band to a blues rock unit which was prepared to use influences from Spanish Canto hondo to classical. A good album, this US version has two Mac classics, Oh Well Pts 1 & 2 and Rattlesnake Shake, as well as a number of strong songs and a couple of instrumentals and hot excerpts from jams. Note that this US issue replaced two Kirwan songs from the UK release, Without You and One Sunny Day with the UK hit Oh Well Pts 1 & 2. Jeremy Spencer contributes little but Danny Kirwan's guitar playing and song writing develop.

Kiln House (1970) sees Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan take the reins, with Christine McVie added on keyboards and backing vocals, although uncredited and not officially a band member. I recalled it as being an entertaining fun album with Spencer's love of 50s rock 'n roll coming to the fore. On stage, wearing his Elvis gold lame suit, his persona took a satirical edge, but here there is a cringe factor - Buddy's Song and Mission Bell being too fervent. Blood On The Floor is satirical, salacious Spencer and initially amusing. Listening now, the album is lifted by three good rockers, Station Man, Tell Me All The Things You Do, both primarily Kirwan compositions and Spencer's cover of Big Joe Turner's Honey Hush. Also, the Spencer opener This Is The Rock is faux Cliff Richard/Presley rock and quite good.

Future Games (1971) and Bare Trees (1972).
Exit Jeremy Spencer to the Children of God and hello to Bob Welch with his distinctive American twang and his pop/r 'n b compositional abilities. I found both Future Games and Bare Trees to be better than I remembered. There is some lovely melodic and textured guitar playing, courtesy of both Kirwan and Welch but Danny Kirwan for a young bloke in his early 20s wrote some beautifully accomplished material, lyrically at times with a whiff of patchouli, but musically adventurous with interesting arrangements. Christine McVie's compositional abilities develop beautifully and her keyboards and vocal harmonies take Mac towards pop rock. In the USA they were becoming bigger, in the UK the loss of the 'best English blues band' was bemoaned. Here in Oz they were regarded as 'underground' ie artistically relevant, not mainstream, and I recall hearing Rhiannon on our 'underground alternative' radio station 2JJ when it was released in 1975.

Mystery To Me(1973)
Exit Danny Kirwan after Bare Trees. As mentioned, the follow up album Penguin is not included and Penguin's successor Mystery to Me is here instead. To my taste they are similar with good songs on each, although MTM has the edge with a wider variety of styles, and shorter more focussed pop/rock material with some great guitar sounds from Danny Kirwan's replacement Bob Weston. Highlights are the popular Bob Welch song Hypnotised [do they really mispronounce it??], his r 'n b rocker Miles Away, his funky Somebody, his soulful Keep On Going (sung by Christine McVie), Christine's succinct The Way I Feel and her wonderful Why. Even Bob Weston's reggae-ish Forever sounds good, but the album belongs to Bob Welch. The rhythm section is on target and inventive throughout. So, why was the late Bob Welch ( he died in 2012 ) excluded from the Fleetwood Mac members in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees? It must surely reflect on the Hall Of Fame credibility - surely Mac themselves could have rectified it? Welch was a major part of the band artistically for five years.

In summary this is a bargain set, with jewels for the most jaded. I have the complete Blue Horizon box set of the Peter Green band and while not everything is good, most is worthwhile and some is perfect. The band also made good music between Green and Buckingham/Nicks and some tracks may not be for you but if so have another listen, there is a depth of musical intelligence, for your enjoyment.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2015 12:47 AM BST

The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions
The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £29.38

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lemmie howl for ya!, 29 Dec. 2012
I'd just like to add my opinion that this is definitely no half baked project which shouldn't have happened. In truth it should stand proud in any Wolf collection and in fact some of these versions are arguably better than the originals, when you take into consideration the advanced technology, the excellent production, the fine band and added musical palette - horns, keyboards and guitar in post production. Ok, Wolf's voice is not as intense as in some earlier versions, for example in Who's Been Talking where the original key of Dm is dropped to Am in order to accommodate his range perhaps, but it still has that authority, it still has gravitas, and the band musicianship compensates.

Of course, with such a stellar band supporting their hero it had to work - the Stones' engine room plus the sixth Stone, Scotsman Ian Stewart on piano for 4 numbers (and 5 alternate takes), Clapton on guitar with Wolf's Hubert Sumlin on 2nd guitar and rhythm, and Steve Winwood and Layfayette Leake added keyboards later, according to the notes. A young Chicago harmonica player called Jeff Carp who had played with Muddy, Earl and John Lee Hooker was brought over to fill in for Wolf. The notes say that he was killed in a bizarre boat accident not long after this recording. A sad loss.

The second Cd in the deluxe set is certainly not superfluous, although why they chose the tentative rehearsal of Worried About My Babe to open is curious. At least three tracks are the equal of, if not superior to, the issued tracks - the first What A Woman aka Commit A Crime (there are two versions on Cd2), The Red Rooster, Worried About My Babe (the alt version - not the rehearsal), also Who's Been Talkin after the dialogue ends rocks nicely. The extended alternate take of Do The Do is a hypnotic boogie with Charlie's beat up front for almost 6 minutes while Wolf sounds his way forward. Poor Boy and the alternate Rockin' Daddy are both good.

Of the three bonus tracks on side 1, Goin' Down Slow is one of those deep blues with great guitar - Hubert Sumlin perhaps, and superb harp from maestro Jeff Carp, and Wolf is living his vocal, painting his inimitable picture. His vocal on the self penned I Want To Have A Word With You is raw and passionate. Killin' Floor, by comparison to the original is, for my taste, tepid.

This deluxe edition is a handsome product, the remastering is great, the booklet is informative and well written by Bill Dahl plus photos (including a couple of Jagger with Wolf) and session details. It would complement your Memphis and Chicago Wolf recordings, and while not having the visceral intensity of prime Wolf, it does provide another rockin' side to the man with it's fine band, added horns and keyboards, Jeff Carp's harp fills and top production. It is a testament to producer Norman Dayron that he had the vision, and was able to bring a sometimes testy Wolf together with these young dudes and make music worthy of the legend. As the Wolf is moved to say near the end of Wang Wang Doodle ''Lemmie howl for ya!''

Original Album Classics [Audio CD] Johnny Winter
Original Album Classics [Audio CD] Johnny Winter
Offered by momox co uk
Price: £20.32

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Essential albums and Great Value, 13 Sept. 2012
This classic album series of 5 albums for about $4 each (here in Oz) is excellent value, particularly if all albums in the box set are good. My purchases so far, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Los Lobos, and now Johnny Winter have all put a smile on this dial.

I purchased the set for the first two albums which I owned in vinyl before a bushfire claimed them. The initial Columbia release, Johnny Winter, established his blues cred internationally with help from Rolling Stone magazine and blues stalwarts Willie Dixon on double bass and Walter Horton on harp on Mean Mistreater. Winter's approach was raw with no frills, no compromise to populist production, no voice echoes, no guitar reverb, just straight ahead blues. The two acoustic numbers, the fabulous self penned Dallas and Robert Johnson's When You Got a Good Friend showed that here was a guy who could play like Johnson and sing with power and authority; few could come anywhere near him.

Winter's vocals are under rated, there is soul, rock 'n roll, country and blues in this collection and he does them all well. Check out his version of Little Richard's Miss Ann from Second Winter - such great solos and no other major artist comes so close to sounding like Richard, apart from Otis Redding. The smokin' Highway 61 also from Second Winter was a vocal and instrumental performance reprised for Dylan's 30th anniversary concert in 1993. On Second Winter JW expanded his styles to great effect, while paying homage to his roots.

Of the albums I hadn't heard previously Live Johnny Winter And is an energy packed show with Rick Derringer on second lead. It is flash and would have been great to see. Most of it works with slight excesses being my only criticism. Jumpin' Jack Flash out stones the Stones, just fabulous!

Still Alive and Well is a very strong album, moving away from blues to Stones raunch territory. A couple of Stones' covers with Silver Train and Let It Bleed, both worthy versions. The country song, Ain't Nothing to Me is also good fare and you could imagine Mick and Keef on harmonies. Bonus tracks Little Richard's Lucille and Dylan's From A Buick Six are both on par with the rest of the album.

Saints and Sinners to my taste is marred by cluttered arrangements and over production, a pity because there are good songs and some fine playing. A great soul number Hurtin' So Bad is saturated with horns, Blinded By Love by vocal choruses. Thirty Days sounds like a football team is singing the chorus. Interestingly the funky closer Feedback on Highway 101 is a rare Van Morrison outtake circa Hard Nose The Highway which is great but it too is cluttered along the way with superfluous electronic ceiling. By contrast the stark bonus track Dirty is the unlikely paring of JW's slide with Jeremy Steig's flute which works well, fabulous vocal too.

The major drawback with these sets is that you don't get recording and personnel info unless they are on the rear cover of the album, but these can usually be obtained from the internet. The sound on each album is good to my ears, I think Still Alive and Well and Saints and Sinners must be lately remastered given the bonus tracks. All up, great value and a plus for any collection, the first two albums, Johnny Winter and Second Winter, being essential.

The Best of the Vanguard Years
The Best of the Vanguard Years
Price: £13.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prime Chicago Blues from the 60s, 23 Feb. 2012
Junior Wells Best of the Vanguard Years

This compilation album sits with Hoodoo Man Blues, Southside Blues Jam and Blues Hit Big Town as among the best of Junior Wells' music. The musicianship here is superb, not only Junior's powerful whiskey tinged vocals and precise, punctuating and wailing harmonica, but also Buddy Guy's unique, adventurous guitar style and the colourful drum fills of the fabulous Fred Below supported by imaginative bass from either Jack Myers or Leroy Stewart.

I rate this album as among the finest of Chicago blues from the 60s, in fact the first five tracks are the total Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band contribution to the showcasing of Chicago blues that was issued in 1966 on three albums called Chicago/The Blues/Today! ( now available as a triple CD set with improved sound, fine liner notes and top photos for a reasonable price). Junior's band contribution kicked off the first album and is regarded by many as being with the best in that collection.

Tracks 6-14 and 16 are from the excellent live/studio album ''It's My Life Baby'' from 1965 (check out Amazon's complementary reviews) and track 15, his version of Muddy Water's I'm your Hoochie Coochie Man is from the 1968 album Coming at You. The two closing previously unreleased tracks Shotgun Blues and You know That I Know are from the recording sessions for It's My Life Baby! according to the credits, however the sleeve notes by Tom Vickers states that they come from Coming At You sessions. Given that they have no horns it would appear that the former is likely, but regardless, both tracks are worthy additions. Shotgun Blues replaces Sonny Boy's swinging original with a harder R & B feel and You Know That I Know is a spirited slow blues with fabulous vocals and harp from Junior, incisive guitar from Buddy, eloquent bass runs which sound like Leroy Stewart's work and nifty drum fills of Fred Below's artistry, which would also place this piece with the It's My Life Baby sessions from 1965.

My favourite tracks here are the slow blues numbers where the band has the space to stretch out and enjoy what they find. Look How Baby is an almost abstract blues, it is astounding musicianship with the drums, the bass and the lead exploring possibilities in rhythm, accentuation, tone and space which must have fired up Jimi Hendrix when he listened to it, pre dating as it did his Are You Experienced album, and also those Brit 'bluesmen', Clapton, Beck and Page, who blew it into flash and clamour and some might say, overstatement. But by then it had morphed into something entirely different. That this track was recorded in 1965 is amazing, and it stands as a seminal blueprint.

The original tapes have been engineered, converted to 20 digital audio and the bass which was removed from the vinyl record has been reinstated, so the credits state. The sound is good on the home speakers and in the car. Incidentally I checked the sound of the first five tracks against those in Chicago/ The Blues/Today! and there appears to be barely discernible less bass on this album. I say barely discernible because I had to listen twice, and no, I'm not convinced... forget I mentioned it.

The compilation has been produced and annotated by Tom Vickers, the recording details and personnel are included and the notes are lightly entertaining (as opposed to scholarly) with personal reminiscence and biographical details and were written just prior to Junior's death in 1998.

Modern Answers to Old Problems
Modern Answers to Old Problems

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr Ernest Ranglin inflight with jazz and afro beat, 14 Feb. 2012
Modern Answers to Old Problems

Ernest Ranglin must be the most under rated guitarist in modern music. I don't recall having seen his name in any lists of top 100 axe slayers which inevitably include the usual pomp of posturing pluckers. Tell me, how would strummer Liam Gallagher make any list of top 100 guitarists? Well he has I kid you not!

Yet Ranglin's skill is astounding, and has been so for decades. Reputedly Les Paul gave Ranglin a guitar in admiration of his talents - and Les appears on those lists! Legend also has it that when Ranglin asked to play at the famous Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London in the mid 60s, Ronnie assumed he would hear an instrumental of the tired old calypso hit Yellow Bird, but was so awed by Ranglin's playing that he 'sat at the feet of the master' and then made him resident guitarist. Ranglin's credentials are mighty, check Wikipedia.

I have five studio albums by Ernest Ranglin. Of these I would rate two as indispensable to any well balanced music collection, these being Below The Baseline, his instrumental album of reggae hits, and In Search Of the Lost Riddim, a fabulous fusion with musicians from Senegal. My remaining three studio albums are Memories of Barber Mack, a precursor to Below The Baseline on which the reggae tracks would fit comfortably, the intriguing Alextown which mixes ambient and techno/dub sounds, hip hop with jazz and African rhythms, and this one, Modern Answers to Old Problems.

Modern Answers to Old Problems is an adventurous and exciting fusion of jazz, Afro beat, ska (on the track Sound Invasion), and is tinted with techno tricks to add ambience, which I find appealing. Ernest always works with top flight musicians - eg. superb pianists Monty Alexander and Jon Williams on Baseline and Memories respectively - and here is no exception. We have Afrobeat tubman extraordinaire Tony Allen together with two Nigerian percussionists and bassist Orefo Orakwue giving the album a strong multi rhythmic dance groove. The drums are recorded to give them depth with an almost tactile sound. But the predominant genre is jazz with saxophonist Denys Baptiste and keyboards Joe Bashorun taking exploratory solos along with Ranglin's guitar glittering up and down the scales. Sax luminary Courtney Pine makes a worthy guest appearance on 'Inflight'.

Vocalist Sylvia Tella's input is significant. In addition to her strong, rich and supple vocals she co- wrote five of the tracks. I thought she must have had jazz pedigree but I found that she comes from a pop background as a vocalist in Boney M, then moved (successfully) to Lovers Rock genre, an offshoot of reggae which has little in common with her work on this album.

I note that there are currently no samples on Amazon or Amazon UK. To get a taste I suggest that the two tracks on YouTube should suffice, Outernational [sic] Incident and What A Day (which includes Sylvia's vocals). If they don't get your body moving then... maybe this isn't for you. For me, I've had it in the car for two years and I listened to it in a mini bus through Laos - somehow it perfectly fitted my mood of the moment!

by Alex Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lovesong to Writing, 20 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Lovesong (Paperback)
Alex Miller has won a swag of awards for his novels, including the Miles Franklin Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Lovesong was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and won The Age Book of The Year Award. I enjoyed the novel as much as his earlier Conditions of Faith, which I have also recently read. He uses the same locations in both, Melbourne, Paris, Chartres, Tunisia - plus in Lovesong, a little of Moruya/Araluen, on the south coast of New South Wales.

As with Conditions of Faith he explores the inner psychological territory and although the plot is not overtly complex it is none the less compelling as the characters' thoughts and motivations are revealed in nuances and minutiae. Miller is a wonderful writer, using subtle tones, he reveals gradually yet he is not obvious. You are initially in the comfortable glow of a too perfect love story and you sense the shadow around the corner.

He takes a plot risk with this one as he did with Conditions of Faith, where a step away from realism happened when the priest and Emily make love in the crypt not long after meeting. On the face of it totally incredible, yet Miller's skill promotes your understanding, belief and complicity.

Lovesong has a similar moment where circumstances align to provoke a reaction which might be seen as unrealistic. But humanity forms itself in a wide variety of vehicles, as you will discover. I suspect that he enjoys this manipulative part of writing, he becomes the conjurer and lures the reader in, makes you part of his conspiracy; then you have to deal with it. Miller is not a passive story teller, he is clever, and you the reader are about to be prodded.

A fascinating contentious novel, beautifully written in page turning luminous prose and I'm looking forward to enjoying more of Alex Miller. I've bought a copy for my daughter for Christmas.

Just after finishing Lovesong I Googled an interview with Miller and ABC (Australian) bookshow host Ramona Koval discussing it - fascinating! Purely fictitious he said, apart from the character of the writer and his daughter who is based upon himself and his daughter, some parts of their conversations being used. Well there we have the beauty and the beast of modern technology, all is available.

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