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GlynLuke (York UK)

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The Glorious Old Time Music Hall
The Glorious Old Time Music Hall
Price: £11.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Old drolls, 30 Sep 2014
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What a line-up:
Marie Lloyd, George Robey, Dan Leno, Max Miller, Robb Wilton, Arthur Askey, Florrie Ford, Will Fyffe, Lupino Lane (the latter two's names misspelt on the track listings, sadly), Gus Elen, George Formby (Sr & Jr), Billy Bennett, Vesta Tilley, Flanagan and Allen, Jack Buchanan, Gracie Fields, Tessie O'Shea, Cyril Fletcher, Tommy Handley, Tommy Trinder, Stanley Holloway, even legendary Lily Langtry - and even Frankie Howerd singing (singing?) Three Little Fishes in 1946, one of the latest recordings on this nearly-four-hour feast of veteran acts from the long-gone heady days of British Music Hall.
A few of the choices are in such murky sound that they are hard to listen to, but most of them sound remarkable for their age.
What struck me was an underlying sense of a kind of mad hilarity of some of the acts on these three discs. The first track for example, Charles Coborn's famous The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, or Harry Champion's equally classic Any Old Iron. The sheer presence these old performers must have exuded just manages to traverse the years, in particular the almost desperate daftness, even when singing a not obviously funny song. Champion manages to make the cry of "Any old iron" into something as urgent as a cry for help, or an anthem of the streets.
These were songs and tales of the "common people" - even Burlington Bertie comes across as a toff you could share a drink with.
One of the few who irritated more than entertained me was Australian-born Billy Williams, lauded in his day, whose When Father Papered the Parlour is peppered with too much of his seemingly nervous (or possibly smug?) mirthless laughter. But then, I wasn't there...
It's great at last to have Charles Penrose's The Laughing Policeman on CD, as well as Three Little Fishes, both of which I used often to hear as a boy on Children's Favourites.
And what joy to have over six minutes of the great Robb Wilton's signature Home Guard monologue The Day War Broke Out. How I wish I'd seen him. But I wish I'd seen most of these legends and near-legends.
The accompanying booklet is a bit of a damp squib. There's some notes about music hall, mentioning some of the acts, but brief mini-biogs of each act would have been a boon - indeed essential for those who know little of such often obscure artistes, however famous they once were.
One omission is Max Wall. No songs (he composed many) and no monologues. But what is here - and I've barely scratched the surface - is pure gold. If I had a time machine (I'm working on it) I'd love to go back a hundred years or so to a typical London music hall, with as full a roster as possible of as many of these drolls, trillers and crooners as could fit onto the bill.
Dan Leno would be there, so would Marie Lloyd, Lily Morris too - oh, and Robb Wilton of course, and...

Victorian and Edwardian ghosts, eager phantoms from another age.

Ives - Violin Sonatas, Nos 1-4
Ives - Violin Sonatas, Nos 1-4
Offered by Naxos Direct UK
Price: £5.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars St Ives, 28 Sep 2014
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Regular readers of my reviews (only joking) will know in what high regard I hold Charles Ives, the 'joker' among American composers, but, like the best humourists, one who knows how and when to hold back the ribaldry to reveal someone who can move, inspire and delight.
These four violin sonatas are without any doubt essential listening for any lover of the music of Ives. I like to think Mozart - a man with not only a few memorable violin sonatas under his belt, but also a man possessed of a good sense of humour - would have appreciated the more outrageous moments in these remarkably differing and diverse works.
Even the timings of these sonatas vary enormously, from the third at half an hour to the mere ten minutes of the fourth. The latter has the typical Ivesian subtitle of "Children's Day at the Camp Meeting" while the second sonata's three movements are helpfully named Autumn, In the Barn, and The Revival. The other two seem to be less 'programmatic' with no titles, simply Adagio, Allegro, Largo, etc.
Violinist Curt Thompson and his pianist Rodney Waters play these rewarding pieces as perfectly as I ever expect to hear. The 1998 disc from Naxos (who have done and continue to do both US & UK twentieth century music proud) must surely count as a benchmark recording. The booklet notes are informative and the whole package is an incredible bargain.
If you already love Ives, you won't need to think twice; if you are new to this most idiosyncratic of American composers then this wouldn't be a bad place to start an Ivesian voyage of discovery. Expect humour, joy, spikiness, folk song, hymnody, breadth of musical resourcefulness, moments of intense beauty (the first sonata is utterly lovely) and a lot of heart.
Ives wrote music that can be notoriously difficult to play, and these four sonatas are no exception. However, they are far from hard to listen to. One is forced to the conclusion that the composer made music more for the people than for the musicians who had to play it! I think he might have - gruffly, no doubt - agreed with that.

A wonderful disc.

The Inflated Tear
The Inflated Tear
Price: £7.54

5.0 out of 5 stars Fingers in the wind, 27 Sep 2014
This review is from: The Inflated Tear (Audio CD)
This was the first LP I ever heard by Roland Kirk (1936-77) and I've loved it on vinyl and on CD.
On this 1967 date he's accompanied by a relatively obscure group of nonetheless simpatico musicians: Ron Burton eloquent on piano, bassist Steve Novosel, and Jimmy Hopps keeping the beat.
The opener The Black and Crazy Blues is a stunner, and then we get Kirk's little son gurgling for a moment as an intro to the lovingly composed and played A Laugh For Rory.
Fingers in the Wind is a heart-meltingly lovely ballad, again by Kirk, with the title tune a potent comment in music on his own blindness. Two great tracks.
Ellington's Creole Love Call is honoured, and the last three numbers are Kirk simply blowing like the consummate jazzman he was.
Roland Kirk is never less than worth hearing. On an album like this one, he's downright essential.

Beautiful music from a beautiful man.

We Free Kings [3CD Box Set]
We Free Kings [3CD Box Set]
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He did it, he did it, 26 Sep 2014
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One of the best ever titles for a jazz number must be Kirk's You Did It, You Did It.
It's only two and a half minutes long, but it's as exhilarating and uplifting as its title.
Most of Kirk's music is like that: joyous, uplifting, inclusive. He's closer to someone like Armstrong, or sometime sideman Jaki Byard, or his onetime boss Mingus at his most carnivalesque, than he is to, say, Coltrane or Shepp.
These three LPs from the early sixties are, surprisingly enough, and despite the presence of Kirk's trusty instruments the manzello and stritch augmenting his tenor sax and flute, fairly mainstream. Assisted by such luminaries as bassist Art Davis, pianist Hank Jones, drummers Charlie Persip, Art Taylor and Roy Haynes, and keyboard players Richard Wyands, Andrew Hill and Wynton Kelly - not to mention the organ of "Brother" Jack McDuff - over these three discs (which could easily have been put onto two, but that's a small quibble) Kirk proves he was a jazz musician to his fingertips.
There's more sheer fun to be had on a Kirk record than on most, but that isn't because he was some kind of 'jazz comedian', but rather due to his propensity, while making vibrant expansive music, to have a damn good time!
There's little point in going through all three albums, or picking out tracks, as you really won't be disappointed by either the music or the sound on these superb albums from early in the man's all too brief career.
He was always trying new combinations of instruments, and McDuff's organ playing on Kirk's Work is a bracing change from so many pianos, a spikier counterpoint to the massed horns hanging around Kirk's neck and in his pockets.
But all the musicians play at their peak with Kirk. One can't help feeling they felt both happy and indeed privileged to be blowing alongside such a beacon of the 'up' side of jazz, a man whose blindness (from the age of two) didn't stop him from seeing just as far as any other great jazz musician.
In fact, you tend to forget this is jazz - it is simply very good music!

A marvellous bargain, massively recommended.

Rip Rig And Panic / Now Please Don't You Cry Beautiful Edith
Rip Rig And Panic / Now Please Don't You Cry Beautiful Edith
Price: £7.25

5.0 out of 5 stars The heart of Kirk, 26 Sep 2014
The key to most of the music of the late Roland Kirk (1936-77) is joy. There's hardly a number he recorded that doesn't bespeak a great, huge-hearted joy of life, an uplift not always found so blatantly or so unashamedly in the world of jazz. Louis and Diz had it, Duke and Basie tended towards it, Sun Ra toyed with it, Fats Waller wallowed in it, but Kirk embodied it.
These two records from the mid-sixties contain some of his most vital work, Rip, Rig and Panic being a truly great jazz album, with the lesser known ...Edith not that far behind.
On Rip (from 1965) he's accompanied by a superb small band made up of the gregarious and versatile pianist Jaki Byard (try his own Sunshine of my Soul), bassist Richard Davis, with ever-adaptable Elvin Jones providing plenty of roughage on drums. It's a perfect line-up for Kirk's brand of mercurial 'Lord of Misrule' music-making.
On Edith (1967) he's with buoyant pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, Ronald Boykins (a name new to me) on bass, and Grady Tate excellent on drums.
As on Edith, Kirk can play a ballad as poignantly as anyone, without reverence but with respect for the composer's intentions. Hear what he does with Bacharach's Alfie (a brand new tune back then!), in particular the couple of false finishes he gives it, which somehow only add to its unexpectedly touching quality.
It was a good idea to pair these two short LPs on one CD, as they complement each other, despite differing line-ups, and it means you get two wonderful Kirk albums on one CD, which leaves everybody a winner.
The booklet contains the original notes plus a few photos, including one with his devoted wife Edith.
Kirk could sometimes have a reputation as a kind of jazz circus act - playing three instruments at once, for example - but what he did was simply to play great jazz (often in a surprisingly mainstream style) without fuss or much of a furrowed brow.
There's more fine and uplifting jazz here than you can shake a stritch at. And if you don't know what that is - listen to Kirk! He knew.

Unreservedly recommended.

Career Moves
Career Moves

5.0 out of 5 stars It's the happy blues!, 25 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Career Moves (Audio CD)
Loudon Wainwright is the most entertaining singer I've ever seen.
The first time I saw him he bounded on stage, beamed roguishly at us all, then ingenuously said "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." From that moment he had us all in the palm of his hand.
It helps that Loud writes wonderful songs, as witty as anybody's and wittier than most, and can make you laugh and cry in the space of a verse, sometimes a line.
It's all captured on this 1993 gig at New York's Bottom Line, recorded in 1993. Starting solo, and joined later by Chaim Tannenbaum and David Mansfield, he sings 24 songs, and the audience love him. They tend to.
Some of these songs are from his albums, but not all. Besides, he's such a consummate live act that it hardly matters.
By his own admission, one of Loudon's main lyrical inspirations was the American satirical singer (and mathematician) Tom Lehrer, who I grew up listening to myself. But what Wainwright has, which Lehrer didn't to any extent, is the power to move the listener. His sense of timing is that of a showman. (No wonder he's occasionally been effective as an actor.)
I agree with another reviewer who suggests this is the best live album ever. It's certainly up there with the best. You don't need to be James Brown or B.B. King to make a great live record. Loud did it, mostly with just a guitar.
If you've never seen him and he's playing near you, book without hesitation. In the meantime, this is a perfect example of why you should.

Like life, hilarious and heartbreaking.

Farewell Keystone
Farewell Keystone
Price: £10.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Abandon & relish, 23 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Farewell Keystone (Audio CD)
The line-up is fairly mouth-watering: Bobby on vibes (what else), Billy Higgins on drums, Harold Land on tenor sax, Cedar Walton on the piano stool, bassist Buster Williams, and Oscar Brashear excelling on trumpet.
That's an eclectic mix of musical talent. It shows on this 1982 live outing from the West Coast jazz club of the title (though the date of this CD release on Evidence is 1992). The cover is lousily designed, but the music within is irresistible.
Hutcherson is none of my favourite jazz musicians, his vibes playing as tasteful as it is eloquent, as restrained as it is succinct. He's on great form here.
Try the last track Mapenzi for a twelve-minute workout on which all the musicians shine, Walton having a fine old time travelling up and down the keyboard with abandon and relish. (Not a bad title for an album: Abandon & Relish!)
The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and it's well recorded. Even the booklet notes and photos make it look like it was an enjoyable, relaxed evening. Apparently, Bobby Hutcherson was a favourite at the club (now closed) and, knowing the big-heartedness of the man's music - get his early Blue Note dates, they're
stunning - I'm not surprised.
There's little that's world-shattering here, just 52 minutes of glorious live jazz from six guys playing their hearts out. Sounds good, doesn't it?
Trust me, it is.

More Jack Than God
More Jack Than God
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £5.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Jack feeling free again, 19 Sep 2014
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This review is from: More Jack Than God (Audio CD)
One or two of the tracks on this fascinating 2003 album remind me of the rarefied musical landscape Robert Wyatt often inhabits - and Wyatt has sung with Bruce in the past.
Jack B never ceases to amaze, delight and inspire me. I have quite a few of his records now, including his work with the peerless Cream, and a happy collaboration with Robin Trower on the superb Seven Moons.
Vernon Reid, of the band Living Colour (and how tremendous they were live!) plays guitar, not for the first time on a JB album. Jack sure knows how to choose his collaborators.
There's a contemplative feel to some of these songs, not least his reworking of his old standby We're Going Wrong, with its slow, tortured crescendo until Reid lets rip with some splintery guitar.
Jack also revisits old Cream classics I Feel Free and, perhaps more profitably, Politician.
For the rest, there's plenty of his trademark succinct bass, eloquent piano, and that distinctive voice like no other.
There are few people I'd rather listen to these days, and this addition to the glittering Bruce canon is close to his best. For some it may not be quite up there with, say, Harmony Row or Shadows in the Air, but there's so much going on in these fourteen tracks that the Jack Bruce lover will be more than satisfied. It certainly doesn't sound like anything else.

Great title, terrific album.

Never Said Goodbye
Never Said Goodbye
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £3.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet Cerys kicks ass, 19 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Never Said Goodbye (Audio CD)
There are Kate Bush albums less interesting than this follow-up to the rather twee Cock-a-Hoop. I make the comparison since both have an inherent 'sweetness' to their voices which can turn harsher when necessary, for example on the raging track Oxygen, from this excellent set of eleven songs.
Cerys Matthews is what I'd call a Good Thing. She's well established now as a radio presenter, song collector, and general good egg. This sumptuously presented digipak with booklet that includes the lyrics is a selection of thoughtfully written songs by the Welsh chanteuse, all with arrangements which complement the varied musical styles on show.
Such are Cerys's many interests and activities we perhaps don't hear as much from her as we might like, so this often breathtakingly lovely album from 2006 was doubly welcome.
To me there are no actual highlights, merely 45 minutes of likable songs that I enjoy more each time I play them.
I love her enthusiasm, and her ability to 'sing out' if the song needs some welly. To labour the Kate Bush comparison again, to my ears this is a more memorable album than the latter's Aerial, released nine months earlier. It doesn't meander or drift, there's substance here, coherence too.
A fellow-reviewer has said this is clever and fun - I couldn't agree more. I like this album a lot. It has integrity and, in its own modest way, a sassy kind of class.
The final song Elen is sung in Welsh, and closes this rather special event with a gentle, caressing beauty.

Hyfryd, Cerys!

Price: £7.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Jack of all shades, 14 Sep 2014
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This review is from: HARMONY ROW (Audio CD)
I love Jack Bruce.

I love this highly unusual, endlessly rewarding, beautifully remastered album.
I love the combination of the words by Pete Brown and Jack's music.
I love the sheer intelligence of all JB's music, over his many and diverse projects, both rock and jazz and all points between and beyond.
I love his unique, instantly recognisable, plaintive voice.
I love his sturdy, rounded, often heart-stopping bass playing.
I love his upliftingly energetic piano playing.
I love his willingness to take risks, his thrilling unpredictability.
I love the fact that Jack is still around making vital music.
I love Harmony Row, all that went before it, and most that came after.

I love Jack Bruce.

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