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GlynLuke (York UK)
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More Love Songs
More Love Songs
Price: £8.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Smokin' a beard, growin' a pipe, 25 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: More Love Songs (Audio CD)
If Loudon's ever in your town, don't even think about it, just get hold of tickets and get on down there and you'll have the time of your life, since he's one of the most entertaining solo singers (he's generally solo in the UK) you'll ever see. I've seen him amble on stage, grin at the audience and shamelessly say: 'Hello, I'm Johnny Cash' - after which, once the laughter had died down, he had us in the palm of his hand.
More Love Songs was his tenth studio LP, made in 1986 when he was a wizened 39, and is as good as anything he's ever done, despite one or two more throwaway tracks, such as Vampire Blues and I Eat Out, on the latter of which the typically inventive lyrics come over best when performed live, rather than the rather rushed version here.
With a luxury backing band including Richard Thompson (who also produced), old pal Chaim Tannenbaum, bass wizard Danny Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick, along with backing vocals by Maria Muldaur, Christine Collister and others, the accompaniments are more varied than on some of Loud's albums - though I confess I've always been more than happy to hear him eloquently alone with guitar.
Highlights of this recording made in his temporary home of London (following the painful split from his first wife, the now sadly late Kate McGarrigle) tend to be the slower, more 'serious' songs, such as the sadly tender Your Mother and I, an explanatory lyric to his then young children Rufus & Martha:

Your mother and I are not getting along
Somehow, somewhere, something went wrong
Everything changes, time takes its toll
Your folks fell in love, love's a very deep hole

Time and again, throughout his career, this brilliant, too often undervalued and taken-for-granted songwriter finds ways to express the simplest emotions in the most articulately witty language. He can have you laughing and crying in the same song, often in the same verse or even line.
The Home Stretch is a meditative, downbeat song about life on the road, while Unhappy Anniversary is a short, pithy song that speaks for itself:

Unhappy anniversary, it's one year since we split
I walk and talk and get around, lie down, stand up and sit

The man's hurting, but he can make you smile wryly even as he breaks his and your heart.
Overseas Call is one of Loudon's most beautiful songs, with a memorable musical hook to match: 'Gonna make me an overseas call...'
With its golfing metaphor (Loudon - golf!) The Back Nine closes this bittersweet album in sombre style:

Got to move on down to that next fairway
Up to that flapping flag
Got to shoulder up that bag...

There are more flippant songs too - the hilarious Synchronicity and bloodthirstily tasteless Vampire Blues, along with an angry Man's World and the upbeat negativity of the briskly titled No.
Then there's the lyrically deft Expatriot, with its idealistic imagery and typical
wordplay:

Livin' in a garret in Paris, a houseboat in Amsterdam
Smokin' a beard, growin' a pipe, and doin' the best I can

I haven't mentioned the excellent opening number, the wild and wanton Hard Day On the Planet, which is about exactly what it sounds like it's about.
The two extra tracks on this welcome reissue from 2003 are The Acid Song (which I've never liked much, and can also be found on his wonderful live album Career Moves) and a lovely duet with another favourite singer-singwriter of mine, John Hiatt, on an older song entitled At the End of a Long Lonely Day. Two kindred spirits whose voices meld perfectly.
With an exemplary booklet that includes pics and full song lyrics, as well as extensive and intelligent liner notes by one Joey Webb, this is a great buy for both the Wainwright fan and newcomer alike.

I'm in the old world now - you're in the new
Gonna pick up the phone, try to get through
Seven hours and an ocean between me and you
Gonna make me an overseas call


Peace At Last
Peace At Last
Offered by westworld-
Price: £10.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Love came down, 25 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Peace At Last (Audio CD)
You know the cliche: 'If I could give this more than five stars...' Well, in this case it's never been more true.
If (and this is only my taste and opinion, naturally) their debut was a magnificent 'grower' that now sounds like the start of something unique, Hats was a sublime classic that anyone with a heart and mind must surely love, and the most recent (from 2004) High was a gravely beautiful goodbye - then Peace at Last (from 1996) was and is sheer unadulterated bliss, a set of ten songs so ridiculously and unerringly lovely as to defy belief.
Their first two albums were flecked with keyboards and thwacking eighties drums, while this has far more guitar, and the difference is to its credit. The mostly strummed guitar gives the songs a warm, almost festive sound, while never compromising their trademark spare solemnity - though they sound much happier here than on High.
I can't and won't pick favourites, since I have none. This is one album to sit back and swallow whole, letting its gorgeousness overwhelm you. (Am I exaggerating? Not much, no.)
The Blue Nile were always an 'occasional' band, but the four records they made together contain some of the loveliest, most uncategorisable music by any British band of any era. They took their time and the results were - to quote the old song - too marvellous for words. I think their music reached an ethereal, ecstatic peak in this their third record.
And fancy being able to follow up Hats with anything this good!
I love everything about Peace at Last, from Paul Buchanan - he of the mercurially soulful voice - on a blurry-maned horse, to the choir singing of Happiness on the opening track.

{NB. I have reviewed the original single-disc edition, which is all I need - besides, I get the impression that the Deluxe remaster isn't sonically trustworthy, which can all too often be the case.}

**********


High
High
Offered by Side Two
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Soul boys, 23 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: High (Audio CD)
I don't know what it is about Paul Buchanan's distinctive voice, but it has something to do with soulfulness, a lot to do with restraint, and a little huskiness in there, the kind that makes Peter Gabriel and Paul Carrack so interesting to listen to.
Everybody with a pulse loves their glorious second album Hats, but this one is well worth hearing too, despite the band apparently not getting on together during its recording.
It's a sparely arranged, sometimes mournful - and nobody does mournful quite like Paul B and the boys - set of nine songs with a suggestive, laidback quiet intensity that makes me want to play it again the moment it's ended.
There isn't the variety of tempo and texture of their first two albums, but instead there's an enigmatic, almost forlorn drama to these lovely songs which is just as irresistible.
Because of Toledo, Soul Boy, and the title track are just three haunting songs on this so far last Blue Nile record. But it really demands to be heard in one go, like all their albums.
The Blue Nile are unique.

Serenely, disquietingly beautiful.


Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns (Deluxe)
Dirty Jeans And Mudslide Hymns (Deluxe)
Price: £12.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Love that man, 23 April 2015
Well, she come around here
In her sixty-five dress
With her eyes stuck open
And her hair in a mess...
And I love that girl

Even by John Hiatt's high standards this is one of his most consistently enjoyable and rewarding albums.
His song titles alone make you want to listen and pay attention: Damn This Town, I Love That Girl, Detroit Made, Down Around My Place...the songs fully live up to their titles too, with the sloppy loved-up I Love That Girl a happy highlight on a record full of them.
There isn't a dud on this set from 2011, and it closes with a tenth anniversary tribute to the Twin Towers abomination, When New York Had Her Heart Broke, a moving if rather lyrically literal number that closes a varied and often stunning record in sobering style.
Over the years Hiatt has joined Dylan, Young, Morrison, Waits and a few others as one of my favourite singer-songwriters, rarely letting me down (though I'd avoid the rather disappointing Same Old Man from 2008, if I were you).
Long ago, Hiatt wrote one of the most wonderful and witty break-up songs I've ever heard, the lyrically inventive The Way We Make a Broken Heart (sung beautifully by Ry Cooder on an early LP) and some of these can proudly take their place among his best compositions. It really is that good. Plenty of slow songs that he does so well, with a couple of rockers too.
The Deluxe edition - well worth getting - has a welcome 'Making Of' DVD.
A John Hiatt record this good is just great.

We'd been left by the road
In the back of the night
We'd been stranded by dreams
And then shot full of moonlight
They took us downtown
And they read us our rights
And I love that girl


Centerfield
Centerfield
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £6.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Hey let's go, all over the world..., 22 April 2015
This review is from: Centerfield (Audio CD)
I have three of John Fogerty's solo albums - this one from 1984, 1997's impeccable Blue Moon Swamp, and the tremendous Revival from 2007 - and each of them sounds like a greatest hits package, such is the standard he's set himself since the heady days of Creedence, one of the very best rock bands ever to walk the earth.
Centerfield (US spelling, naturally) is half an hour of blissful, melodic rock as only JF knows how do deliver it, with one stunning track after another, starting with the CCR-ish The Old Man Down the Road, followed by an instant classic, the wonderful Rock and Roll Girls, catchy as hell and with a chorus that will have you singing along in no time, assuming you can sing as high as Fogerty - few can!
Nearly all the other songs are as good, until the last one, Vanz Kant Danz, which is throwaway and forgettable. (Apparently it's a dig at Saul Zaentz, former head of Fantasy Records, with whom the notoriously prickly singer had a beef.)
Other highlights are the baseball-inspired title track, Big Train (From Memphis), and the mid-tempo I Saw It On TV. Mind you, Searchlight and I Can't Help Myself (not the Four Tops classic) are pretty damn good too.

Half an hour isn't long but, ignoring the ill-advised last track, what's here is rock 'n' roll gold dust.

Hey, let's go
All over the world
Rock and roll girls
Rock and roll girls


Virtuoso Oboe Concertos
Virtuoso Oboe Concertos
Price: £11.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Italian & German baroque oboe, 21 April 2015
This review is from: Virtuoso Oboe Concertos (Audio CD)
I love the sound of a well played oboe, and oboists don't come much better than the Swiss master Heinz Holliger, who recorded the works on this 68-minute anthology between 1968 and 1983.
The sound is wonderful, and the pieces all yield many charms and delights, beginning with one of Albinoni's irresistible concerti - the Adagio is glorious - and taking in an equally fine one by Marcello, another for two oboes by Albinoni (where the second player is Holliger's exact contemporary Maurice Bourgue), a vivacious Vivaldi, a welcome and at times (especially in its expansive Largo) ravishing example in the form by Telemann, and finishing with the splendid Bach concerto in D min, BWV 1059.
Holliger is accompanied by either I Musici or the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under Iona Brown. They all play with flair and feeling, helped no end by a bright and buoyant recording.
These are lovely pieces, and this is a compilation disc I will be playing often.

Highly recommended.


More of the Hard Stuff
More of the Hard Stuff
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Drinking with the Dubliners, 15 April 2015
This review is from: More of the Hard Stuff (Audio CD)
From the start Ronnie, Luke, Barney, Ciaran and John invariably looked like characters straight out of a Flann O'Brien novel, five likely lads with a haystack of beards between them, and a utilitarian dress sense. The sound they made together was something else, though.
Go to the Chieftains for something more ethereal with harps, the Wolfe Tones for the overtly political stuff, or Altan for a wonderful contemporary folk band, but it's the plain old Dubliners who take you straight to the back room of a city pub, their unobtrusive musicianship offset by two incredible voices: that of Ronnie Drew - the Lee Marvin of Irish folk - and curly-headed Luke Kelly, possessor of one of the most thrillingly powerful voices of its kind. (Both are no longer with us, sadly.)
One or two of their hits - oh yes, they had hits! - back in the sixties seemed almost like novelty numbers, though hearing them in the context of these four re-released LPs from Major Minor they are simply part of the group's varied repertoire.
The revelation for me has been the (re)discovery of Kelly's boisterous singing, a man who really sang with all his heart and guts. Try his full-throttle vocal on The Shoals of Herring. He and Ronnie take a roughly equal share of the vocals on all four discs, with the occasional instrumental as a kind of interlude between songs.
I have no problem with the Mono recordings - far from it: they imbue these now classic records with a suitably rudimentary, honest sound that comes across loud and very clear.
Fourteen songs and tunes sung and played with innate musical integrity from one of the legendary Irish folk groups.

Essential.


Cheatin Heart Attack & Blessed or Damned
Cheatin Heart Attack & Blessed or Damned
Price: £9.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Real country songs, 14 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is such a bargain: Dale Watson's first two albums from 1995/1996 for HighTone, both full to bursting with examples of what, on one of his best numbers, he calls A Real Country Song.
This guy might sound like a cross between Haggard and Jones, with a vocal richness all his own, but these twenty-eight songs are afire with his particular brand of direct, no-frills country integrity.
There's a pleasing variety of tempo and tone, with a few fine ballads. You get the impression this man couldn't wait to get in the studio and cut these tracks. His backing band are exactly right - fully present and correct but never intrusive - and his voice has an immediacy and power not to be denied.
I wouldn't say there are highlights, as such, since there isn't a dud track to be heard on this bargain two-fer. Both albums contain several memorable songs, such as Nashville Rash, Blessed or Damned, That's What I Like About Texas, and Shortcut to the Streets of Gold. So much good music here.
As an introduction to this intriguing 'real country' singer-songwriter, it couldn't be bettered.

Highly recommended.


Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Digibook)
Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Digibook)
Price: £11.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'There is grandeur in this view of life', 13 April 2015
Charles Darwin's marvellous, resounding words are spoken by none other than Richard Dawkins near the end of the last track on this impressive album by the Finnish phenomenon named Nightwish, a long number called The Greatest Show On Earth (also the title of a recent Dawkins opus) and they are all the more moving for the setting and the obvious love Dawkins has for both Darwin and the final paragraph of On the Origin of Species from which the phrase is taken.
In the latest issue of Prog magazine there's a photo of Dawkins and the members of Nightwish, and I'm not sure who looks more honoured by the meeting. The band, one would suppose.
Grandeur is certainly what Nightwish purvey, and one senses that this album means a lot to them, not only for the scope of its ambition but also because a new singer has been inducted into the band, the splendidly named Dutchwoman Floor Jansen. She fits like a glove, with a far less operatic voice than predecessors, more obviously melodic, but without so much of the drama. Swings & roundabouts...
This is well worth a full four stars if only due to the astonishingly sumptuous booklet, with its pictorial extravagance and full lyrics. The music is pretty damn fine too, though the swirl of keyboard, guitar and drums can at times be a bit much. But you pay for Nightwish (and what a good name they picked!) so that's who you get.
The songs are a mix of the long and fairly short, and there's enough going on to keep the listener engrossed most of the time. I would have liked a little less of the orchestral-percussive bombast, but what impresses me is the sheer force and passion of this band from Finland. They mean it, and they don't mess about.
Dawkins himself once expressed regret that no composer had written an 'Evolution Symphony' or similar work, so he must have been pleasantly surprised that the nearest thing to his wish (outside of works by, say, Delius, Bax or Hovhaness) has come from a rock band from a land of innumerable forests and lakes, and that he was asked to recite a few lines on it too.
I find I'm very fond of this band, not long discovered by me, and shall play both sides - vocal and instrumental - of Endless Forms Most Beautiful (Darwin's other marvellous phrase) as often as my eardums and the neighbours will allow.

Life-enhancing.


Oceanborn
Oceanborn
Price: £9.04

4.0 out of 5 stars Drama & passion, 13 April 2015
This review is from: Oceanborn (Audio CD)
The Finns have given us one truly great composer in Jean Sibelius, and here's a metal band that transcends the genre by the sheer force of their commitment to making music that has integrity and passion.
I'm new to Nightwish - an article in the magazine Prog did it - and I'm glad to make their acquaintance. I'm not even a big fan of heavy metal, preferring Led Zep or ZZ Top when it comes to rock music, but this band are a bit special.
For one thing they have an operatic female singer, for another their guitarist is genuinely superb, their drummer sounds like he's happy in his work, and keyboardist and Nightwish supremo Tuomas Holopajnen creates orchestral soundscapes that may well have Wakeman, Banks and Kaye drooling.
There used to be an excellent if eccentric American band called Pavlov's Dog, whose singer was a man named David Surkamp (still going strong) who was the proud possessor of an unfeasibly high voice. Tarja Turunen sounds like a dead ringer. She was with the band for some years, and what her voice lacks perhaps in variety (partly due to the overwhelming, though excellent, production) it makes up for in sheer force of personality.
This reissue comes with a booklet to treasure and welcome extra live tracks. I've got a thing for Finland and the Finns, and I'm happy to know they've produced at least one good rock band. They even do Walking in the Air - yes, that one - on this second album.

Exhausting but uplifting.


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