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Profile for Mr. N. J. Harding > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Mr. N. J. Harding (Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK)

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Price: £21.53

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ambient album, 29 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Wandermüde (Audio CD)
I had to write a review for this release after reading some of the others, there is much talk of 'emperor new cloths' by some reviewers. Rubbish!

I too have struggled with some of Sylvian's recent releases - Manafon, Died in the Wool - but this is a real return to form. The album is entirely instrumental and touchstones in Sylvian career would probably be the `Plight..' and `Flux..' albums. I also hear echoes of Eno, in particular `Apollo' and bits of the `Music for Films' series and maybe late Marconi union.
So if you are into ambient soundscape types of music, buy it. If not don't.

Grappling Hooks
Grappling Hooks
Price: £9.15

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb debut album, 9 May 2010
This review is from: Grappling Hooks (Audio CD)
This is the debut album from North Atlantic Oscillation and it is a cracker. The Kscope record label is developing a reputation for signing some very exciting new bands. 'Three Fact Fader' from label mates the Engineers was one of my records of 2009 and there are plenty of parallels here.

Both bands know how to play and songs are built on layers of music, each instrument interfacing with the other intimately and completely. The opening track `Marrow' demonstrates this beautifully as does the hook heavy `Cell Count' with its gorgeous vocal chorus and keyboard motif.

For a duo they generate enormous power, the drumming on `Some Blue Hive' almost blew my socks off and the samples really bring it together. I am desperate to see these guys live.

Immense record that you need to own.

Stravinksy - The Rite of Spring
Stravinksy - The Rite of Spring

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contemporary classic / jazz crossover, 9 May 2010
I picked this up on a whim knowing little about either musician or their previous output, but I thought the concept of reinterpreting Stravinsky sounded interesting.

Dylan Howe (son of the Yes guitarist Steve Howe -but don't hold that against him) is a talented drummer who chooses not to follow the standard rock clichés. Taking on Stravinsky is a daunting feat, yet his collaboration with the pianist Will Butterworth turns out to be a rewarding exercise in reducing complex ideas to the basics.
Butterworth resists the temptation to overplay, and the result are a set of accessible pieces that feature a range of retrained improvisation that engage rather than alienate the listener. I am not a big jazz buff but I get this and so have a number of friends that I have played it to.

Real good stuff and marks these two out as a due to watch. Recommended.


2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immense and wonderful, 9 May 2010
This review is from: Carbeth (Audio CD)
Carbeth is a lost folk rock classic from the late 1970's isn't it? Not a new recording from a bunch of ragtag musician from across the UK. I mean that is certainly Sandy Denny on vocals isn't it? No.

Trembling Bells are Alex Neilson's musical collective who seek to reanimate the psychic landscapes of Great Britain and relocate them to some vague, middle earth where human problems are encountered and conquered.

Carbeth is a gorgeous folk / pysch rock wig out with a live feel and hooks a plenty. Dirty guitar and boy, girl vocals saturate this terrific record that demands repeat playing. A real joy and I cannot wait to see this lot live during the festival session. When Joe Boyd is name checking a band it is pretty clear what to expect and I love it.

Oh and buy the CD rather than the download as the packaging is beautiful.

The Songs Of Sandy Wright
The Songs Of Sandy Wright
Price: £15.24

4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking double album, 9 May 2010
I confess I really knew nothing of Sandy Wright, a underground hero in the Edinburgh folk pub scene, I had only heard of him after hearing Kris Drever and Karine Polwart name check him before covering one of his songs in their live sets.

The excellent Navigator Records have pulled together this two disk set. The first disk features Sandy himself presenting a selection of his songs from his long career as a singer / songwriter. The second disk features a veritable who's who of folk talent covering his songs.

The first disk slips along at a gentle pace and is lyrically strong, whilst the tunes although not dynamic are memorable and Sandy's voice is strong and full of experience. Sarah McFadyen and Ruth Lee Barrie both add backing vocals on a number of tracks and compliment Sandy well. This is a real grower, the more I play it the better it becomes.

Disk 2 for me is the real highlight, a wonderful selection of talent singing some great songs. Steel and Stone will be familiar to any Kris Drever fan, as will `Beads and Feathers', although here it is covered by Chris Wood - slowed down, sombre and wonderful. Inge Thomson delivers a beautiful Scottish Bjork like reworking of `Tears of the Sun', the electronic clicks and scratches delivering an exquisite other-worldly vibe. Heidi Talbot's angelic (no pun intended) vocal on `Angel of Mercy' is another standout on a record crammed with them.

Buy this now.

No Man's Fool
No Man's Fool
Price: £10.35

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful debut, 9 May 2010
This review is from: No Man's Fool (Audio CD)
I guess many people will be drawn to this record due to Rachael's membership of the folk steam roller that is Bellowhead. However this debut release along with her strong contribution to the excellent `Darwin Song Project' proves that she has plenty to offer outside the band.

In terms of style this record certainly has echoes of folk but nu-jazz is also prevalent, the radical arrangement for the traditional song `Maid on the Shore' being an excellent example. The introduction of the brass instruments is inspired.

Folk purists need not fret; `The Drowned Sailor' is a highlight with a great and well loved song given a new lease of life by Rachael's beautiful vocals, a dreamy piano and a light touch viola.

Although Rachel's name is at the top of bill and she has selected the songs and arranged them, she has gathered together an exquisite backing band and used guest musicians wisely. I really hope she can find a gap in the busy Bellowhead schedule to tour this record as I imagine it would be marvellous in a live environment.

White Holes Of Mole Hills
White Holes Of Mole Hills
Price: £11.16

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A punk / jazz / folk poet, 26 Mar. 2010
This is a peculiar release and I fear will be dismissed by some after a cursory listen. Ruth has a breathless and intense singing voice that is always at the forefront of her songs. Lyrically quirky and not a little eccentric she will not be to everyone's taste.

However if you persevere there are rewards to be had on this, her second full album. In terms of song structure there is none, Ruth does not seem to do verse, chorus, verse; instead we get a stream of consciousness that can be both funny and scary and sometimes both at the same time. Musically there is much to enjoy with clarinet, cello and finger plucked acoustic guitar all evident.
This is an album for the discerning music fan not the X-Factor generation.

This is a slow burner but worth investigating. Oh and buy the physical disc as opposed to the digital download because the CD packaging is lovely.

Offered by All Celtic Music Store
Price: £11.80

4.0 out of 5 stars World music for people that don't like World music, 26 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Salamander (Audio CD)
I had never heard of Bellevue Rendezvous before but picked this up after reading a favourable review in a Sunday paper. Although a Scottish band Bellevue Rendezvous play a wide and eclectic European repertoire with tunes from the Balkans, Polish klezmer and Scandinavian polka all represented.

The majority of these instrumentals are faster and dance orientated tunes and keeping you feet still is near impossible, listening to this on the train I found my feet constantly fidgeting to the annoyance of some of my fellow commuters. The fiddle and jaw harp on `Firedance Parts I & II' are irresistible!

This is world music for people that don't like world music. An excellent introduction to a wealth of wonderful tunes and styles that I guarantee you will want to follow up. If you are a fan of Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty or the 3 Daft Monkeys check them out.

The North Farm Sessions
The North Farm Sessions
Price: £9.86

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely debut record, 26 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The North Farm Sessions (Audio CD)
This extended EP / Mini album from Jonny Kearney & Lucy Farrell serves as a beautiful introduction to an exciting new folk duo. Recently seen supporting their friends the Unthanks, this young couple are a band to watch.

Both sings well and Lucy in particular has a charming crystal clear voice that brings the old trad. Arr. favourite `Hares on the Mountain' to life - haunting and very, very memorable.

The reminder of the tracks are written by the band and straddle comfortable the traditional English canon. They keep the arrangements simple using voice, acoustic guitar and double bass. A gentle piano and viola sometimes appear low in the mix.

As one would expect they are not yet the finished article but this is a very promising debut. The closest comparison I can think of in terms of style and sound is `Megson', if they can match that splendid duo we are all in for some real treats in the future.

Check them out.

Raise Your Head: A Retrospective
Raise Your Head: A Retrospective
Price: £13.06

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Celtic music as it is supposed to be, 26 Mar. 2010
This retrospective draws on the bands first three albums, Chantoozies, Dansoozies, Infinite Blue and the EP Come Raise Your Head. At the core of the group are Mary Macmaster (electro-harp, metal-strung harp, percussion, vocals) and Patsy Seddon (electro-harp, gut-strung harp, fiddle, percussion, vocals) who also play as the duo Sileas. Around them a number of other musicians have come and gone including Kate Rusby.

The album kicks of with a Rusby vocal number, `The Widow', a fantastic folk song and one of the best that Kate has ever recorded in my opinion. Contrast this with the more mainstream radio friendly sounds of `We built fires' which has received heavy airplay and been used on tv. This sums up the band perfectly; there is a stack of talent on display and they really can turn their hand successfully to almost anything.

The band have Celtic roots and this is predominant throughout but neither in a twee tartan style or fist punching pomposity, they carry the tradition with style and songs like the instrumental `Willie's old trousers' and `The Baytree set' illustrate this perfectly.

This is real good time music, played with passion and no little skill. Recommended.

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