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Leonardo27 (London United Kingdom)

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Can't Get Enough
Can't Get Enough
Price: £14.72

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love The Ones You're With..., 26 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Can't Get Enough (Audio CD)
A new Stephen Stills 'supergroup', modelled loosely on 1968's Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills Super Session, this one's a real generation-hopping affair with Stills and fellow veteran Barry (Electric Flag) Goldberg joined by fiery young bluesman and guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd on a spirited collection of both standards and new songs. Some interesting choices here, Neil Young's "Rockin' In The Free World" and Iggy and The Stooges' "Search and Destroy" chief amongst them.

The four original and jointly-credited compositions more than hold their own in this company, including the rousing title track and the more reflective "Don't Want Lies", the latter a nostalgic nod back in style to Stills' Manassas days. And there's even a rumbustious and scarcely recognisable re-imagining of "Word Game" from his second solo album.

The passing years have weathered Stills' voice to the point where it now suits the largely rousing material perfectly. The guitar playing is a joy throughout as Stills and Shepherd trade licks with joyous abandon, with Goldberg's exhilarating keyboard work gluing the whole thing together beautifully.

Whilst there's nothing startlingly groundbreaking here, it's nonetheless a real masterclass in blues rock. Stills and Shepherd share lead vocals which gives the album an added freshness and vitality, and it's a hugely enjoyable listen from start to finish.

Whether this proves to have been an inspired one-off or whether there's more to come from this line-up remains to be seen, but for now this hits the spot very nicely indeed.

Made Up Mind
Made Up Mind
Offered by nagiry
Price: £8.24

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's So Heavy, 21 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Made Up Mind (Audio CD)
Solid and exuberant follow-up to the Grammy-winning "Revelator" finds the TTB in fine form. It's the usual winning blend of soul, blues, gospel, Stax and southern rock all immaculately performed and produced, but at the same time perhaps an opportunity or two has been missed along the way.

With a number of highly talented vocalists on board, once again it's a shame that the likes of Saunders Sermons and Mike Mattison haven't been allowed more of a front-line role. Sermons has a brief cameo vocal on "Part Of Me" but, frustratingly, Mattison's most noticeable contribution seems to have been writing the sleevenotes for the CD booklet. Splendid though Susan Tedeschi's vocals are (yet again), one can't help but feel that the album would have benefited from having a track or two led by a male vocalist (viz. the stunning contrast of "Wade In The Water" on last year's live release). It seems such an obvious waste of talent.

On the plus side, it's a strong and exciting set although at times one still longs for a bit of the avant garde touch-of-the-unexpected that made The Derek Trucks band such an exciting listen. Still, "Part Of Me" sounds worthy of being an old classic from the motor city and may well be destined to become one. The title track is one of those infectious songs that you find yourself humming at odd times of the day and can't get out of your head, while "It's So Heavy" is Tedeschi's real power ballad on this album, a vocal tour de force.

At certain times there's a nagging feeling that Derek Trucks' playing might just be a little too carefully practised and restrained but all such thoughts are firmly blown away by a rip-roaring and incendiary performance on "The Storm" in which he pulls out all the stops. It's without question his personal highlight on this particular record.

Elsewhere, only "Sweet And Low" misses the mark for me and is likely to tempt the skip button in future. But there won't be many better albums than this in 2013, and I can't wait to see them at the Royal Albert Hall in October.

Blues From Elsewhere - Koby Israelite
Blues From Elsewhere - Koby Israelite
Price: £15.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Don't want to end up like Bonnie & Clyde..., 2 Jun. 2013
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Avant garde multi-instrumentalist Koby Israelite hits the mainstream with surely a contender for strangest album of the year. Heavily accordion-driven, it's a record that defies categorisation, 'Hard Rock Klezmer' an approximate if admittedly clumsy stab at classification.

Largely instrumental, its centre-piece a four-part suite built around a repeated but memorable riff, it's a diverse and positively schizophrenic effort ranging from crunching guitar bombast at one extreme to a powerful tear-jerking ballad at the other ('Lemi Evke'), courtesy of a truly stunning vocal from Mor Karbasi.

Elsewhere, Annique contributes vocals to the Vaudevillian (if bizarrely titled) 'Why Don't You Take My Brain and Sell It To The Night?' as well as to an outrageously attitudinal version of Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' both of which work spectacularly.

There's a well-honed sense of humour on display throughout, matched by some playful song titles: 'Johnny Has No Cash No More' and 'Peckham Rai' notable amongst them.

And in case you were in any doubt about it earlier, you finally realise you've arrived in some weird alternate universe when you get to the album's closer, a klezmer version of Led Zep's 'Kashmir' (no kidding). It shouldn't work, of course, but like so much of the record it simply defies all expectations.


Price: £11.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it ain't broke, don't fix it ****1/2, 22 May 2013
This review is from: Seesaw (Audio CD)
Difficult second album? Not a bit of it.

Carrying on where the sublime "Don't Explain" left off a couple of years ago, Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa serve up more of the same albeit that it's a litle more punchy than its predecessor.

Kicking off with the frothy "Them There Eyes", made famous by Billie Holiday in the thirties, the pair once again run the gamut of musical styles taking in jazz, blues and soul along the way.

I can think of few vocalists brave or perhaps foolhardy enough to take on Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits", and even fewer capable of nailing it quite as comprehensively as Hart does here.

Elsewhere, a cover of Al Green's "Rhymes" is an undoubted highlight whilst "A Sunday Kind of Love" is at once faithful to the Etta James original but also infuses it with a whole new freshness. Another Melody Gardot song, this time "If I Tell You I Love You", adds a more contemporary edge.

The fifth star is missing only because there's nothing that tingles the spine quite like "I'll Take Care Of You" and "I'd Rather Go Blind" off the first album but this is still a triumphant follow-up with hopefully more to come.

Unfinished Business
Unfinished Business
Price: £3.16

4.0 out of 5 stars If That's What It Takes, 21 May 2013
This review is from: Unfinished Business (MP3 Download)
After a decade spent reinterpreting classic Motown hits, Michael McDonald's return to original material is long overdue although this is still something of a tentative comeback, in the company of famed electric guitarist Robben Ford.

The lead track "La Marea Humana", by a comfortable margin the best thing on offer here, has already been in circulation for a month or two and is a classy Latin-tinged mid-paced shuffle that provides the perfect setting for McDonald's uber cool vocals that have lost none of their distinctive quality over time.

The other three tracks are rather more conventional and muscular r&b workouts, perfectly fine in their own right but not quite recapturing former Mike McD glories. But it's great to have him back, and hopefully the title of the EP proves to be prophetic.

All Fired Up
All Fired Up
Price: £7.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Deliverin', 6 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: All Fired Up (MP3 Download)
I'll be honest; I was fearing the worst. Eleven years on from "Running Horse", and with Rusty Young now the sole original survivor, my expectations weren't high. Especially since most of the previous album's best moments had been provided by the since-departed Paul Cotton, and bassist Jack Sundrud's contributions were some of the most incongruous and "un-Poco"-like songs ever committed to record by the band.

What a surprise, then, to find this latest line-up thoroughly invigorated and sounding like, well, the Poco of old.

Rusty's title track is a jaunty if ultimately slight singalong, strongly recalling the mid-seventies Poco, whilst "Regret" brings to mind a whole raft of songs that he's written before.

The real gem in the collection is "Rockin' Horse Blues", another Rusty Young composition that evokes memories of a Poco you thought had gone forever. And then there's "Neil Young", a wry and uncannily accurate pastiche of the Canadian singer-songwriter in which Rusty goes to great lengths to insist that he isn't Neil's brother.

Happily, Jack Sundrud's contributions are a much better fit this time round, his Don Henley-esque "Hard Country" a real standout.

Overall, it's something of a flawed jewel. For the most part, the lyrics are cliched and unchallenging but it's still a jewel for all that.

Against all expectations, it seems there's still fuel in the tank. It's a good feeling to know.

Finally Home
Finally Home
Price: £21.30

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally Home, 5 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Finally Home (Audio CD)
Kenny Loggins is the household name in Blue Sky Riders, although that's not to demean Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman, both of them top-rated Nashville songwriters, each with an impressive string of hits to their name.

For all the success Loggins has garnered since his break-up with Jim Messina in 1976 there's been something strangely unsatisfying about much of his solo output; too often overwrought, over-produced and increasingly mawkish. Possessed of one of the all-time great country-rock voices, Loggins' transition into white-boy soul always struck me as such a puzzling waste of his natural talents even though it must have kept a succession of bank managers very happy indeed.

The passing years have also done little to dispel the nagging suspicion that the band format is the natural home for Loggins' creative abilities, freed from the burden of carrying the whole shebang on his own shoulders, and this release sweeps away any lingering doubts on that score.

So an aptly-titled album for Loggins' long-overdue return to his roots. This project clearly had its seeds in his last solo album "How About Now", to which Gary Burr contributed both co-writing and co-production, and which marked something of a throwback to the old days. In fact, a rousing revisiting of the title track closes the proceedings here.

Democracy is clearly the byword of Blue Sky Riders, with no obvious front person in the band. For the most part, both writing and lead vocal duties are shared equally across the board, and with the track record of each of these three you just know that the songs are going to be good.

Georgia Middleman is a highly accomplished vocalist who on this evidence has been standing in the shadows too long, her performance on "Little Victories" just one of a number of special moments. It's one of those songs you'd expect a whole raft of female singers to be queuing up to cover before very long.

Ably supported by a stellar cast of backing musicians the band rocks out impressively, drops in a tear-jerker or two and stops off at various other musical signposts along the way, all draped in impeccable three part harmonies. Thankfully, the songs are given room to breathe courtesy of a crisp and uncluttered production from industry veteran Peter Asher.

It's probably churlish to pick out individual tracks given the consistently high standard overall, but "Feelin' Brave", "Little Victories", the shuffling "You're Not The Boss Of Me" and "Windeer Woman" - the latter sounding like it escaped from an early Loggins & Messina album - are all immediate contenders for the replay button.

Welcome home.

And Still I Rise
And Still I Rise
Price: £11.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proud Heritage, 18 Nov. 2012
This review is from: And Still I Rise (Audio CD)
Led by estimable bluesman Junior Mack, who also fronted last year's splendid "Renaissance Man" album by Jaimoe's Jasssz Band, the Heritage Blues Orchestra's debut release is an astonishing record.

Journeying to the very heart of American roots music, this is a real roller-coaster ride taking in Chicago blues, gospel, New Orleans swing, acoustic country blues, field hollers and more.

It's become increasingly fashionable over the years for blues performers to incorporate horn sections into their music; the likes of Robert Cray and Taj Mahal have been doing it for years, whilst newer acts such as C.W. Stoneking and New York's bizarre but brilliant Hazmat Modine also haven't been slow to expand their musical palette in this way. But I'd venture to suggest that no-one has succeeded quite as spectacularly or deliciously in that regard as the HBO, in truly off-the-leash fashion.

Much of the material is traditional, Mack's "Chilly Jordan" the only original composition on offer, but given the jaw-dropping nature of the overall revamp you scarcely notice.

A spirited version of Son House's "Clarksdale Moan" sets the tone for an album that repeatedly challenges you to keep your feet still, whilst Muddy Waters must be dancing in his grave to what has to be the most energetic version of his "Catfish Blues" ever committed to record.

Most remarkable of all is the album's closer, with two radically different treatments of the traditional "Hard Times" joined together by an avant garde mid-section in which the horns take centre stage.

Lead vocals on the album are shared between Junior Mack, Bill Sims Jr. and his daughter the impressive Chaney Sims, all ably supported by a top-notch band that rocks and swings from start to finish.

Best blues album I've heard this year, no contest.

Live Clark Center for the Perf
Live Clark Center for the Perf
Price: £14.51

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listen to a country song (again), 4 Nov. 2012
For this reviewer at least, Jim Messina has spent far too much of the last 20 years looking in his rear view mirror instead of on the road ahead.

There's no questioning his musical CV, having been a driving force behind the likes of Buffalo Springfield, Poco and of course Loggins & Messina. But there has to be a limit on how many different trawls through that admittedly impressive back-catalogue the world actually needs.

Having said that, Messina has never been in better voice, the years having now added a depth and richness that was conspicuously absent in his youth, albeit that his harmonies with Loggins were always pretty special.

Many of the usual suspects are here: "Watching The River Run" (one of the L&M songs that does actually reward constant revisiting), "Your Mama Don't Dance" (one of them that doesn't) and "Listen To A Country Song" among them.

More interesting are the less familiar tracks: "She's Gotta Rock", with more than a passing nod to "Your Mama Don't Dance", "Blacktop Cowgirl" and "Sinners and Saints".

Of course, it wouldn't be a Jim Messina release without at least one extra-long band jam, with "You Need A Man" once again pressed into service for that purpose.

With any last hope of a Loggins & Messina studio reunion now seemingly buried once and for all, it would be nice to see Messina stepping out of his comfort zone. In his mid-sixties, Loggins has formed a new country-rock band Blue Sky Riders, the early signs of which are very encouraging indeed. There's surely room for Jim Messina to do something similar.

When I'm President
When I'm President
Price: £16.71

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll, 26 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: When I'm President (Audio CD)
It must be something in the water. This year has witnessed an unprecedented number of fine new releases by some of rock's elder statesmen but, whaddya know, this one might just top them all.

At the remarkable age of 73 former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter delivers probably the best album of his entire career, growing old disgracefully and apparently loving every minute of it.

Hunter roars, rocks and croons his way through eleven classic examples of the rock 'n' roll songwriter's art, revealing along the way a depth of lyric writing for which he is rarely given sufficient credit and challenging the familiar assumption that "Rock and rollers, you're all the same..."

Despite his advancing years, Ian Hunter is clearly still one of the boys.
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