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Red on Black
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Silver Skies Blue
Silver Skies Blue
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Judy Collins & Ari Hest - Sky Blue Sky, 21 July 2016
This review is from: Silver Skies Blue (Audio CD)
Catching up with Judy Collins again is like bumping into an old and treasured friend. You want to reacquaint yourself and relive old memories. The additional feature about this new duets album with New Yorker Ari Hest is that you welcome into the fold someone who is also a kindred spirit and whose partnership with Collins yields great results. "Silver Skies Blue" is a singer-songwriter album par excellence. Collins is now a stately 76 years old but her silvery voice remains as a clear as a bell and diction impeccable. Hest provides solid support throughout with backing vocals that are never intrusive and guitar playing which impresses from the moment he touches the strings. He also takes a couple of lead vocals especially on the melodic swirl of "I Choose Love".

There is nothing revolutionary about this album, it simply relies on great songs sung by a chanteuse whose large canon of work deserves the utmost respect. Listen to the rolling ballad "The Weight' where Hest and Collins take equal vocal parts and you are cast back to the heyday of the folk movement 1960s. Even better is glorious "Slowburn" where Collins wonderfully emotive voice lifts the song to something that is profoundly affecting. Best of all is the Hest composition "Aberdeen" which was included as a punchy soft rocker on his album "Someone to Tell" a, few years ago. With Collins, it is slowed down and becomes a song of escape and longing for pastures new from the stifling claustrophobia of a small town. Seek this one out at all costs. Others like "Home at Dark" echo the vintage preoccupations of her close friend Joni Mitchell with a confessional tale about family and friends. "Strangers Again" sees the title track of Collins last album reprised providing the best of the sweet vocal interplay across the album, while "Secret Harbor" has a sense of enchantment which is difficult to capture in words.

Judy Collins pairing with Ari Hest has given a great artist a new focus and drive. After listening to this album over past days it brings a sense of enjoyment which gladdens the heart. That's what catching up with old friends does. Judy Collins has lived a tumultuous life but it is reassuring to note that despite this she remains a constant in the pantheon of our greatest living singers.​


You Got Me Singing
You Got Me Singing
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jack and Amanda Palmer - Covers from Cohen to O'Connor, 19 July 2016
This review is from: You Got Me Singing (Audio CD)
This is a fascinating album. From the album photo pastiche drawn from Bob Dylan's "Bringing it all back home" to the pairing of an estranged father and daughter undertaking covers as varied as the traditional "Skye Boat Song" to a version of Sinead O'Conner's take on police brutality "Black Boys on Mopeds". With this amount of eclecticism and Amanda Palmer's wonderful propensity to act as a provocateur, you approach this album hoping that it will not disappoint.

Thankfully it works well, especially as the voice of her father Jack Palmer is a gravelly treat. The choice of covers is also prescient. The line in the aforementioned O"Connor song that "These are dangerous days/To say what you feel is to dig your own grave" resonates in a troubled world. Similarly, the take on Leonard Cohen's teeth clenched desire for happiness in a world gone to hell in a handbasket "You got me singing" is brilliantly done with Palmer Senior coming over as the heir to Johnny Cash. Best of all is a piano duet on the Richard Thompson classic "Vincent Black Lightning 1952" where the voice of both father and daughter perfectly compliment each other. There are a couple of quirky missteps.The take on Eugene Field's child's poem "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod' is bit twee while the "Skye Roat Song" comes over as far too conventional. Much better is the wonderful cover of Kimya Dawson's dark hymn to impending motherhood "All I could do" with Amanda Palmer's deadpan vocal capturing the alienation perfectly from her own pregnant state. Her dad's best moment comes on the old Paul Siebel standard "Louise was not half bad" that also happily sends you to seek out the versions by Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt. Together Jack and Amanda Palmer also nail John Grant's "Glacier" a powerful ode to the struggle experienced by gay people anchored by the heartwrenching observation that "This pain, it is a glacier moving through you, and carving out deep valleys and creating spectacular landscapes."

Bearing in mind her pedigree and propensity to shock "You Got Me Singing" sees Amada Palmer reign back some of the exuberance and settle into the music. It showcases her fine voice. It also begs the question what will Jack Palmer do next, a man whose booming bass voice really deserves a much wider hearing.


Somebody From Somewhere
Somebody From Somewhere
Price: £9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Steven Tyler - Nashville Obsolete, 17 July 2016
This review is from: Somebody From Somewhere (Audio CD)
Steven Tyler sings Hank Williams? Not really. This may be cast as the Aerosmith's frontman's "Country" album but actually, it's not that far from the preoccupations of his day job. The album's brooding opener my "My own worse enemy" would happily fit on any Aerosmith album and concludes with a Joe Perry style guitar solo. The reworking of "Janie's Got a Gun" is essentially an unplugged acoustic version with little reference to any form of country. "Sweet Lousiana" probably comes closest to the type of country that would not be out of place on a Keith Urban album, while the jolly "I Make my own sunshine" is the obvious choice for a single. When it comes to the big rock ballad "Ony Heaven" the only thing missing is Aerosmith.

There are however some buttock clenching moments not least the horrible "Red, White and You" which tries to sound like an Eric Church song but unfortunately, could soundtrack a Donald Trump rally in Des Moines. While "It ain't easy" would normally be a big overwrought Aerosmith ballad. Here it is stripped back, sadly exposing a rather strained vocal from our hero. As for "Gyspy Girl" the lyrics should like fourth form poetry.

At nearly 70 its good to see Tyler trying something new, however, you wish T Bone Burnett had pointed him in the direction of an inventive "Raising Sand" approach by Robert Plant as opposed to the "bad rock with fiddles" which dominates the output of Nashville's music row these days. Ultimately "Somebody from Somewhere" is a massive missed opportunity, it tries too hard to aim at the Blake Shelton demographic when it would have been far better heading in the musical direction of Chris Stapleton or Jamey Johnston.


Love & Hate
Love & Hate
Price: £7.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Michael Kiwanuka - Inner City Blues, 16 July 2016
This review is from: Love & Hate (Audio CD)
Michael Kiwanuka's impressive recent appearance on the Jools Holland show, performing the modern gospel chant "Black Man in a White World" was a nice precursor to this soul album tinged with dark overtones. It commences with the nine-minute-plus "Cold Little Heart" which builds slowly while completely holding your attention. It breathes out with shimmering strings and a taught guitar around three minutes and finally Kiwanuka's vocal makes an appearance five minutes in. This confidence to wait patiently for this, to enter at the right moment is almost a metaphor for this album where the London musician can now shake off the tag "the British Bill Withers" and prove that he owes equal debts to Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield' and even the Black Keys. More than this, the raw talent that led him to win the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll has​ been affirmed as he emerges as one of the UK's best new singer-songwriters.

"Love and Hate" is a much more mature album than his debut as evidenced by the echoes of Marvin Gaye on the slow burning excellence of "Place I Belong". This is topped by the title track where his vocal hits the bullseye. As a sophomore album, this is a massive leap forward with most of the songs exceeding the five-minute mark, although it is one of the shorter compositions "I'll Never Love" that is one of the standouts. Clocking under three minutes this is gorgeous soul ballad, deceptively simple yet profound and a natural single. Thanks to the deft production of Danger Mouse the album sounds fuller and more balanced not least on the yearning "Fathers Child" and the effortless soul of "Final Frame".

Kiwanuka was previously nominated for the Mercury Prize with his debut "Home Again". Bearing in mind that recent winners have all been very average fare it means that should "Love and Hate" be nominated it cannot win. The reason is that it is too good and the Mercury judges always manage to miss the best.


Live Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison Co.
Live Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison Co.
Offered by FLASH
Price: £12.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Grateful Dead - Breath the rarified Colorado air, 10 July 2016
It has not gone unnoticed by music critics that this is the same Grateful Dead who in 1978, went on to perform the truly dire concert at the Pyramids in Egypt. What was the secret ingredient that makes these recording made 3 months prior to the trip to the Land of the Pharoahs so good? It may have been because of the rarified altitude of the Colorado mountains, Jerry Garcia in generally good health, the momentum generated by some of their best albums like "Terrapin Station" and "Shakedown Street'. Whatever the case, between 1977/78 the Dead deliver some of tightest, most consistently satisfying shows of their career. There is of a course a much large moe expansive archive of these concerts in the form of the huge 12 disc box-set "Grateful Dead – July 1978: The Complete Recordings" which gathers together classic shows from that key month. None is better than this outing at Red Rocks where the band is at their most melodic and free ranging.

There is a brilliantly fluid "Franklin Tower", a joyous "Bertha", an extended funky "Ramble on Rose", a near perfect "Terrapin Station" and best of all a stunning version of "Wharf Rat". Granted the 7 minute cover of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London " is a bit sloppy but it is endearing. Throughout Garcia's singing is on top form and the band is brilliant. Of course, it would not be a proper Dead concert with free improvision and the great version of "The Other One" fully fills this requirement. In particular, many Deadheads would argue that the secret weapon was the wondrous work of keyboardist Keith Godchaux, and his wife Donna providing fine backing vocals. This despite the fact their relationship had become very volatile. The couple left the band in 1979 to be replaced by the erratic Brent Myland. Sadly Keith Godchaux died in 1980 in a motorcycle accident.

Red Rocks 7/8/78 is a legendary Grateful Dead Concert and the evidence here is of a sparkling period in the band's history matching their earlier American and European tours in 1972/73. As such no self-respecting fan of these giants of country, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, rock, improvisational jazz, and psychedelia should be without this one.


Brigid Mae Power
Brigid Mae Power
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brigid Mae Power - The Voice, 8 July 2016
This review is from: Brigid Mae Power (Audio CD)
The review of Brigid Mae Power's new album in July's edition of Uncut compared it to Elizabeth Frazier's work in This Mortal Coil. In particular it referenced their glorious cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren". Consequently, there has been a sense of anticipation around this Irish singer's new release. The question is whether the comparisons hits the mark or is a piece of music critic hyperbole?

There are an economical eight songs on this album and of these the seven minute plus opener "It's Clearing Now" is the icing on the cake. It has a timeless quality that builds from the slightest of acoustic backdrops and slowly breathes out. There are inflections of an Irish accent that creep into the track and Mae Power's ethereal voice drives it with a restrained focus that sees her utterly in control of the microphone. As she sings “The sea on the beach/ The sun falling down over the sea/ I cling to these beautiful things,” this reviewer was struck by the same feeling of meditative listening which occurred the first time "Astral Weeks" was placed on the turntable. The lovely piano ballad "Sometimes" follows with its touching vocal and invokes the power of Mary Margaret O'Hara. "Let me hold you through this" sounds traditional in one sense with its spare pump organ but again Mae Power's voice takes it off into a territory that makes it hymn-like. Only on "Is it my low or yours?' do you sense the creeping presence of the dreaded Clannad.Much better is the beautifully wistful "Looking at you in a photo" and the powerful "I left myself for a while". Lightness is finally provided with a giggle at the start of the guitar ballad "How you feel" drawing to a close a musical feast.

Brigid Mae Power arrives largely unheralded. What is clear is that this is the beginning of a journey for a startling new voice, completely unafraid to test the limits of her vocals, to invoke great songwriters but plow​ her own furrow. This is a sublime album.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2016 4:33 PM BST


Young In All The Wrong Ways
Young In All The Wrong Ways
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sara Watkins - Young in all the right ways, 7 July 2016
"Young in Many Ways" is the third album by ex-Nickel Creek leader Sara Watkins. It is clearly billed as a post break up album and sees her genre hop in its 10 tracks in a way that undoubtedly marks a desire for the status of a more mature artist. It is packed with great songs, some of which see the former bluegrass specialist move in rock orientated territory. Thus the title track starts off as a slow ballad until it is punctuated by big rock riffs and a heavier vibe than her usual folk rock. It is very well done and lays the foundation for a fine album.

The big ballads such as the heartbreaking "Like New Years Day" showcases the fact that Watkins voice is one of the best in terms of the current crop of American female singers. The lovely acoustic strum of "Tenderhearted" sees her enter Emmylou Harris territory with consummate ease, while the emotional vulnerability on the sad lament "The Love that Got Away" is pure heartache put to words. The mood is lightened by the pop/rock of "Move Me", while "Say So" seems to channel her inner Stevie Nicks. Finally, the big album closer "Invisible" sees the remorse pour out when she ruefully reflects "Today we walk together, but one's ahead and one's behind / And if there's an answer here, then I am blind / Neither you nor I can see a right side this time".

There is nothing on "Young in all the wrong ways' that is particularly new or original. What is present is a range of stellar songs sung by a songwriter hitting her stride as a solo artist. Watkins first came to this reviewer's attention with her brilliant cover of Jackson Browne's "Your Bright Baby Blues". It absolutely oozed potential and on this album, she has moved front and centre into the spotlight.


True Sadness
True Sadness
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £11.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Avett Brothers - Sorrow and Joy, 7 July 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: True Sadness (Audio CD)
Reading the reviews on the American Amazon site of the Avett Brothers new album "True Sadness" might create the impression of a bit of a disaster. That is certainly not the case. Having lived with the album since its release it reveals some of their best songs since "I and Love and You" their 2009 major label debut produced by Rick Rubin. The latter is at the controls again and it has to be said that after seven years with the same producer a change is long overdue. In their liner notes, the Avett's highlight that the album is somewhat of a patchwork quilt, unfortunately, this means that balance on the album is not quite right. In their desire to throw in everything into the musical kitchen sink there is a lack of coherence. Songs like the opener "Ain't No Man" is full of irritating synchronised drumming, the rather odd "You are Mine" overdone with bloated instrumentation while the pounding "Satan pulls the strings" is probably included as a concert crowd pleaser.

Strip out the points of weakness however and there are songs here of melancholy beauty and top drawer Americana. The wistful echoes of Hank Williams on "Divorce Separation Blues" includes a fine "Yodel-ay-heeee" and is great fun. The gentle ballad "Fisher Road to Hollywood" is one of those tenderly brilliant Avett speciality songs that will have them singing in the aisles in the big American stadiums which are now their stage home. Best of all is the truly gorgeous "I wish I was" a love ballad in the mode of "Bring your Love" from "Magpie and Dandelion" which in a world full of justice should have been a Billboard Number one song on the singles chart. As it stands "True Sadness" has achieved another feat by debuting this week at No. 1 on Billboard's Americana/Folk Albums chart. Sadly this commercial acclaim comes for one of their more inconsistent albums.

The answer is obvious. With songs like "Mama, I don't believe" and "No Hard Feelings" the ballads on this album literally wipe the floor of all other tracks. This is where Rubin should bang the desk and tell Seth and Scott Avett not to be afraid to produce an album that stresses "less is more" and plays to their acoustic strengths. The over produced good time jams are frankly wearing a bit thin. Rolling Stone has rightly stated that the Avett's music is rooted in their simplicity and Rubin's attempts to turn them into a mix of Tom Petty and Queen needs to be resisted.


Mr Todiwala's Spice Box: 120 recipes with just 10 spices
Mr Todiwala's Spice Box: 120 recipes with just 10 spices
by Cyrus Todiwala
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Todiwala's Spice Box - The pages already smell of spices and the odd curry stain has appeared!, 7 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having recently been to one of Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen Restaurants and enjoyed the experience the prospect of this book was mouthwatering and intriguing. The strict application of 10 spices to 120 recipes by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala did seem a tad limiting. Fear not, the recipes are great. Equally, old Cyrus does bend the rules a little with further ingredients thrown in for good measure.

The book itself is a lavish affair, full of colour and excellent pictures of what the recipes should turn out to be. Unfortunately, this reviewer rather overdid the spices in the Asparagus chilli fry and had to shower to cool off. Still, a trumpet can blow loudly at the roaring success which was the Duck Masala which was part of a near perfect day when Wales went on to beat Belgium in Euro 2016 (the subsequent loss to Portugal was disappointing but the team made us proud). What was great about this and other recipes is the simplicity of the approach taken. Ok, you had to soak poppy seeds for 2 hours but other than that it took about 40 minutes. Unlike those pale Indian and Chinese imitations that you purchase from the local supermarket, this does taste beautifully authentic. On small qualification is the book is a pan-Indian affair so Mr Todiwala does slightly' over spice the good old Shepherd's​ Pie which of all the recipes tried so far was sadly the least successful.

Having previous books by the Queen of Curries Madhur Jaffrey, it is pleasing to report that this volume is every bit an equal to her best writing. Cyrus Todiwala has produced a lavish and eminently practical cookbook. This is not one to sit on the shelf, already the pages smell of spices and the odd curry stain has appeared. No greater recommendation could be forthcoming.


The Bride
The Bride
Price: £9.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bat For Lashes - Broken Hearted Torch Songs, 1 July 2016
This review is from: The Bride (Audio CD)
The concept behind Natasha Khan's new album "The Bride" is hardly a barrel of laughs. It tells the story of a woman left tragically at the altar when her husband-to-be is killed in a car crash en route to their marriage. Khan's previous albums have contained some fantastic songs but as a complete whole, her music can vary dramatically​ between stellar and dull. She has hit full stride on the "The Bride" with her stunning singing voice improving on every album. When you think of the high base from where she started vocally that is remarkable.

The gloriously tender tremble in her voice on the album's opener "I Do" endears in a way that is both soulful and sad. The pounding electronica of "Joe's Dream" reveals a huge ballad which this reviewer adored upon first listen and grown to love on subsequent plays. Classic songwriting is at the heart of this dark torch song and Khan should be proud of her achievement. It's a shame therefore that there are a couple of songs that let the side down. You could put this down to Khan's eclectic vision but when it comes to the spoken "Widow's Peak" you sense it's more about ensuring that the concept hangs together than song quality. The tortured melancholy of "Honeymooning Alone" is also perhaps a little too obvious as a link. All is forgiven, nevertheless, with the wondrous "I Will Love Again" a song that wears a heart on its sleeve in a manner that only Bjork can emulate. Finally, the wistful "Clouds" is a fantastic album closer where Khan's vocals soar and the emotion pours over.

Granted "The Bride" has weaknesses but when Natasha Khan gets it right she is a force of nature. Deducting a star from this review is difficult because it is rare for an artist to come forward with an album that has such a bold sweep and high ambition. The fact that it doesn't all quite come off should not deter you from purchasing "The Bride" since there is much here to love and admire.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2016 8:55 PM BST


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