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CHEATER

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Cheater

The Domestic Bumblebees

Enviken

It’s been a while since the last long player from The Domestic Bumblebees, but the wait is finally over with brand new offering ‘Cheater’. Having crafted this latest album for the purpose of catering for ‘good and bad times’, The Domestic Bumblebees turn in a mixed tempo of songs that live up to such a description. It’s safe to say that the first half of this album from a lyrical perspective are the tunes that reflect the down times, with song titles providing such clues – ‘Blue Lover’, ‘Cheater, ‘Crying Over You’ et al – whereas side two lifts the spirits in a flurry of optimism and revelry that is all about ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Sweet Sin’. There is nothing in the rhythm of opening song ‘Blue Lover’ to suggest that it’s in the doldrums because it’s a driving rocker of a song, with the faintest of links to the American power pop that was popular with a number of post-punk bands during the late 90s. Unusual as this may seem considering the genre in which The Domestic Bumblebees reside in, it’s also an interesting aspect to their music and overall appeal because there is crossover potential here with the band clearly fans of other types of music. ‘Crying Over You’ provides another example of the band’s diversity because its roots are firmly planted in an early 60s vibe of pop and garage rock. The title song, ‘Cheater’, lands on more familiar ground by being a rugged bopper and offers smart and witty lyrics – one line in particular that really stands out due to referring to an infamous sports personality – that simply have to be heard. The built-for-the-dancefloor ‘Matilda’ is full of wishful thinking but suffers as a result of this as it ambles for too long in second gear. Far from dwelling on this as two rockin’ numbers arrive with the first, ‘No Matter What’, being the kind of song to make Jerry Lee Lewis proud, and the follow on, ‘Rock Awhile’, is wild rock ‘n’ roll of the highest order, exemplified by the skilful guitars ringing out their beat and complete with splashes of whammy bar! The quality level dips with the plodding tempo of ‘Sweet Sin’, only for the closing ‘Rocker’ to save the song from its blushes by pumping some much needed life into the album’s finale. By attempting to offer a whole lot more outside of what could be defined as their comfort zone, The Domestic Bumblebees continue to be an exciting prospect, which is evident from the majority of the songs making up latest album ‘Cheater’.


Motion Reverse

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Motion Reverse

Benjamin Finger

Shimmering Moods Records

It’s the halfway stage in a year that has seen much activity from Norway’s Benjamin Finger. In order to continue this creative momentum, ‘Motion Reverse’ is the latest addition with nine fresh tracks detailing the thought processes running through the mind of this Norwegian DJ, producer and songwriter. Kicking off this latest exploratory creative venture is recent single ‘Vocal Limited’ that hisses, pulsates and rattles at different intervals as well as joining forces to give off a general sense of foreboding.  Such emotions, generated by use of electronics, overlaps somewhat when ‘Frontal Waves’ gives the impression of a journey in motion, yet the direction is unclear as sounds flicker and the faintest of vocals can be heard intermittently in the background with the softest of horns that suggests it’s trying to recall lost memories. The probing continues with the subsequent and rather similar in sound ‘Dubstore Light’, only the search is more thorough with Benjamin Finger adding numerous droplets of electrical pulses that give way to moments of intensity where the sound is attempting to hack its way to discovery. ‘Black Hat’ ratchets any lingering tension with an almost metallic feel to its sound and its mood considerably black where sounds swirl and clash in a circular motion. Light relief arrives in the form of ‘Sunny Echoes’ where segments of its sound are lighter in tone, as well as utilising other instruments with what sounds like the electric guitar and giving way to the idea that this particular track was recorded live such is the overall natural vibe. The atmosphere of ‘Spacecore Dust’ is captured to perfection by sounding as distant as its title and then concluded by ‘Dream Logic’ which, despite its ethereal beginnings, blossoms into a glorious sound that can be described visually as a blinding white light before fading and drifting further in the vacuum of space. By creating a fuller sound and general consistency where songs interconnect more closely, ‘Motion Reverse’ functions as a complete album. Furthermore, it is the sound of Benjamin Finger attempting to make sense of the past, as well as trying to fathom the present, which makes perfect sense once this latest album opens up its contents. Quite possibly his strongest accomplishment yet, but then again the halfway point has only just been reached with promise of more to come. Either way ‘Motion Reverse’ is a major step in the right direction for Benjamin Finger.


Brooklyn, I AM

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Brooklyn, I Am

The Satellite Year

Midsummer Records / Engineer Records

Arriving in the postbag recently was the sophomore album ‘Brooklyn, I Am’ by The Satellite Year. With a melodic post-punk sound that incorporates elements of electro and pop music The Satellite Year give the impression of deriving from the very city that is encompassed in their latest album title rather than their actual roots of Saarbrücken, Germany. Geographical roots aside, The Satellite Year know a thing or two about creating a catchy melody that often is graced with abrasive edges. Think Jimmy Eat World, The Lost Prophets and, to a certain degree, Thursday and you’re somewhere close to the influences running through ‘Brooklyn, I Am’. There is much to consider here as The Satellite Year shoehorn in great levels of detail into each and every song with the pace never sauntering. While such a feat is to be admired, the melodic blast of ‘That This Was Wrong’ to the nimble guitar entrance of ‘Early In December’ providing two such examples, by the time the middle section of the album arrives it starts to become a bit too familiar. Despite such a downside, the familiarity is never allowed to stagnate as evidenced  by the sublime ‘Fireworks’ which manages to take a breath before arriving at its meaty chorus, and then followed by ‘In Vitro’ where full marks are given for the band’s attempt to reach for the stars, musically, given the cynicism of the lyrics. As it stands, ‘Brooklyn, I Am’ is not without its highpoints and there is proof here that The Satellite Year possess the knowhow to add variation to their songs, which should be taken into consideration once the band reconvene to commence with album number three.


Hot Summer Nights

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Hot Summer Nights

The Wise Guyz

El Toro

Prolific when it comes to their song writing, The Wise Guyz are back with a fourth album release, ‘Hot Summer Nights’. Charting similar territory to their previous album releases, this latest instalment raises the temperature somewhat with a variety of rockabilly numbers, but also shuffles in a few other influences and ideas to keep The Wise Guyz’ creative pot bubbling. With sixteen tracks to transmit their often wild rockin’ sound, ’2 AM Rock’ is the first offering and what a way to make an introduction! Full of conviction, these Ukrainian cats will be rockin’ until the sun rises because ’2 AM Rock’ is everything its tile suggests as it’s wild, it’s fuelled with energy, and possesses a real sting in its vocal that will raise even the dead into a boppin’ frenzy! Next in line, ‘Crash’ lets the instruments take the driving seat by kicking up a dangerous and menacing rhythm, greatly emphasised by the additional saxophone that adds a real intensity to the song. ‘Miss Chris’ pays its respects to Gene Vincent and really shows The Wise Guyz at the top of their game where guitars are flexing much detail and remain light and surefooted, with howls of derision from the backing vocals every once in a while to accentuate this confidence. A notable difference with ‘Hot Summer Nights’  compared to say, the band’s debut album, ‘Don’t Touch My Greasy Hair’ is that the music assumes a greater role over the lyrics when considering the songs ‘Bop Disease’ and ‘Do It Bop’, for example, where the words are surface considerations. Elsewhere, ‘Rude Bad Boy’ introduces another facet to The Wise Guyz’ sound with rhythm and blues edging its way in and lead singer, Chris Bird, showing his range with expertly handled vocals. Sometimes less is more, however, as the high number of tracks would have benefitted from a little trimming because there is a tendency for one or two songs to get lost in the overall mix. With ‘Sad’ nearing the end of this fourth album, and providing another example of the band’s versatility with its ballad-esque approach reflecting on a love departed, The Wise Guyz provide enough wild excitement and drama to warrant a fifth long player when the time is right. For now, ‘Hot Summer Nights’ is more than enough company to keep those limbs boppin’ to the wee small hours.


George Barnes (2)

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Quiet! Gibson At Work 1938 – 1957 Vol. 1 & Restless Guitar 1952 – 1962 Vol. 2

George Barnes

El Toro

Two volumes celebrating the guitar maestro George Barnes. Volume one ‘Quiet! Gibson At Work’ covers the years 1938 – 1957, with the second volume compiling a selection of Barnes’ work and input from 1952 – 1962 via ‘Restless Guitar’. By compiling two comprehensive albums, the name George Barnes receives a welcome revival as he was at the forefront helping to pioneer the electric guitar during its early years. Not just a jazz session player, George Barnes turned his attention to a variety of genres and earned his stripes by tackling everything from blues, country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll to name but a few.  As mentioned, ‘Quiet! Gibson At Work’ focuses on those early years and really provides a vast amount of material to wade through, complete with comprehensive notes from Dave Penny to provide the historical details. With blues and country jazz making up the first side, before shifting to swing and country jazz, there is much to discover whether from the enigmatic singing via The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) ‘Love Shows Weakness’; lively country jazz of ‘I Love My Fruit’ (The Sweet Violet Boys), or the blues strum of ‘New “Sail On, Little Girl”‘ (Jazz Gillum) and George Barnes providing detailed guitar patterns from behind. Volume two, ‘Restless Guitar’, tracks the development of the guitar sound where the rhythm is of a different nature and really gets moving with two numbers by Dean Hightower with the early groove of ‘Plunkin’ Party’ and expressive ‘Moon Rocket’ that really provides the listener with an idea of its subject matter. Once more there is great variety on display with ‘Restless Guitar’ that will take you on a romantic ride by way of ‘Harbour Lights’; set you on edge via the tough attitude of ‘Purple Monster’, or create some serious rhythm with the superb boogie-woogie of ‘Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie’ (Lawson-Haggart Rockin’ Band), showing that the works and times of George Barnes are really worth (re)discovering.


George Barnes (1)

Released Out now

 

Quiet! Gibson At Work 1938 – 1957 Vol. 1 & Restless Guitar 1952 – 1962 Vol. 2

George Barnes

El Toro

Two volumes celebrating the guitar maestro George Barnes. Volume one ‘Quiet! Gibson At Work’ covers the years 1938 – 1957, with the second volume compiling a selection of Barnes’ work and input from 1952 – 1962 via ‘Restless Guitar’. By compiling two comprehensive albums, the name George Barnes receives a welcome revival as he was at the forefront helping to pioneer the electric guitar during its early years. Not just a jazz session player, George Barnes turned his attention to a variety of genres and earned his stripes by tackling everything from blues, country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll to name but a few.  As mentioned, ‘Quiet! Gibson At Work’ focuses on those early years and really provides a vast amount of material to wade through, complete with comprehensive notes from Dave Penny to provide the historical details. With blues and country jazz making up the first side, before shifting to swing and country jazz, there is much to discover whether from the enigmatic singing via The Yas Yas Girl (Merline Johnson) ‘Love Shows Weakness’; lively country jazz of ‘I Love My Fruit’ (The Sweet Violet Boys), or the blues strum of ‘New “Sail On, Little Girl”‘ (Jazz Gillum) and George Barnes providing detailed guitar patterns from behind. Volume two, ‘Restless Guitar’, tracks the development of the guitar sound where the rhythm is of a different nature and really gets moving with two numbers by Dean Hightower with the early groove of ‘Plunkin’ Party’ and expressive ‘Moon Rocket’ that really provides the listener with an idea of its subject matter. Once more there is great variety on display with ‘Restless Guitar’ that will take you on a romantic ride by way of ‘Harbour Lights’; set you on edge via the tough attitude of ‘Purple Monster’, or create some serious rhythm with the superb boogie-woogie of ‘Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie’ (Lawson-Haggart Rockin’ Band), showing that the works and times of George Barnes are really worth (re)discovering.


If You Give Me One More Try

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If You Give Me One More Try

Terry O'Connel and his Pilots

El Toro

By pulling all of its components together over a number of years to finally arrive at the position where Terry O’Connel felt comfortable to address his line up as Terry O’Connel and his Pilots was the correct decision once the contents of ‘If You Give Me One More Try’ reveal themselves. The manner in which Terry O’Connel and his Pilots piece together twelve songs of authentic rockabilly that really takes the listener back to a bygone era is to be greatly admired. Whether from Terry O’Connel’s superbly delivered vocal that is full of character and sounding like one of the country singers during the 50s who jumped on board the rockabilly train once it gained momentum in order to keep up with the changing times, or his Pilots picking and strumming their instruments expertly to arrive at rockin’ delights as ‘Hot Rod Mama’ and ‘Put ‘Em In A Pot’, it would seem that this album has got everything. Having recorded ‘If You Give Me One More Try’ in Sweden, the band certainly has a way of tapping into the genuine features of rockabilly music of the 50s considering the distance historically, but also geographically, as songs such as ‘Say Yes’, ‘Cool It’, ‘Let’s Cut To The Chase’ and, already mentioned, ‘Hot Rod Mama’ are as good as anything that was issued from that rockin’ era. There’s no question of giving Terry O’Connel and his Pilots one more try because this album is as good as it gets when it comes to rockabilly in the 21st century.


How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

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How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Florence + The Machine

Island

The storm clouds were circling leading up to Florence + The Machine’s third long player, ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’. In order to set the creative wheels in motion for this latest inclusion in the works of Florence + The Machine that seemed to involve a personal cleansing of the artistic soul, so to speak, has been suggested by the band’s leader, Florence Welch herself: “I was thinking about my own self-destructive side, and how you can make something only to tear it down, enjoy/destroy, create/devastate etc. When you’re in that whirlwind, you often end up breaking the thing you love the most”. Such words refer to, in particular, current and ubiquitous single, ‘Ship To Wreck’. It’s this very single which kick starts this latest chapter fully into life, and deserves all of the plaudits it’s currently receiving and blanket coverage in terms of TV networks and radio stations because it’s a glorious comeback considering the personal chaos that was threatening to engulf this artist. Producer Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Björk, Coldplay) also plays a role here by applying strict guidelines to the song writing (i.e. no more songs about water apart from the previously mentioned single) in order to derive a fresh way of thinking from Florence + The Machine. With contributions coming from John Hill, Kid Harpoon and Paul Hepworth, the combined efforts pay dividends as Florence + The Machine roll out a succession of well-crafted and thoroughly engaging songs. From earlier single release ‘What Kind Of Man’ with its inflections of blues held in its rhythm, to the sublime title track with its glorious conclusion of brass horns, to the thought-provoking duo of ‘Queen Of Peace’ and ‘Various Storms & Saints’, the troubled times Florence Welch underwent has seen her come out the other side a much stronger artist as ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ is a triumphant success.


Hits From The Movies

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Hits From The Movies

Ricky Fabian

Rhythm Bomb

Setting this out as something resembling a concept album due to drawing its inspiration from movie soundtracks and centring its themes of love and loss around this very idea, Ricky Fabian is an artist willing to push his creativity to the outer edges of the rockin’ scene that he finds himself situated in. There is a sense of early 60s musical styling present, but with enough flashes of the raw and rugged edges of the previous decade to Fabian’s second outing, ‘Hits From The Movies’. In order to experience the latter example described, then head straight for the rockin’ energy of ‘Big Ole Bag’ that really gets under the skin via its at once trembling instrumentation that suddenly explodes during its chorus with Fabian’s vocal equally raw. This fever is contagious as it spreads to ‘Skinny Jeannie’, who just happens to be the centre of attention and someone’s affections, greatly illustrated by its slinking rhythm and bouts of heated passion. The impact of ‘Cindy Cindy’ is immediate with its rhythm sweeping the listener off its feet, but it also reveals a high level of detail in terms of the instrumentation; especially use of piano and for holding a real twang in the guitar that showcases one example of the deeper consideration of the song writing process here. With two duets included and featuring Ruby Ann (‘Hideaway Blues’) and Cherry Casino (‘Sunset Girl’), plus the addition of a wonderful ballad, ‘A Thing Of The Past’, ‘Hits From The Movies’ definitely has something for all those who enjoy the raucous elements of the latter half of the 50s, in addition to the musical developments that started to form after this particular period during the early 60s.


'Dani Nel – Lo & Barcelona Big Blues Band'

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Dani Nel – Lo & Barcelona Big Blues Band

Barcelona Big Blues Band

El Toro

When approaching the crossroads marked El Toro Records, the sounds emanating from the Barcelona Big Blues Band is one that is taking a sharp deviation to the left or right rather than pursing the road straight ahead with the label’s more traditional rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll sounds. By taking this different approach marks new times ahead for this record label, but more importantly recognising a promising and talented prospect when you see one. What the listener gets here is the full-on experience of a big band sound, but one that connects itself to the sounds of blues and rhythm and blues. With Ivan Kovacevic compiling the arrangements and providing direction, the Barcelona Big Blues Band enrols the skilful talents of saxophonist, Dani Nel – Lo who just happens to add an extra zest to each and every song listed here. Therefore, expect to hear a sophisticated set of compositions that are sometimes bristling with energy and enthusiasm – take your pick from ‘Marshall Plan’, ‘Sax Attack’ and the riotous sax contained within ‘Dey – Lo’ – or slightly less hurried numbers as ‘Pomez Stone’ and ‘Jump For George’. The frenzied shuffle of ‘Hot Rod’ with wild blasts of trumpet in the rear, tips its hat in acknowledgement to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll without resorting to re-enacting its sound because this is all about the ‘big band’ after all. ‘Dani Nel – Lo & Barcelona Big Blues Band’ is a classy long player that successfully incorporates a rhythm and blues sound into a broader expanse of instrumentation that will leave you feeling greatly impressed by the end of its playing time.


50 Years On The Road

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‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’

Ottar Big Hand Johansen

New Cut Music

To mark fifty years of hit records in the music business, Ottar ‘Big Hand’ Johansen celebrates this landmark occasion with a brand new album. To give this latest record the title that is befitting of its status, ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’ sees one of Norway’s leading lights of country music reignite his passion for this particular genre. By teaming up with other artists including Claudia Scott, Too Far Gone, Billy T Band among others, the majority of songs making up this latest album are original compositions, which have received a working hand from the additional musicians involved in this project. There is definitely a nostalgic feel to the ten compositions making up ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’, which naturally extends from Ottar Johansen’s vast experience of living and breathing the dream as a singer-songwriter. Therefore, it’s no surprise that you have song titles by the name of ‘Honky Tonks We’ve Known’, ‘Just Like In The 50s’ and ‘Follow My Dream’. However, there is room for forward thinking here as well with two songs that bookend this album; namely, recent single ‘Starting All Over Again’, steel strings gleaming as it maintains a relaxed pace and in line with the reflective stance of the song, and ‘Carry On’ with its campfire confessions going long into the night by way of several of its collaborators and Ottar Johansen leading the line. The creativeness continues once the engaging ‘Outlaws’ makes its entrance and proceeds to identify itself by means of a surly expression, dexterous guitar playing and detailed punctuations of harmonica. In fact, it’s this very song that suggests Ottar Johansen is far from thinking about hanging up his Stetson and packing away his collection of guitars in their respective cases because there’s a sense of mischief to this song, which transforms itself to a sprightly energy during the aforementioned, ‘Just Like In The 50s’ and the “We’ve still got it attitude” of ‘Honky Tonks We’ve Known’. A remarkable comeback, ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’ celebrates the past yet is equally keen to focus on the present with a few ideas that suggest Ottar Johansen is ready for the next creative venture once the dust settles on this celebratory chapter.


Piano Pumpin' Sensation

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Piano Pumpin’ Sensation

Chris Girton

El Toro

Rather than producing the easier and more obvious route of a twelve track dedication to his idol, Jerry Lee Lewis, with the ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ of its title being the dead giveaway, Chris Girton, the man behind the piano keys, offers something else. That something else is twelve cover songs from an assortment of artists and songwriters who made their impact the first time around and have continued to leave a lasting impression on those still interested in such genres of music. Chris Girton just happens to be one of those artists thoroughly intrigued by rock ‘n’ roll’s rich history which, by adding his own spin on the songs selected, his ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ is now a part of that history. One point to address, however, is that the title of this record is a tad misleading because it’s not just the piano that is central to this album. Once the songs begin to peel away, the listener will hopefully identify the qualities held by Chris Girton’s vocal that are at once crooning during Darren Spears’ ‘Forever’s Much Too Long’, and the next keeping abreast with the rockin’ and expressive piano of ‘Break Up’. Skeet McDonald’s ‘What A Lonesome Life It’s Been’ is resurrected with a mild piano accompaniment and Girton’s vocal leading the narrative compellingly. By closing the set with an admirable version of ‘Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Until You Lose It)’, which falls somewhere between the two stools of Elvis and Eddie Cochran’s more reflective moments, the preferred option when it comes to ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ are the quieter, more reflective moments that really hold sway and suggest a strong option for a future long player.



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