Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

Sugar Jump: Dance Til The Break Of Dawn!

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

There’s no better place to start than with Ray Charles classic, ‘Mess Around’, to set up what is (another) lively volume in this near perfect series. With the Mojo Man, as always, laying down his words of wisdom when it comes to the nature of the music and appropriate moves to accompany the often-traditional rhythm and blues doing its thing from the speakers, the latest in this long line of volumes is up there with the best. Largely down to shifting tones musically i.e. the bluesy roll of George Wild Child Butler’s midtempo shuffle ‘Jelly Jam’ from previously mentioned Ray Charles’ lively start, to stepping it up ever so slightly with “cool as” rhythm and blues sandwich (the blues providing the glue in the middle) via Fox Hall and ‘Do The Rock And Roll’. From there on, Clarence Samuels can barely contain his excitement as he sings from the rooftops once news reaches that, “We’re goin’ to the hop tonight,” which is followed by Doug Powell & The Valients irresistible ‘The Whip’, and then proceeded by the blissfully happy tongue twister ‘The Wiggle Waggle Woo’ (Sticks McGhee) and wonderfully tender ‘We’re Goin’ Out To Rock Tonight’ by Kine Morgan. As mentioned earlier, ‘Sugar Jump’ is among the best in its class when it comes to this series of rhythm and blues and remains on course for commanding pole position.


Released Out now

 

Wild Life

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Full of forbidden fruits according to the Mojo Man, and he’s not far off with such an assessment as ‘Wild Life’ piles its way through twenty-eight dancefloor fillers. From top to toe these songs are rockin’ and a-reelin’ beginning with Chuck Cole and ‘My Bonny’, and followed by the perky rhythm that is full of brass instrumentation of excellent Lil Preacher Boy ‘Won’tcha Be My Girl’. There are some notable differences about this particular volume in the Koko Mojo series, and that stirs when Eddie Daniels throws up his rockin’ (roll) ‘Playin’ Hide Go Seek’, to the wonderfully appealing tin can atmosphere secured by ‘Love My Baby’, complete with raw guitar breaks and uncooked vocals of Jesse Allen (Well, it is the blues!). And that’s exactly why the album ‘Wild Life’ is so appealing for its rollercoaster approach that offers a menu of traditional rhythm and blues one minute (Redd Foxx ‘Real Pretty Mama’) and then, staying within the same genre, different takes where darker shades and eccentricities can be heard (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Ronnie Love and The Admiraltones for example). It’s a sublime compilation of well-thought out tracks that may sound on first impressions like a quickly assembled compilation, yet further listens will soon erase any such thoughts as ‘Wild Life’ lives up to its title and in different ways.


Released Out now

 

Cat Scratchin’

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Stamping their identity all over this compilation album are the female singers of 50s and early 60s generations trying to make a name for themselves in a largely male dominated industry. What the listener will experience with ‘Cat Scratchin’ is a variety of songs, with a variety of styles that show flashes of sophistication and songs borne out of more primitive foundations. There’s plenty of attitude as well as honesty, not to mention a mental toughness as well as vulnerability that serves up a perfect balance of emotions. Most tracks give the suggestion of late 50s and early 60s periods in history with the rhythm and blues ranging from late-night torchbearers such as the excellent ‘Please Give Me A Match’ performed by Rebecca Williams, to the tub-thumping, boisterous racket that is ‘Holy Mack’reel’ from equally animated vocals of Prentice Moreland. More interestingly, a few of the songs selected by the female performers either perform still from a male perspective, such as the previously mentioned ‘Holy Mack’reel’, or elsewhere show signs of subtle changes via Geneva Vallier and her interpretation of Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman’ with ‘You Said You Had A Woman’. There’s plenty to take in with ‘Cat Scratchin’ from the near-ramshackle rhythm of ‘How Can I Lose’ (Shirley Ann Lee), to something far more ambitious sounding via the album’s title track by Marie Williams. A solid and worthwhile collection of songs that show the female artists certainly matched their male counterparts when it came to engage an audience (look no further than Peppy Prince and ‘Ain’t Nothing Shaking’ for immediate evidence of this) by revealing a variety of emotions that make up ‘Cat Scratchin’.


Released Out now

 

Love Shock

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

It’s all about love as far as this volume is concerned in the Koko Mojo series that largely focuses on blues and rhythm and blues. With twenty-eight tracks to get its message across regarding the subject of love, ‘Love Shock’ is filled with the anticipations of love and any such joys stemming from this. You can hear it in some of the rhythms alone where they’re often light and upbeat such as Carl Matthews’ ‘Big Man’ or swirling on its toes in compelling fashion and providing something altogether quite different, yet still fitting in with this genre, via Stick Evans and ‘You’re The One’. The excitement can hardly be contained once The Devilles get underway with ‘Tell Me So’ where you will find a swinging rhythm complete with doo-wop backing vocals powering this number along. Falling under the spell here though is the wonderfully named Teddy Mr. Bear McRae and, pick of a very good bunch, ‘Hi Fi Baby’ that packs a confident punch of blues/rhythm and blues and matured bourbon-soaked vocals. Full of life and giddy at the prospect of love as well as being in love, the compilation ‘Love Shock’ is yet another strong statement of the quality held by this series.


Released Out now

 

Coming Home

The Rob Ryan Roadshow

Rhythm Bomb

It’s been a few years since the last outing from The Rob Ryan Roadshow with their ‘Live At Montreux Jazz Festival’ long player. However, 2019 marks a fresh start for the band with their new album ‘Coming Home’, which is their first studio recording since 2014’s ‘Going Old School’. The latest album ‘Coming Home’ reveals the band at quite possibly their best and delivers their usual trademarks of skilful musicianship combined with versatility, not to mention a willingness to experiment when it comes to their decision-making. All such points are to be commended as The Rob Ryan Roadshow continue with such traits during ‘Coming Home’ where roots rock meets bluesy rhythms and country-fried grooves. This broad sourcing of influences is what sets the Rob Ryan Roadshow apart from several of their contemporaries and really sets the band out as something altogether different. In part, this is down to personal tastes of the band members where each bring their own musical influences to the creative table whether that be rockabilly, country, blues, pop or punk rock, it’s all in there, with some influences subtler than others. It’s also down to the cultural diversity within the band where America meets Germany for a jolly good knees up! By the sounds of it, such a combined mixture of styles and influences really has no right to work, but that’s exactly what occurs from start to finish during ‘Coming Home’. Whether it’s rolling out a blast of blues rock via ‘Blackout’, to rock combined with country of opening song ‘Free’ or swapping tempos for something beautiful and tender of country-tinged ballad ‘Let The Heartache Begin’, The Rob Ryan Roadshow tie their diverse influences together seamlessly. Throw in the band’s customary souvenir and own interpretation of a cover song or two, with ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ being the standout here, suggests The Rob Ryan Roadshow has successfully brought all their influences home and managed a difficult task of melding these together into one accessible whole. ‘Coming Home’ works on all levels and earmarks The Rob Ryan Roadshow as a rather exceptional band.


Released Out now

 

Jelly Roll Shuffle

The Jelly Roll Men

Rhythm Bomb

Norway is the destination and where you will find The Jelly Roll Men performing an old-school style of 50’s blues. Smart and stylish in appearance and with songs to match, The Jelly Roll Men unroll a lengthy album consisting of fourteen tracks of originals and covers. The whole album makes for fascinating listening where songs really transport the listener back to a period where song titles such as ‘Date Bait’, ’36-24-38’ and ‘Pontiac Blues’ were befitting of such a time in history (see above) but no longer translate in the modern age for numerous reasons. That is not to say there’s no home for The Jelly Roll Men and their ‘Jelly Roll Shuffle’ in the present, in fact far from it because it remains a delight to have these four musicians, suitably accompanied by fellow blues artist Little Victor operating on production in addition to occasional vocals and guitars, serving up a reminder of traditional blues music where the instrumentation could be slick, just as it could be raw, and the mood often down in the gutter where relationships have long since departed. The album, ‘Jelly Roll Shuffle’, shows enough signs of all such ingredients from ‘Date Bait’s’ initially raw chiming guitar before leading on to something far more sophisticated, to really burnt, scorched sounding tracks (excellently demonstrated by guitars, harmonica and piano) of ‘Rockin’ and ‘Murder My Baby’. Add to this creative melting pot the vocal stylings of Kent Erik who delivers convincing performances during the likes of ‘I’m Tired’ and ‘Come Back Home To Me’ to name but two tracks where genuine signs of vulnerability surface. It all makes for fascinating listening as said earlier, and just happens to be rolled (Sorry!) in to a complete whole that is ‘Jelly Roll Shuffle’.


Released Out now

 

Don’t Mess With Me, Baby

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

The theme of this compilation album of known and lesser known rhythm and blues performers appears to focus on the notion of the blues making itself known whether you’re in relationship or without a relationship. Those suffering from such symptoms can comfort themselves a little once it is known that the blues expressed here started a long, long time ago, in fact, from the beginning of time according to the scribblings of Little Victor“…the eternal LOVE-HATE relationship between men and women that started with Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden…” But rest assured dear listeners as the songs contained within are full of upbeat rhythms and built for those who like to shake their limbs across the (fifties) dancefloors. ‘Don’t Mess With Me Baby’ is packed with a lively set of songs that opens confidently via the instructions of Bull Moose Jackson and ‘Watch My Signals’, to wild and often sax-driven tracks as ‘She Walked In’ (Morris Pejoe) and Rufus Brown with ‘Keep A Knockin’. With full accompaniment of instruments supporting many of the contents of ‘Don’t Mess With Me, Baby’, the songs listed have certainly moved on from their earlier and more primitive foundations. This is largely noticeable from the fuller sounds as mentioned, but also for the charismatic turns in vocal performances that range in styles where confidence is on full display despite lyrics of despair (i.e. King Perry with ‘Come Back Baby’) to other moments that reveal vocal turns that contain shades of light and dark and superbly demonstrated by Larry Ellison & The Mark IV (‘Young Girls’). So, if you’re suffering from a bout of the blues, then ‘Don’t Mess With Me, Baby’ is the perfect place to find a remedy.


Released Out now

 

Move On!

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Featuring twenty-eight tracks of predominantly up-tempo rhythm and blues, with some borderline soul influences, is the next in line of this fine, fine series. It is no lie that the tempos are fast and shifting throughout ‘Move On!’ whether rockin’ to a chunky beat of Charles Sims’ ‘Take A Bath’ or flexing those limbs during ‘Du De Squat’ (Little Luther), or shakin’ profusely to back-to-back numbers ‘Lot of Shakin’ Lot of Livin’’ and ‘Shake That Thing’ from Piano Slim and Finney Mo respectively. It’s certainly an upbeat volume and one that was built for a combination of dance moves whether the twist, the crawl or a combined boogie and twist, then ‘Move On!’ is the album to get those limbs moving. There’s even time for a few leftfield manoeuvres if ‘The Kangaroo’ (Charles Sheffield) is your thing, or a bit of Gorilla infused action via ‘Go Go Gorilla’ (The Ideals) that will likely cause one to freeze on the dancefloor if confronted by such a hairy sight, but there remains a plan for such an eventuality if one adopts Fention & The Castle Rockers advice with ‘The Freeze’. There’s even time for a bit of humour with the back-and-forth interaction of Rolls Royce & The Wheels opinion on a certain type of automobile or is it? You decide. No matter as ‘Move On!’ is an album that never remains still for a moment due to an abundance of dancefloor fillers that are high on quality.


Released Out now

 

Dapper Dan

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A well-dressed turnout from the latest CD in the blues, and rhythm and blues series from Koko Mojo with ‘Dapper Dan’. A mouth-watering twenty-eight tracks present themselves from a longline of artists who get one shot at this, and one shot only to present their best sides. And succeed they most certainly do! From the charismatic double coupling of vocals from Eddie Johnson & Edna Mc Raney with ‘Back Up’, to follow-on ‘No Deposit, No Return’ presenting its message clearly via Martha Davis’ strong vocals that are tied to a tidy, finger-clicking rhythm that hints at jazz influences. There’s similar power in abundance when it comes to Little Miss Jessie & Benny Sharp Orchestra, only the volume ratchets skywards with vocals raw and rattling and set to a shifting tempo of rhythm and blues. As with other volumes, ‘Dapper Dan’ shines brightly due its variety of performances, but also for reviving a sense of history where you can visualise the dusty, smoke-filled environments of bars, dance clubs  and recording studios long since departed, yet brought to life here via tracks such as ‘Poppa Stoppa’ from Thelma Baxter and ‘Get With It’ by Pearl Galloway. With all that said, the most pleasing aspect of ‘Dapper Dan’ is its decision to focus predominantly on female artists, which is a definite positive and makes for interesting listening once the occasional male vocalists are introduced, especially during ‘Brand New Man’ that will raise much debate if you’re paying close attention. ‘Dapper Dan’ is an intelligent and sophisticated compilation where the female vocalists of a bygone era truly showed their worth that still resonates strongly today.


Released 1 March

 

This Strange Place

Rafa Russo

Scratchy Records

Defined as a troubadour, screenwriter, film director and, in this instance, singer-songwriter, Rafa Russo marks a return to the music scene with his latest album ‘This Strange Place’. With a lengthy history behind him, Rafa Russo has seen a career take him from his home of Madrid to New York and London and, along this journey, receive rave reviews from the likes of NME, airplay on BBC Radio One and tours supporting Tori Amos, John Martyn, Melissa Etheridge and Zucchero. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that latest album ‘This Strange Place’ is packed full of intricate details both musically and lyrically that will require patience because, as the well-worn phrase goes, this long player is a grower. With each listen there are new details and delights creeping to the surface (clearly expressed by album closer ‘Where Do You Go’), often undersold due to the subtle manner of Rafa Russo’s vocals and delicate instrumentation. It will draw you in and retain your attention without any hesitation as songs ache with sadness and tug at the heartstrings (‘On The Side’). The album appears to be something of a crossroads for Rafa Russo where the title of this record (interestingly and refreshingly no track of the same name) suggests unfamiliarity where optimism can be found in the likes of ‘Beautiful Stranger’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘Something Like Home’, but also emptiness (‘The Beginning Of The End’, ‘Grey’ and ‘Empty Chair’). ‘This Strange Place’ finds Rafa Russo without a definite answer to the problems encased here, but it also suggests that soon there will be a parting of the ways that will lead to more familiar territory that will soon begin to feel like home. It’s a thoroughly compelling listen and deserved of very high praise and likely to still be talked about come the end of year album polls. ‘This Strange Place’ is its name, and one that you will not forget.


Released Out now

 

Whiskey and Orchids

Matt Owens

Urby Records

Country music is the order of the day for Matt Owens and his debut solo album ‘Whiskey and Orchids’. Having previously been a member of indie band Noah and the Whale from their inception to their demise that saw success via four albums and many tours and festival appearances with the likes of Arcade Fire, Bahamas and Laura Marling, in addition to his ongoing musical pursuit in recent times with Little Mammoths, Matt Owens has made the decision to plough the solo route. The new album ‘Whiskey and Orchids’ consists of eleven tracks with a strong Americana/country flavour running throughout. With Nigel Stonier registered as producer and guest appearances from musicians Thea Gilmore, Rob Vincent, Michael Blair and Paul Beavis, there is clearly much talent behind ‘Whiskey and Orchids’. This becomes evident from lively opener ‘Lay Down Honey’, to more pensive moods held in both rhythm and narratives of examples ‘American Girls in London’, to the equally compelling duo of ‘Christmas Eve’ and ‘Match Day’ with both songs held together by the barebones of acoustic guitar and piano. There is heartache in the storytelling of ‘Whiskey and Orchids’ as is the way with country music where addiction plays its part in both love and liquor (‘Little Tornado’, ‘Too Far Gone’), but Matt Owens carries this off in his own style as well as having more in common with fellow contemporaries Danny & the Champions of the World and Folk Grinder rather than the gloss of numerous country artists attempting their take on this genre. ‘Whiskey and Orchids’ is a fine beginning for Matt Owens and one that bodes well considering the variety on offer here via its engaging stories and changes in tempos.


Released Out now

 

Navigate

Nigel Stonier

Shameless Records

Nigel Stonier possess a work ethic that is to be admired when considering his background of producer, multi-instrumentalist, co-writer and singer-songwriter. It would seem, therefore, that a moment of rest is simply a function that never applies to Nigel Stonier having built up a considerable CV working with the likes of Thea Gilmore, The Waterboys, Joan Baez, Martha Wainwright, Fairport Convention to name a few whether serving as producer, collaborator or lending a hand when a certain musical instrument was required to help fill in the missing pieces of an album in progress. The hard work continues apace in 2019 with the release of ‘Navigate’; a self-penned album made up of ten tracks and co-produced with Seadna McPhail at Airtight Studios, Manchester. With ‘Navigate’ pitched as a solo record, additional help arrives from the side-lines with a variety of musicians including the previously mentioned Thea Gilmore assisting on vocals. The song titles of Nigel Stonier’s latest album drops hints to current political and social unrest, not to mention apathy from some corners, with the opening duo of ‘Bad Dancers of A Certain Age’ and title-track ’Navigate’ picking at the seams of recent history and associating this with various ills occurring today. The opening bow of songs leans towards indie with the nagging yet welcome reference of Ian Broudie’s The Lightning Seeds constantly springing to mind, and largely due to both parties possessing a clever knack of crafting songs that sound upbeat yet further investigation reveals lyrics of a darker nature, but not forgetting the dry humour as well, with the catchy ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ one such example. That is precisely where Nigel Stonier finds himself during ‘Navigate’ because despite wrestling with numerous problems, there is hope of a positive outcome, it’s just a matter of trying to find a way of sailing though the troubles in order to reach the other side. Such relief can be found via ‘When It Gets Cold’, ‘The Strange Untried’ and ‘Me With You’ mainly due to the tender sides of these folk compositions offering any sense of comfort. Seemingly never one in need of motivation, Nigel Stonier’s persistence and hard work looks to be paying off as ‘Navigate’ is a clever record that chews over current events as well as looking inwards to personal experiences, in an attempt to make sense of the sea of confusion many of us find ourselves in.



Back To Top