Album Reviews

Filter :

Released Out now

 

Gonna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers

Various Artists

Atomicat

The music speaks for itself on this latest compilation from Atomicat, despite its relevance in name only to the current political debate surrounding the UK and rest of Europe. Charging in on a riotous romp of twenty-four tracks comes ‘Goanna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’, which is a record for the times; that being the topsy-turvy political climate of the UK and whether to officially leave the EU or remain a full member. As complex and quite frankly baffling the whole process to date has been, not to mention where the past two years has gone, one record label’s decision to express its opinion on this whole, and quite frankly, baffling affair is not only their right but the manner in which ‘Goanna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’ conducts itself by throwing a party rather than being a political vehicle. There is not an ounce of political motivation between the rock ‘n’ roll sides of this compilation, more a loose association of track names and lyrics to the current fiasco between the UK / Brussels and Co. So, if you can imagine for one moment Brexit is set out in five stages where the starting post begins via the snappy rhythm of Billy Fury’s ‘Gonna Type A Letter’, complete with the nostalgic sound of the now obsolete typewriter (UK to EU), to the hillbilly yarn of ‘Don’t Push Me Too Far’ from the always reliable Skeets McDonald (EU in reply to the UK), to country-weepy  ‘We’re Talking It Over’ By Faron Young (50 – 50 EU / UK debate), and then final breakdown where we’re informed by  ‘Lies Lies Lies’ (Norman Bullock) before eventually landing rock bottom and ‘Singing The Blues’ with Tommy Steele for company. In fact, there’s so much scope here to devise your own five phases of the Brexit process, which really can take a stinging turn if you like your rock ‘n’ roll on the wild side à la Jackie Lee Cochran (‘Pity Me’), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (‘There’s Something Wrong With You’) and (it’s in there if you listen closely) George Jones’ superb ‘No Money In This Deal’. It’s a cleverly thought out compilation where song lyrics can be associated with the situation that is Brexit without mentioning politics or having any direct correlations. Therefore, ‘Gonna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’ is a very special album for a period that will go down in history forever once this whole affair draws itself to a conclusion. Thankfully, it’s the rock ‘n’ roll music that speaks volumes here and will remain the only winner whatever the eventual outcome at the end of this month. But, to borrow Bill Swing’s song title, it sure is ‘Messed Up’ depending on which side of the political fence one sits of course.


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 Out now

 

Cuan

Ian Nyquist

Eilean Records

Deriving from Dublin, Ireland, Ian Nyquist is an artist with a background in field recording and sound art. By setting his experience to date of compiled field recordings to his first physical release on Eilean Records, the album ‘Cuan’ was recorded over the period of a year between November 2017 – November 2018. The title for the album translates as Bay or Harbour, with the field recordings picking up on Nyquist’s sound messages regarding ‘home’, which its press bio’ refers to the album as it “pays homage to places and people of familiarity.” This is true as the sounds portrayed here often linger for some time as if to pick up and reflect every possible detail that sonically represents the people and places mentioned earlier. A good starting point to experience such descriptions is the shimmering sounds of light during ‘Obelisk’, which reflect to a greater extent nearing its conclusion where a sense of wonder is often felt. Such feelings blossom further with the near-orchestral approach of ‘Bring Her Home’. There are moments containing darker tones such as the loneliness given by ‘After The Disappearance’, which is dominated by piano and genuinely captures one’s attention and followed by murkier tones of ‘Bank na Cise’ and barely audible ‘Peninsualas’. Ian Nyquist has produced a captivating array of sounds that reflect familiar objects and surroundings of his environment that are known to him. However, this does not mean that ‘Cuan’ is an album that sounds introverted and intended for a singular audience, because it’s an album that will have no problem translating to a wider audience where people can apply their own experiences to these tracks and feel a sense of their own familiarity.


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

 

Dawn

Kenji Kihara

Eilean Records

Nature plays a big part when structuring the ambient soundscapes during latest album by Japanese artist Kenji Kihara. Residing in a part of Japan known as Hayama, which is surrounded by nature consisting of much costal beauty in addition to mountainous ranges, the music conjured here is often warm and filled with much light as expressed by ‘Nostalgic Wind’ that provides a feeling of much optimism for the past as well as leading into the future. Such ideas and feelings expressed continue, and pause for a moment, once ‘Light In The Sea’ comes in to view, yet its ambient sounds remain subtle and continue to filter and shine during the following ‘Warm Haze’. The sense of optimism almost reaches for the stars once ‘Cosmos’ begins and rolls out an electronic carpet of beats and pulses that almost steps out from the boundaries of ambient as one can imagine vocals being applied here, such is the tighter, fuller construction of the composition. Clearly, Kenji Kihara is a musician inspired by his homestead as his musical compositions are filled with much beauty and wonder as the album ‘Dawn’ clearly demonstrates and will have no difficulties communicating to the rest of the world.


Released Out now

 

Entropia

Banabila & Machinefabriek

Eilean Records

The working relationship of Michel Banabila and Rutger Zuydervelt (aka Machinefabriek) has come together over several years, having begun as far back as 2012. Their latest collaboration ‘Entropia’, which is their fifth album together, finds them compiling a series of field recordings that sound distorted and disfigured, coarse and uneven, and therefore quite chaotic in their overall executions. Limited to 180 copies, ‘Entropia’ marks the 100th release from record label Eilean, and it’s something of an ear opener because even though tracks such as ‘Anima’ tick to a steady rhythm, it also has moments where it coughs, puffs and wheezes intermittently with keys and brass instrumentation slightly more audible over the scratched and hushed background canvass of flowing sounds. This happens for the majority of ‘Entropia’ as it challenges the senses, yet it does possess moments of stronger fluidity during the fuller sounding ‘Nostalgia’ to suggest that not all is at unease with the emotions expressed via the sounds filling ‘Entropia’.


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.


Released Out now

 

Holy Smoke

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“Don’t let love fool you!” Attached to this latest release of predominantly rhythm and blues artists from along-gone era is a message warning of the potential pitfalls that can be associated with that thing known as ‘love’. Without wishing to put any dampeners on any future romance, KoKo Mojo sets out its stall with another twenty-eight tracks that certainly rock and blow away any suggestions of the blues. In fact, what any listener is likely to experience for their listening pleasure via ‘Holy Smoke’ is a collection of tracks culled from history and selected for their addictive qualities when it comes to rhythm, but also their relevance to the subject matter at heart here. Therefore, expect songs that are filled with lovesick sentiments where infatuation can take hold – Baby Clifford King ‘Want To Jump With You’ or Tony Allan’s vocals capturing the mood to perfection during the album’s title track – or unrequited love via the forceful rhythm and blues of ‘Don’t You Want A Man Like Me’ from Jay Nelson. There’s a wonderful performance from Juke Boy Barner who delivers what sounds like a ramshackle performance during ‘Rock With Me Baby’, only for closer inspection to reveal that there’s deft hands at work here with far more going on under its bonnet. This, however, is only the beginning as from here on, the variety displayed ups its game further from Prince Royals’ superbly understated and centre of attention, ‘Anna Mae’, to the “great” Eddie Alexander & The Greats ‘I’m In Love’ (complete with accompanying ducks!), before rattling off a whole host of sophisticated rhythm and blues numbers such as ‘My Pretty Baby’ (Ernie Williams), ‘Ding Dong Babe’ (Jimmy McPhail), ‘I’ll Be True To You’ (Billy Fair & Orch.), and Little Johnny Cook with ‘Try Your Love’. There’s too much goodness to be found here, despite any notions of hearts being broken, because ‘Holy Smoke’ offers a passionate and classy taste of rhythm and blues that’s packing enough variety to keep any listener entertained for many hours. Top of its class!



Back To Top