Album Reviews

Filter :

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!


Released Out now

 

Burning Frets

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar” this album most certainly is. Another long player packed with 28 tracks with, in this instance, the guitar taking centre stage. Once more this series of blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll throws off the shackles to show a broad range of lesser known artists to provide something different, but also to plug in pieces of history by discovering artists that were either ignored or simply forgotten about during their (brief) time attempting this thing known as rock ‘n’ roll. It is that very genre that this latest addition of this compilation series largely features, with guitars reigning supreme throughout as mentioned earlier. It must be said there is a little more familiarity with this volume with tracks such ‘Crawdad Hole’ supplied by Chuck Harrod & The Anteaters, and the rowdy ‘Justine’ from The Citations being two such examples. However, as with other volumes of this excellent series, there’s variety in the pack as both TV Slim (‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’) and Blue Charlie’s compelling take on ‘I’m Going To Kill That Hen’ offers a bout of the blues from two different levels. Elsewhere, Little Luther shines with only his guitar for company during ‘Automatic Baby’, whereas Guitar Shorty provides a fuller yet looser blend of blues and rock ‘n’ roll that tightens up immensely once ‘Quick Draw’ by Leo Price and Band arrive soon after. Great songs, full of varying tempos and supplied by some of the most fascinating names set to musical history (Boliver Shagnasty anyone?!), ‘Burning Frets’ certainly leaves a lasting impression that will have you coming back for more.


Released Out now

 

Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A full pot of drinking songs straight from the juke joints of America’s past where blues and rhythm and blues provided the backing track to the joys and pleasures that alcohol could bring, but also its use as a means to combat the ‘blues’ felt when relationship heartbreak came calling. With twenty-eight songs varying between moods and styles and given by artists ranging from Lightnin Hopkins, Rufus Gore, Jimmy Liggins, Dave Bartholomew and Jimmy Rogers to name but a small selection, the quality is set to high when it comes to the collection that is ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’. Whether it’s a pared back guitar affair via Lightnin Hopkins ‘Drinkin’ Woman’ or a more up-tempo singalong with Johnny Davis and ‘I’m A Wine Drinker’ with its more than happy approach to drink your quota if you’re not feeling up to it, this long player has pretty much got the lot. Take for example the swinging rhythm and stunning vocal pipes of Al Jackson during ‘Let’s Drink Some Whiskey’, to the rendition of Stick McGhee classic (and rockabilly favourite) ‘Drinkin’ Wine’ superbly handled by Larry Dale, before taking further twists and turns via two wonderful ramshackle blues numbers ‘Sloppy Drunk’ (Jimmy Rodgers) and careering off the road ‘Drunk Drivers Comin’ (Richard Bros.). If you need further convincing that you’re in need of some fine company to help lift the spirits and ease the blues, then the punchy sax intro of ‘Wine Wine Wine’ and compelling vocals of Calvin Boze (‘Looped’) should have your limbs shaking in no time. With ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’ being a combination of the vinyl series ‘Too Much Booze’ and ‘Bad Hangover’, there really is no other option than to take up this addictive habit of blues and rhythm and blues as there are no hangovers to be had here!


Released Out now

 

Voo Doo Lou

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Flying out of the barn at some tempo begins ‘Chicken Little’ by Rayvon Darnell, and so begins the compilation album of various artists ‘Voo Doo Lou’ on Koko Mojo. The idea(s) behind the title given to this long player appears to refer to the variation of moods and rhythms of the tracks supplied as it flies high on numerous occasions as well as taking leftfield turns as depicted by The Emersons and their compelling rendition of ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ for example. Such humour and brilliance extend to the likes of Jimmy Butler’s persuasive, ‘Trim Your Tree’ complete with jaunty rhythm, and later (take your pick from) Big Moose (‘Puppy House Blues’), Ben Hughes (‘Sack’) and Jimmy Shaw (‘Big Chief Hug-Um An’ Kiss Um’) to experience some genuine eccentricities. You see it’s all about the delivery of the songs when it comes to ‘Voo Doo Lou’ as this compilation provides a masterclass in how to engage the listener by providing genuine emotions with tales of the everyday, not to mention catchy rhythms. Look no further than Gene and Billy and the heat sapping ‘It’s Hot’ giving the impression of the sun’s heat blaring down on you, to the curious question at the centre of ‘Who’s That Under My Bed’ from Rich McQueen to realise that we’re in rhythm and blues very good hands.



Back To Top