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Razzle Dazzle EP

Imperial Leisure

FXD Records

After a lengthy bout of tour dates throughout 2014, Imperial Leisure show no sign of winding down their schedule as step forth new four-track EP ‘Razzle Dazzle’. Causing reason to celebrate by rejuvenating the classic ska sound of the early eighties, but at the same time dusting this influence down and intertwining it with other components consisting of indie rock and postpunk, Imperial Leisure remain a flailing mass of anxious energy that is underpinned by their frantic sounds and barked vocals. First example fitting this description is the EP’s title track blazing fast on a wave of brass instrumentation and guitars, with a fidgety lead vocal to match the sensitive subject matter at the centre of this song. ‘Festival’ is more concerned with a leisurely pace in order to get its message across as musically it’s less troubled, starting out with simple drums and singular guitar and then supported by some brass and backing vocals before eventually picking its feet up and finding a faster rhythm.  If only all songs could flow with the same brass backing as evidenced throughout ‘Lucky People’, with its midway punctuation via a trumpet that simply enthrals, then the world would truly be a more harmonious place. With recent single ‘Nasty Boy’ applying the final touches with a bitter aftertaste in its mouth and appropriately reflected by a return to the frantic tempo of before, Imperial Leisure is closing the door on 2014 in magnificent style!

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City Lights (single)

The Scheen

Artistpartner Records

In a show of optimism after a successful campaign winning over the hearts and minds at this year’s Emergenza contest for unsigned artists, The Scheen return with the first entry from a forthcoming EP with new single ‘City Lights’. Buoyed by their recent success, ‘City Lights’ exudes the same level of optimism with its tight, energetic rhythm that was the product of a live recording in the studio under the guidance of producer Sigve Bull. With new material on the horizon and a 2015 tour booked as part of the Europaturné with the aforementioned Emergenza contest, next year should see The Scheen growing further in stature considering the exhilarating ride of current single ‘City Lights’.

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Burn (single)

Sarah Nærø Pettersen

Prytz / Pettersen

Sounding beyond her years rather than the tender age of sixteen, Sarah Nærø Pettersen marks a new entry in her recording diary with the single ‘Burn’. By enlisting songwriter and producer Knut Vegar Prytz, who was involved in the song writing process for Norwegian artist Frøder’s ‘Speed of Sound’ which was B-listed on P3 Radio, this collective meeting of the minds results in a pop ballad that is meditative in its rhythmic pattern, greatly emphasised at first by piano and drums before revealing a richer sound by the time the song’s chorus arrives. While there is an air of confidence surrounding this single, ‘Burn’ is most definitely scorched around its edges with Sarah Næro Pettersen turning in a solemn performance that is struggling with a broken heart yet remains unwilling to give up the slightest glimmer of hope on a relationship that has since expired. ‘Burn’ is an engaging listen brought further to life by an equally impressive vocal that suggests years of experience when, in fact, is just starting out. Such qualities are hard to come by.

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Home For The Holidays

Darius Rucker

Capitol Records Nashville

A strange one this in terms of timing, but as with most things when it comes to the Christmas season it’s all about getting in there early to maximise profits. Setting such irritations aside, Darius Rucker has set his country tunes on hold for a first in his career with a Christmas album ‘Home For The Holidays’. With producer Frank Rogers at the helm once more, after Rucker’s three solo albums receiving the same working relationship, ‘Home For The Holidays’ transpires to be a thoroughly engaging listen. Part of the reason why ‘Home For The Holidays’ proves a success is down to Rucker’s fine vocal delivery which, in this context, is a throwback to a classic era of singers including Dean Martin, Nat King Cole (‘Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’) et al. Consisting of the standard Christmas songs, but with a couple of self-penned numbers – ‘Candy Cane Christmas’ and ‘What God Wants For Christmas’ – Rucker makes these songs his own with a warm, smooth delivery throughout ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, and then finding himself getting into character during the eccentric and humorous ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch’. Sheryl Crow makes an appearance on ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ with her voice blending nicely to the classic theme of songs on offer here, and complementing Rucker’s slightly deeper tones as there is no suggestion of Crow being a mere background accessory with her vocal often thrust to the fore. There is a boogie-woogie feel to ‘Winter Wonderland’ that really sets up its jaunty rhythm, before arriving at the previously mentioned, and one of Rucker’s own compositions, ‘Candy Cane Christmas’, which consists of the same classic ambience of the festive standards with its orchestral support and impressive silky vocal. Definitely a surprising choice from Darius Rucker, considering his previous works, but a decision that proves worthwhile because ‘Home For The Holidays’ reveals another side to this country musician that is especially appealing once the moving ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ has woven its magic.

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Big Machine

Simple Minds


The current surge of eighties bands not only making a comeback, but doing so credibly with brand new material is gathering at some pace. Latest off the block with new album ‘Big Music’ is Scotland’s longstanding Simple Minds. Having undergone a renaissance in recent years after the band’s decision to rediscover their early material, which saw them embark on a worldwide tour performing five tracks from each of their first five albums, the core of Jim Kerr (vocals), Charlie Burchill (guitars) and Mel Gaynor (drums) continue this journey as ‘Big Music’ treads similar experimental ground yet retains a more accessible side for the majority of its contents. Examination of those past creative endeavours also led to a calling on the experience and expertise of co-writer Iain Cook, of Glasgow band Chvrches, and producers Steve Osborne, Andy Wright and Steve Hillage – who worked on 1981’s ‘Sons And Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’. ‘Blindfolded’ opens the gates and one is reminded of ‘I Travel’, with its incessant rhythm suggesting a genuine feeling of motion sourced by a strong wave of synths and Burchill’s guitar. First impressions of the actual song ‘Big Music’ provides the first, real indication of a song that is not as clear-cut in its aims, despite massive beats propelling it forward and living up to its title, due to the gritty current coursing through it and then taking a turn skywards in swathes of keyboards providing a more soothing edge. Such songs make for compelling listening and further indication of the wise decisions Simple Minds find themselves taking by following a less commercial route and setting challenges, which first single, ‘Hometown’ suggests, as it will require a measure of patience due to its measured pace. There is great vigour to the excellent ‘Human’ that really gets under your skin after a few repeat plays, which also rubs off on the echoing, fuzzy static of second reworking (see ‘Graffiti Soul’ deluxe edition) of The Call’s ‘Let The Day Begin’. Similarities can be drawn with the aforementioned ‘Hometown’ and the considered tempo of ‘Blood Diamonds’, which reveals the experience and depth at the centre of this band. To suggest that ‘Big Music’ is a major comeback for Simple Minds would be discrediting the steps which led to this reinvigorated state – namely, ‘Neapolis’, ‘Black & White 050505’ and ‘Graffiti Soul’ – as the signs were already evident to the glorious position Simple Minds find themselves once more. ‘Big Music’ is therefore another addition in their current creative evolution, but one that is definitely their most consistent in terms of a return to their creative best.

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Rock & Roll Time

Jerry Lee Lewis


The rock ‘n’ roll legend that is Jerry Lee Lewis returns with a new album, ‘Rock & Roll Time’. Having enlisted the creative help of a few well-known musicians including Keith Richards, Nils Lofgren, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson and Shelby Lynne, the songs recorded pay their respects to other legendary artists by covering such songs as Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie’, Johnny Cash with ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘Stepchild’ by Bob Dylan to name but a small sample. The album was recorded at the House of Blues in Memphis and finds Jerry Lee Lewis in fine form from the off with the barroom melody, and title track, ‘Rock & Roll Time’; a song that was originally co-written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson during the seventies. While there are no embarrassing attempts to re-enact those wild rock ‘n’ roll years, Jerry Lee Lewis belies his years with an energized performance of said Chuck Berry record ‘Little Queenie’, suitably aided by fellow wild rockers Keith Richards and Ron Wood. The following version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Stepchild’ is given a blues workout, expertly handled by Daniel Lanois and Doyle Bramhall II, then swiftly followed by the more rockin’ ‘Sick And Tired’, this time with support coming from Jon Brion. For those eager to hear the latest take on ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ (Johnny Cash) it will not leave you disappointed with its more spacious arrangement allowing itself to pick up an assortment of instruments along the way, which adds a sense of spontaneity to the recording due to sounding as if the various instruments are trying to pull in different directions but somehow managing to combine and provide a genuine alternative cover of this classic song. There is also a country flavour to ‘Rock & Roll Time’, mingling with the rock ‘n’ roll numbers, with the rather dreamy ‘Keep Me In Mind’ and storytelling thread shared by Shelby Lynne during ‘Here Comes That Rainbow Again’. ‘Rock & Roll Time’ is highly commendable for its enthusiasm, inventiveness and warm nature when recreating a number of original compositions that could have easily fallen into the category of going through the motions. As it stands, one of the original rock ‘n’ rollers is not about to call time on his career, and long may that continue.

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Live At The Royal Albert Hall

Ben Poole

Manhaton Records

Only in his mid-twenties, the name Ben Poole has come a long way in a relatively short space of time. Such progression for this blues-rock maestro is hardly surprising considering the solid foundations having been put in place after acquiring a degree in music at Brighton University and then opening his recording account in confident manner with the EP ‘Everything I Want’ and ensuing full length debut album ‘Let’s Go Upstairs’. Latest release ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ is great testament to the musical strides Ben Poole is making considering the prestige of the Royal Albert Hall, but it is also an album that sees Ben Poole in his natural environment of a live setting where he is truly able to capture the raw energy and passion of his own compositions, in addition to a smattering of covers. The dextrous playing is evident throughout ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ as Ben Poole blazes a trail of musical delights along with his band consisting of Craig Bacon (drums), Mat Beable (bass), Sam Mason (keys) and Amy Eftekhari (vocals) with the early runner ‘Let’s Go Upstairs’ containing some white-hot guitar and the burnt feelings of ‘Love Nobody No More’ being two such examples. Taking up the middle section of this live set is the previously mentioned selection of cover versions with The Temptations ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ given a gritty rendition via some bruised vocals, robust guitar and swirling keys, before handing over to the more than respectable versions of Otis Redding’s ‘Mr. Pitiful’ and Billy Myles’ ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’. Despite ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ being a landmark achievement in the early stages of Ben Poole’s career, any temptation to rest on his laurels is not something this blues-rock artist is willing to entertain as the bonus entry of a new composition ‘Starting All Over Again’ sets up the next instalment as a seriously mouth-watering prospect. Until that time arrives, ‘Live At The Royal Albert Hall’ serves as an entry point for those less familiar with this emerging talent, but also this live recording captures the true identity of Ben Poole in a live setting. Highly recommended.

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Cherry Sings Hi – No – Love

Cherry Casino & The Gamblers

Rhythm Bomb

After lying low on the recording front since the last full length offering that was ‘Big Mama’s Daughter’ in 2007, Cherry Casino & The Gamblers resurface with a collection of songs that marks their return in style. By producing a largely predominant rhythm and blues sound with elements of rock ‘n’ roll and swing picked at will and added to the mix when required, ‘Cherry Sings Hi-No-Love’ eases into its stride and never hesitates for a moment such is its confident manner when it comes to its musicianship. The inner contents, however, are slightly more fragile, dealing with the frustrations of unrequited love and unfilled desires, but there is also reason to believe as the likes of ‘Just One Look’ and ‘Happy Daddy’ reveals. Before tackling the more delicate relationship issues, ‘Cherry Sings Hi-No-Love’ begins exuberantly with ‘Let’s Have A Crazy Ball’ as it lives up to its title as Cherry Casino & The Gamblers let loose on the dance floor in swinging fashion and greatly supplemented with a saxophone to help belt out its driving rhythm. ‘A Kiss From You’ reflects the skilled musicianship at the heart of this band as their efforts characterize the narrative to great effect via some excellent guitar work and glimpses of sax once more. The songs throughout remain brief, but this works to Cherry & The Gamblers advantage in terms of getting their messages across musically and lyrically as the songs are direct and without any fuss as depicted by the happy-go-lucky nature of ‘Breakfast’, which is about as happy as one can be during such an early hour. There are ballads to be had as well that demonstrate the strengths of Cherry’s vocal as depicted by the gorgeous qualities of ‘Don’t Let Them Know’, finding The Gamblers’ frontman cutting a forlorn figure, only to be halted in your tracks the next moment with the stunning ‘Just One Look’. Other creative efforts find Cherry & The Gamblers getting into character and revealing their humorous side during ‘Kiss Me’ that borrows a trick or two from Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps with backing vocals letting out the occasional holler in support of their bandleader. In fact, ‘Cherry Sings Hi-No-Love’ runs the full range of emotions as there is a resilient side to this album with ‘I’ll Find A New Love’ picking itself up and dusting itself down after a particularly unsavoury relationship. Full bodied in its creative makeup and outlook when it comes to the ups and downs of the issues concerning relationships, but at the same time maintaining an awareness that never takes itself too seriously, it looks like Cherry Casino & The Gamblers have scored another winning run to add to their tally with latest album ‘Cherry Sings Hi-No-Love’.

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Cut Out To Rock

The Backseat Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

It’s time for more Backseat Boogie with their latest release ‘Cut Out To Rock’. Continuing their affiliation with rockabilly and adding much saxophone to the recordings, these rockin’ cats from Italy never take the easy route as latest album ‘Cut Out To Rock’ is jam-packed with much detail and running to a full fourteen tracks! With the title track setting out its intentions from the start, there is clearly one thing on its mind and that is to rock! Following number ‘The Worst And The Best’ reflects two sides of a personality yet retains a clear vision musically with its infectious rhythm containing some sharp guitar and bursts of saxophone that provides this song with a real attitude. ‘Water Out Of Stone’ really stumps up a miracle by transporting the listener back to a bygone era where rhythm and blues and swing dominated for a period, considering the quick footed and relentless pace created by The Backseat Boogie during this particular song. There is a genuine swagger to ‘First To Come (Last To Leave)’ that also reveals The Backseat Boogie’s attention to detail when it comes to the song’s instrumentation. Such is the strength in depth here, that other songs allow for experimentation with ‘Hit The Iron’ letting in the blues with an enthusiastic harmonica firing its engine, and with another twist materialising with the country inspired ‘I Can’t Take It Anymore’ that makes use of the harmonica once more and comes complete with rowdy whistling supplied in the background. Another string to The Backseat Boogie’s bow is their ability to tackle other issues whether speaking out on hardships of city dwelling (‘In The City’), repeating this social commentary via instruments only with ‘Postcard From Zombieville’, or revealing much anxiety about the pains of losing one’s barnet; wonderfully portrayed in a humorous style that searches for answers with an out-of-date bottle of shampoo coming under scrutiny as one possible cause! Nearing the end of ‘Cut Out To Rock’ is quite possibly the standout track under the intriguing heading ‘Long And Silent Drive Back Home’. By utilising drum brushes to exemplify the late-night feel of this pared back song, and containing some fine lyrics to illustrate its heavy heart, ‘Long And Silent Drive Back Home’ is a perfect example of a band at the top of their trade. If you haven’t managed to take a ride with The Backseat Boogie yet, then now is the time to jump on board as this is one band not to be missed!

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On The Great River Road

Chris Almoada

Tessy Records

Having been a part of the rockin’ scene recording and performing live since the late 70s and therefore one of the ‘…first generation of European artists to embrace rockabilly’, Chris Almoada is poised with his latest project, ‘On The Great River Road’. This current album has not been a short ride as the initial ideas began as far back as 2010, and finally concluding at some point in 2013. Having composed all of the melodies himself, but with additional help in terms of the lyrics coming from Las Vegas-based David E. Miller, Chris Almoada relays a collection of tales stemming the length of this Great River Road with a backing that is largely rockabilly. There is a great old-time quality about this whole package from the artwork and most definitely from a number of the contents inside. Right from the off the album’s title song drums up imagery of a torrid landscape, but it is not something to be overly fixated with as the aforementioned rockabilly sound takes hold rather than this being a straight country album. More to the point, ‘On The Great River Road’ has more in common with the country pioneers and assortment of hillbilly musicians who turned their attention to rockabilly once this genre started to take hold during the 50s. The blustery and catchy chorus of ‘Maiden Rock’ is one such example bringing to mind Marvin Rainwater, only to be given a good run for its money by the gripping rhythm of ‘The Gem From Illinois’ that shares a passion for a long-lost sweetheart. The tempo steps down a few notches during the piano ballad ‘Palmyra Lane’ that sees Chris Almoada in reflective mood and spinning out this yarn to the remaining customers propping up the bar in some remote town. There’s no let up once ‘The Falcon’ digs its talons in deep as it’s something of a wild ditty with a guitar itching to take centre stage such is its restlessness. There is a return to a more authentic country sound illustrated greatly by the truly grainy style of ‘Memphis Odyssey’, before the almost epic, by these standards, ‘Rabbits May Be Dancing’ introduces itself and then suitably followed by the galloping rhythm and occasional yodelling vocal of ‘Patch Of Green’. With much to consume here, ‘On The Great River Road’ is clearly a labour of love considering the time spent honing and crafting these songs into a cohesive unit in order to recount this great journey. Therefore, just like the artist at the centre of these songs, this is a journey that is well worth discovering and one that is deserved of much attention.

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Let It Go

Ida Jenshus

Universal Music Norway

Entering a creative, transitional phase is Norway’s Ida Jenshus with the ‘Let It Go’ EP. Consisting of four tracks, this next step in the career of Ida Jenshus sees her embark on an exploratory journey which begins with the epic ‘Shallow River’ that is full of dark, shadowy imagery and roots instrumentation with a definite late sixties feel, before evolving into something lighter in tone with the vocals becoming more like Joni Mitchell. Playing out in three segments as the storm clouds gather once more to see out this opening song, ‘Shallow River’ is an audacious beginning for Ida Jenshus and one that strengthens its grip as the rest of the EP progresses. The next step is ‘Hero’, set to a more traditional structure compared to the expansive nature of its predecessor, the song starts off in a murmur and then rides out on a wave of chiming guitar and acoustic support with a fine vocal turn, which is eclipsed by the time ‘Set Us Free’ arrives as Ida Jenshus’ voice dominates from start to finish. The finale of ‘Sylvia’ is full of tenderness and perfectly expressed by the pared back sound of acoustic guitar and Ida Jenshus. With a new album scheduled for next year, it will be interesting to hear how this newfound direction will develop over a much greater scale for Ida Jenshus. In the meantime, ‘Let It Go’ is sufficient evidence that this songstress is on the right path.

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Melody Road

Neil Diamond

Capitol Records

After bringing the house down on the Graham Norton show recently with current single ‘Something Blue’, which is also undergoing heavy rotation on UK radio stations right now, Neil Diamond returns with album ‘Melody Road’. This latest release is Diamond’s first original album in six years and is co-produced by heavyweight producers Don Was and Jacknife Lee. Having established a long and illustrious career, ‘Melody Road’ shows no signs of slowing down as it’s full of heartfelt songs that reflect on times gone by, but with this songwriter still maintaining a focus on the future. Beginning with a song, in part, regarding the art of song writing and the joys this can bring when finding that perfect melody, ‘Melody Road’ starts out this latest journey for Neil Diamond in a strolling manner. Next up, however, ‘First Time’ gains a spark in its step and blossoms out into classic Diamond territory once the rousing chorus reveals itself in a bluster of instrumentation, and the renowned coarser edges of his vocal open up as well. ‘Seongah And Jimmy’ provides another strong vocal performance but remains too mawkish in its sentiments and plodding in its overall delivery. Such misgivings are soon forgotten once the compelling ‘Something Blue’ enters the fray with that irresistible chorus pepped up lightly in the background with brass instrumentation that once more shows Diamond on classic form and providing the very definition of a foot-tapping number! Then, of course, there is the other side of Neil Diamond that he does so well with the ballad ‘Nothing But A Heartache’, that suggests nothing lacking in the vocal department as the emotions pour out, leaving a painful and sorrowful exit. There’s something here for all Neil Diamond supporters as the more simple arrangement of ‘(OOO) Do I Wanna Be Yours’ is reminiscent of the journey taken during ‘Home Before Dark’ where the instrumentation was often peeled back. Not content with putting his feet up, Neil Diamond chooses to let his creative impulses to take hold, and rightly so when the majority of songs contained within ‘Melody Road’ remain on a par with some of his best recordings.

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