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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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Lady Antebellum

Capitol Records Nashville / Universal Music Group

After the smash hit that was ‘Need You Now’ in more countries than one can remember, this very song seemed to redefine the meaning of modern country music as it had more in common with the slick, commercial gleam of pop music than anything deep-seated in American country roots music. Despite this shift in style from a more traditional country sound, the change in tactics worked as there was no denying the song’s irresistible hooks and desperate pleas in the wee small hours for a relationship not to meet its demise proving deeply persuasive to even those not quite converted. Seven Grammy awards later and Lady Antebellum find themselves ready with album number five, ‘747’, which alludes to the band’s hectic touring schedule involving various methods of transport and stopgaps of hotels and motels until the next live venue calling. There appears no sign of fatigue as ‘747’ reveals the same winning formula which has made Lady Antebellum such a great success as this fifth album is built on strong harmonies, catchy melodies and a general knack of knowing how to write quality songs that will appeal to the masses. Such a feat is not an easy task to constantly maintain, yet Lady Antebellum show their strengths with the close-relative of the previously mentioned ‘Need You Now’ with the more robust yet equally longing ‘Long Stretch Of Love’. From there on in, ‘747’ utilises an assortment of ‘modern’ techniques, alongside a few traditional country trappings, to bring to life the addictive pull of ‘Bartender’, ‘Lie With Me’ and ‘Sounded Good At The Time’. There are moments of quieter reflection as well with the nostalgic ‘Damn You Seventeen’ and touching ballad ‘One Great Mystery’, the latter of which contains the Lady Antebellum trump card of interchanging vocals. Even the slightly underplayed yet determined title track wins the plaudits as it shows a grittier side to this band and is most definitely one of the standout songs. How Lady Antebellum maintain such a consistent level of song writing prowess is anyone’s guess because ‘747’ is another sure-fire winner to add to their growing number of recorded works.

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Surfin’ NSA

Bang! Mustang!

Rhythm Bomb

Not completely unfamiliar terrain for Rhythm Bomb Records having previously issued the instrumental album ‘Surfing Hootenanny’ by the Surfin’ Gorillas as next in line is the new surfin’ instrumental from Germany’s Bang! Mustang! Having formed from the remnants of previously successful international acts including Los Twang! Marvels, Messer Chups and The Rob Ryan Roadshow, Bang! Mustang! tear through a succession of guitar powered instrumentals that will leave you breathless after first hearing. With a penchant for films and usage of samples, the obvious choice is the guitar instrumental for this four-piece band as any number of these sixteen tracks could slot into the background of a fifties or sixties inspired feature film. Concentrating on the contents of ‘Surfin’ NSA’, the opening gesture is a rolling, tumbling mixture of drums and drilled guitar sounds with a definite Mescalero flavour as the song travels at considerable speed. The guitar surfin’ delights do not stop at this juncture either as there is a seemingly endless flow ranging from the exceedingly raw to the layered depths of ‘King Kahuna’ for example, and a change of tactic with the Latin spiced ’58 Degrees’ suggesting that the influences inspiring Bang! Mustang! are numerous. Instrumentals seem to be a hot ticket when it comes to the rockin’ scene at the moment and Bang! Mustang! can definitely include themselves as one of those hot prospects as most likely to cause a breakthrough judging by the quality shown throughout ‘Surfin’ NSA’.

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Three Winters

Termo Records

By holding a name such as Three Winters provides something of a clue as to the contents held within this new album release under the heading ‘Chroma’. Saturated in a number of electronic sounds that are in parts bleak and claustrophobic and on other occasions possessing a more expansive side yet retaining a dark edge, Three Winters has created a predominately instrumental soundscape that is a suitable ally for music set to film. ‘Cinematic, electronic night music’ is a fitting description, but ‘Chroma’ is also open to interpretation as the sizable blanket of whiteness of ‘A Thousand White Lights’ suggests. With the first creative shoots of ‘Chroma’ revealing themselves as loose ideas rather than anything concrete with a full album in mind, the end results are to be applauded due to the manner in which the album works as a cohesive unit. Its influences remain as vast as the creative sounds dreamed up, with pockets of early 80s references springing to mind as well as industrial music and the aforementioned nod to the ideology of film score structures. If it’s clarity of definition you’re seeking however, then ‘Atrocities’ is the closest sibling to an eighties sound that relied heavily on doom-laden synths – ditto ‘At The Centre Of Dystopia’ – but is also in line with the present considering its structural progression that could just as easily find a home with fellow Norwegians Zeromancer and their most recent efforts. ‘Daybreak Monuments’ slowly opens its eyes and acts as a brief conduit to the longer lasting ‘Animism’ that really opens its doors to a richer sound that is forever aiming higher on the back of keys and electronic drumbeats. Similar in nature is ‘Aeon Surveillance (MKII)’, only this time the rhythm is swifter and the tone is most definitely lighter. Normal service is soon restored with the recurring drone of beats and swirling electronics of ‘Hazard’ that comes to a suitable finale under the funeral procession of measured sounds that is ‘Channel 0’. While ‘Chroma’ is suggestive of a nearing of the end in terms of its atmospheric approach, there remains a shaft of light that offers the merest hint of optimism. It remains, however, that despite any small measure of hope, ‘Chroma’ is at its most engaging when operating from the depths of despair.

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Live Champs!

Danny & The Champions of the World

Loose Music

Helping to revive memories of a sublime live performance staged in Oslo earlier this year, Danny & the Champions of the World mark their latest entry with a double live album ‘Live Champs!’ While wholeheartedly agreeing with the Champs thoroughly nice guy and frontman Danny George Wilson that a live album is “…something that a studio album cannot capture” when it comes to seizing the raw energy of any band, this latest release goes some way to capturing the essence of the Champs in a live setting. Having been recorded at a sold-out show at the Jazz Café in Camden on the 6th March this year, with additional support coming from Trevor Moss and Hannah-Lou, the set list for this double album release is a pick and mix of earlier works taken from the band’s self titled debut as well as ‘Streets Of Our Time’, ‘Hearts & Arrows’ and naturally their most recent and critically acclaimed album, ‘Stay True’. It’s those very recordings from ‘Stay True’ that nail the live credentials of Danny & The Champs to the top of their mast and offers the perfect examples of why this band is something special as ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’, ‘Let’s Grab This With Both Hands’ and ‘Stop Thief!’ really ignites the senses. For those who are yet to witness Danny & The Champions of the World in a live setting, then the exhilarating and lengthy ‘Colonel & The King’ should be enough persuasion the next time The Champs is in town because although ‘Live Champs!’ is a splendid effort overall, nothing compares to experiencing this wonderful band live in the flesh.

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Monster Mash: 20 Vintage Halloween Hits

Various Artists

Union Square Music

In time for the Halloween festivities Union Square Music has compiled a twenty-track collection of the weird and wonderful from the vaults of a long-lost era. Despite this being a ‘themed’ release, the songs complied here are suitable for any occasion as there is much comedic value between the layers rather than anything to cause sleepless nights. In fact, the breadth of originality presented throughout is the most frightening aspect, due to such inventiveness being in short supply nowadays and something to be truly envied. Early indicators set by Bobby “Boris” Pickett with his witty and charming ‘Monster Mash’ and back-to-back contributions via Sheb Wooley’s ‘The Purple People Eater’ and David Seville’s ‘Witch Doctor’, each containing the added bonus of helium filled supporting vocals, reveals such depth in the creativity department. The subject of purple people eaters resurfaces with the familiar opening guitar signature of Bo Diddley when he confronts his nemesis during ‘Bo Meets The Monster’, and the Big Bopper offers a rockin’ slice with a difference by means of a toy instrument to portray the rock ‘n’ roll wannabe from outer space. In between the more playful moments the earthmoving vocal of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic ‘I Put A Spell On You’, Kip Tyler’s mean and moody ‘She’s My Witch’ and more straightforward rockin’ tune for this particular compilation from Elroy Dietzel & The Rhythm Bandits with ‘Rock-N-Bones’ levels the playing field and provides the perfect balance for an utterly absorbing set that should remain spinning long after the assortment of spectres have departed until next year’s Halloween festivities.

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