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The Complete 50s Masters

Elvis Presley

Sony

A nicely packaged and comprehensive examination of Elvis Presley’s Sun Records phase which takes the listener into the RCA sessions until the latter end of the 1950s. The compact set consists of five CDs and a reasonably detailed booklet detailing all of the recording sessions with added extras. If you are a fan of early period Elvis, then ‘The Complete ‘50s Masters’ is definitely a wise acquisition even if the songs contained within are more than familiar to even the most hardened Presley aficionados.


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Great Rockabilly Vol. 6

Various Artists

Smith & Co

Still going strong, the ‘Great Rockabilly’ series has now reached Volume 6 and there is still plenty to offer here from not only the usual suspects of Cochran, Burnette, Vincent et al but also some lesser-known cuts from the likes of Bobby Lollar, Leon and Carlos, Red Sovine, and John Hampton. Pick of the bunch however, is the wild and frantic ‘Love Me’ by The Phantom, which predates the raw intensity of punk music by some considerable years.


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Look To The Sky

James Iha

The End

Ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha finally dusts down the guitar to return with only his second solo offering after his debut back in 1998. That is not to say that Iha has not been a busy man during the intervening years due to various sound projects but it’s ‘Look To The Sky’ which really puts him back on the musical map. In fact, initial first impressions suggest that Iha has hardly been away, as guitars jangle and images of long-gone hazy summer days are projected (‘Summer Days’). Despite residing in a comfort zone of sorts, this does not diminish the qualities of ‘Look To The Sky’, as the sizable gap between first base and second has been long enough to give this sophomore release the gloss of a debut.


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Field Music Play

Field Music

Memphis Industries

The bandwagon of followers has steadily been gathering pace for the works of Field Music and it is not difficult to understand why. Spilling forth a selection of covers taking in the Pet Shop Boys, Roxy Music, Syd Barrett to name but a few, brothers Peter and David Brewis not only maintain a level of respect to the original compositions but add their own deft touches making this limited release something to savour.


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Generation Terrorists

Manic Street Preachers

Sony

On its first release, ‘Generation Terrorists’ was issued in a fanfare of slogans and rants concerning social, political and cultural issues, but more notably for the pronouncement that the band would disband after this debut album. Thankfully, the Manic Street Preachers decided to stay the course and the rest is history. This time around, ‘Generation Terrorists’ has arrived under a fanfare that is more attuned to pipe and slippers than the previous angry incarnation. However, for those who missed out on this timely release during the early nineties, then there is much to delight in here, whether it’s the rifftastic ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ or the epic finale, ‘Condemned To Rock ‘n’ Roll’, ‘Generation Terrorists’ still manages to evoke levels of passion not found in many of the band’s contemporaries.


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5×5 Live

Simple Minds

Virgin

Simple Minds is going through a resurgence of some sorts after a staggeringly good 2012 that saw the band taking in various European destinations with their ‘5×5’ live set which has now transferred to this live album release. Covering the years 1979 – 1982, the first five albums was not only a fertile period for the band but also hugely creative as songs such as the instrumental ‘Theme For Great Cities’, ‘I Travel’, ‘Thirty Frames A Second’ and ‘Premonition’ sound just as current as the day they were first conceived. It will be intriguing to see where Simple Minds go from here after these mesmeric performances.


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Hats

The Blue Nile

Virgin

If I had to define melancholy, then I would have to say The Blue Nile’s ‘Hats’. Perfection exemplified in a variety of ways, ‘Hats’ was the long-awaited follow-up to ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’, which is also receiving the reissue treatment, as the band truly delivered their masterpiece. As far as late-night albums go, ‘Hats’ is the only one you’ll ever need as it’s true, happiness can be found in sadness because despite the despondency often heard throughout this body of work (look no further than ‘Let’s Go Out Tonight’ or ‘From A Late Night Train’) there is something gorgeously wonderful about the downbeat tone being expressed here, rendering this release as simply essential.


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Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans

Various Artists

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage is proving to be a major player in the quality stakes when it comes to compiling not only rockabilly but also blues music. In this instance, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ gets the quality control treatment in terms of blues music emanating from New Orleans. As with a lot of the Fantastic Voyage packages, it is not only the well-known artists represented but often more obscure oddities that really wet the listener’s appetite. With everyone from Ray Charles, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Big Joe Turner to the lesser known Falcon Trip, Boo Breeding and Snooks Eaglin, ‘Let Me Tell You About The Blues New Orleans’ clearly has something for all fans of blues music.


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Red

Taylor Swift

Mercury

The rise of Taylor Swift’s mercurial star continues to ascend and rightly so with this truly compelling release. ‘Red’ is the kind of album which throws out its pop (yes, pop) hooks from the off and instantaneously grabs the listener by the ears in a quite seductive spell. Despite some remnants of a country sound (‘All Too Well’ ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’), Taylor Swift has gambled with a (near complete) change in musical direction and it’s paying dividends as the opening indie-sounding ‘State Of Grace’ and radio-friendly ‘22’ testify. The supremely addictive ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ solidifies further  this new found direction as does the intriguing choice of duet with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody on ‘The Last Time’. Without wishing Taylor Swift to completely ditch her country roots, one cannot help but feel genuinely moved by this change in direction, whilst not entirely original, as ‘Red’ is proving many doubters wrong.


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The Adults

The Adults

Warner Music

Taking a sabbatical from his day job with New Zealand’s Shihad, Jon Toogood has come up with a side project of sorts in the form of The Adults. Containing a more subtle sound than the previously mentioned Shihad, The Adults is an album to be filed under ‘grower’, as songs take their time working their way into the listeners’ senses. Patience is duly rewarded with the dual vocals of ‘A New Beginning’ as it steadily burns, and followed by the ever-so-slightly energetic ‘Reunite’. There is a glowing light surrounding ‘Sleep Me Tight’; a song of real innocent beauty and reflecting the tender side of Toogood. But it is perhaps the compositions ‘Most Important’ and ‘Anniversary Day’ that offer a more commercial appeal in order to appease those wanting a more instant fix.


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The World Explained

Big Boy Bloater & The Limits

Azan

Being on the road for any band can have its drawbacks, especially if you’re Big Boy Bloater. Clearly attesting to such difficulties is the feverish cocktail ‘Leonard Cohen’, as it conjures up a set of memories best forgotten of a tour from the depths of hell itself with only a ‘cheerful’ reminder of Mr Melancholy swinging into focus every now and then. Shimmering next into view is the precarious emotions of ‘Lifetime Money Back Guarantee’ followed by the superb yet longing ‘I Can’t Forget About You’. Clearing out the cupboards further is ‘Stop Dragging Me Back’ casting reflection on a musical past with a firm desire to leave it there. The instrumental ‘Black Sambuca’ showcases Bloater’s guitar wizardry, whereas ‘Insanely Happy’ is a double-edged sword of admission yet brings a twisted smile to the face nonetheless.

At times tearstained, and on other occasions irritated by certain constraints, ‘The World Explained’ is an honest and darkly humorous take on life’s predicaments.


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Funeral Beach

Blood Command

Fysisk Format

It’s reminiscent of a pneumatic drill hammering away before this album storms the barricades in a three pronged attack consisting of ‘Pissed Off And Slightly Offended!’, ‘March Of The Swan Elite’ and ‘Cult Of The New Beat’ as wave after wave of guitars and a white noise of vocal histrionics are simply relentless. There is no time to come up for air as Blood Command has found their conduit as a means of venting their anger at the social constraints of society and all those willing to conform. Cocking a sideways snipe at the aristocracy but also the cult of celebrity, the above mentioned ‘March Of The Swan Elite’ sets a clear intention of where this five-piece from Bergen wish to find themselves in the wider scheme of things: ‘Don’t ever let us in, cause we must keep you out’. With great insight, intelligence and showing glimpses of possible future musical direction with the more melodic ‘High Five For Life’ and sublime double-header of ‘Here Next To Murderous’ and ‘True North, Blood Command is shaping up to be a band with special promise, just as long as they can keep out the social sycophants for long enough.



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