LATEST ADDITIONS

Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
A Francophile who loves to sing in French, Stacey Kent had a big following across La Manche even before Breakfast On The Morning Tram helped her popularity explode in 2007. So why shouldn’t she do a whole French album? She chose songs associated with the greats of French pop from Moustaki and Misraki to Biolay and Barbara, most just as catchy as ‘La Venus Du Melo’, now also issued as a single. As before, pianist Graham Harvey on piano and guitarist John Parricelli join Kent’s sax-playing husband Jim Tomlinson to play his uncluttered, mood-enhancing arrangements. Hearing Parricelli and Tomlinson on ‘C’est Le Printemps’, they might as well be Byrd and Getz.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Courtney Love’s return, says the press release, has been ‘feverishly anticipated’. I feel I have the right to ask, ‘Who by?’ Certainly not me. This album is as cheap and premeditated as anyone with more than half a brain would expect it to be. Courtney snarls and drawls like Marianne Faithfull on Ritalin through a mess of bitchy faux-grunge pop ditties, most of them knocked up by song doctor Linda Perry, probably on a afternoon when she wasn’t writing hits for Pink, Gwen Stefani or Christina Aguilera.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Christmas in July! Here, in glorious mono – but of course – is what many regard as the greatest rock ’n’ roll Christmas LP of all time: Phil Spector’s deliriously joyful showcase for his Philles Records stable of pop maestri, from 1963. You get the Ronettes, the Crystals, Darlene Love and Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans, backed by one of the finest assemblies of session players ever to enter a studio: the amazing Wrecking Crew, with Leon Russell, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono in its ranks. The package offers 13 Christmas pop standards, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear a more uplifting take of ‘White Christmas’. The Wall of Sound rules, beyond prison walls.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Few would claim that Duke’s 1960s Reprise albums contained his finest work, but four of them add up to lot of music. His great soloists wallow in the catchy melodies of Mary Poppins while Ellington ’65 and ’66 cover the hits of the day, sounding fresher now than the new takes of other leaders’ swing classics that make up Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?. The fifth disc has Ellington’s tunes but not his whole band, on a 1963 small-group album for Atlantic with violinists Stephane Grappelly, Ray Nance and Svend Asmussen. Travelling the world and recording his own music on RCA, Ellington did so much in the 1960s that these recordings seem little more than a sidelight on his genius, but they’re still wonderful.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Clearly 2006 was a good year for the great accordionist. He’d just formed his brilliant Tangaria Quartet, and with mandolin player Hamilton De Holanda guesting, they wowed the audience at the Marciac jazz festival in August. September found the group in Sao Paulo and, again with stunning contributions from De Holanda, they recorded Luz Negra. It’s actually the contents of that album that you get here, plus ‘Tango Pour Claude’ and ‘New York Tango’, which opened and closed the Live In Marciac 2006 album.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Composer, pianist, leader and educator Django Bates has done just about everything, but in his 50th year he’s filled a gap by offering this tribute to his earliest inspiration, Charlie Parker. The idea, though, dates back to 2005, the 50th anniversary of Parker’s death, when Bates arranged tunes associated with Bird for a celebration event in Copenhagen. On this trio album he doesn’t play a bop style but lets loose his own piano pyrotechnics in ‘Scrapple From The Apple’ and other be-bop anthems. A final piece of contemplative musing creates its own space from a fragment of ‘Ah-Leu-Cha’, and if this is the least frenetic track, it’s also one of the most successful.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Interesting re-packaging of the US version of Hendrix’s debut, but not absolutely necessary if you bought this 17-track expanded release in 1997. This adds only cooler packaging and a 17-minute DVD of engineer Eddie Kramer and three now-departed figures – Hendrix’s one-time manager, Chas Chandler, and the members of the Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding – talking about the recording sessions. But if you don’t own any Hendrix, this is the best place to start: it’s an utterly incendiary album bursting with invention, the blueprint for psychedelia, jazz-rock and so much more. An ear-opener then, a touchstone now for every guitarist since.
Yes
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Although ‘progressive rock’ remains a smug oxymoron, Yes were the least aggravating of all the snots who smarmed their way across the music firmament from the late-1960s onward. This was their third, the 1971 set that proved to be a massive breakthrough, setting the stage for their masterpiece, Fragile. It’s all here: virtuoso playing, airy harmonies, the sub-Tolkien/post-2001 mystical mumbo-jumbo. To play a track called ‘Starship Trooper’ with a straight face… who am I to deem a few million fans devoid of taste? But if my remarks on prog-rock seem harsh, never forget that we have to thank it for this: the backlash to the genre was punk.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
After all these decades, the classic quintet lineup endures. Graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as a classical pianist in 2002, Stapleton based his own group on two luminaries of the same college, bassist Paula Gardiner and drummer Elliott Bennett, adding trumpeter Jonny Bruce, a 2006 graduate. Saxophonist is Ben Waghorn, who’s been heard with Kasabian and Goldfrapp as well as in his own quartet. Stapleton often seems to be taking a back seat, but what holds this complex, disciplined music together is his ability as a composer, creating extended pieces that can move from bombast to lyricism with real structure and purpose.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
After a brilliant start as a boy classical pianist, the teenage Cowley played in a Blues Brothers tribute band, then plunged into electronic pop with the Brand New Heavies and Zero 7 and his own group Fragile State. Returning to the piano, he formed the trio which recorded Displaced in 2006 and Loud Louder Stop in 2008. For their third album the trio are still together, or to be more accurate, more together than ever. They play as one.

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