LATEST ADDITIONS

Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Now this is very special indeed. Joy Kills Sorrow are a contemporary folk-bluegrass Boston quintet and this, their debut album, is unutterably superb. Not only is the banjo and mandolin playing astonishing, but the singing (both in terms of soloists and harmonies) is gorgeous, and the songs themselves are true earworms – they get in there and lodge themselves firmly, demanding that you take the CD to the car and play it out there as well. Making bluegrass sound new, fresh and exciting is certainly a challenge these days, but Joy Kills Sorrow do it with ease.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
Less than year since Michael Jackson’s passing, armed as we are with 40 years’ worth of 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to be objective about this, their second LP. For those – like me – who couldn’t stand their teeth-jarring precocity, beaten only in the saccharine stakes by their contemporaries, the too-clean-to-be-real Osmonds, it was simply Motown For Kids. But on reflection, this is so polished, irresistible and, it must be admitted, funky, that one must subjugate any preference for the Temps and admit that it’s as catchy as a dose of the clap in Magaluf. Most eerily, the tracks beyond the title hit sound – sophistication-wise – like they’re sung by a 35-year-old.
Christopher Breunig  |  Dec 10, 2010
Similar in spirit to Alice Harnoncourt’s groundbreaking Teldec Seasons (1997), the Berlin group gives a real edge to Vivaldi’s pictorial writing here, yet with tranquil moments in the introduction to ‘Summer’ and ‘Autumn’ (ii). Sledgehammer D-minor discordancy launches ‘Chaos’ in the coupled ten-track 1737 score, Rebel’s nouvelle symphonie for dancers/orchestra. Continually inventive, with mechanical nightingales, a hunt scene, ‘Tambourins’, ‘Warblings’ for piccolos/violins, etc, this is not music of great substance yet it’s still worth knowing. Translucent sound and, as ever, superlative execution.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
With The Dixie Chicks on a seemingly endless recording hiatus, two thirds of the band, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire, have emerged as Court Yard Hounds. It’s hard to imagine any fan of the Chicks not enjoying this outing but, happily, Robison and Maguire have come up with something noticeably more intimate and personal than a Chicks album. There’s a delightfully down-home quality to cuts like the Jakob Dylan duet ‘See You In The Spring’, and Robison’s recent divorce seems to have pushed her into emotional spaces she might not have otherwise explored. The anger of ‘Ain’t No Son’, the defiant spirit of ‘It Didn’t Make A Sound’ and the touching honesty of ‘Fear Of Wasted Time’ make this pretty damned irresistible.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
Everything about Dark Hope was screaming ‘No!’ at me. Opera singer covering rock songs? No, it never works, never ever. Well, I reckoned without the good taste of Fleming and producer/arranger David Kahne. They’ve re-interpreted fabulous contemporary songs by Band Of Horses, Muse, Death Cab For Cutie plus a sprinkling of classics from Jefferson Airplane, Peter Gabriel and Leonard Cohen.
Ken Kessler  |  Dec 10, 2010
This LP’s rarity value alone commands attention: Topham was the Yardbirds’ founder guitarist, who had to leave the band because he was only 15. By 1969, at the age of 22, he delivered this solo LP, a long-forgotten take on the blues, far removed from the Yardbirds. Despite its Blue Horizon pedigree, it’s not of the Brit Blues school per se and is a stylistic mish-mash, more akin to Andrew Loog Oldham’s covers of the Stones’ canon, but its worth to Yardbirds hard-core is unparalleled. If you could find a mint original, you’d have to part with £100+.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010
The Coal Porters are but one facet of the abundant creativity of renaissance man Sid Griffin, who also helms a band called Western Electric, runs his own record label and writes excellent books on musical themes. The Porters, however, are the incarnation of Sid that you’re most likely to encounter in your favourite live music establishment, and their fourth album, Durango, is as splendid an alt-bluegrass excursion as you’ll hear all this year. A sprightly bunch of fiddle, mandolin and banjo-driven songs are fleshed out with choice covers, including a yearning version of Neil Young’s ‘Like A Hurricane’. Plus a video documentary on the band.
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.

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