Johnny Black

Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
If only for his relentless persistence in the face of all the evidence that the world doesn’t need this sort of thing anymore, it’s hard not to harbour a sneaking affection, maybe even admiration, for Meat Loaf. A huge drum beat leads into a portentously cacophonous orchestral intro, after which it’s business as usual – double-scoops of the Jim Steinman patented blend of bar-room boogie mixed with gothic operatic bombast, decorated with tongue-in-cheek lyrics like, ‘Next time you stab me in the back you better do it to my face’. Steinman, however, isn’t involved so the whole thing’s just a knowing pastiche. Still, as a wiser man than me once said, this is the sort of thing you’ll like if you like this sort of thing.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
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.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
Highly-touted New York City duo MGMT return with a second helping of goodies, tending more towards retro-psych-pop than their singles-oriented debut. This one switches eclectically from the Van Dyke Parks-like delirium of the opening track, ‘It’s Working’, to the nuggetsy garage-pop assault of ‘Song For Dan Treacy’, to the more expansive mind-blown dream-pop approach of the epic ‘Siberian Breaks’ and the bizarre faux-baroque horrorscape of the instrumental ‘Lady Dada’s Nightmare’. Twee and wimpy, yes; but it’s also loads of fun. The band has said no singles will be released from this album but it attracted so much attention when it ‘leaked’ onto the net in advance of release that maybe it doesn’t need them.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 10, 2010  |  0 comments
I’m usually reticent about covering re-issue material in these pages, but blues collector and archivist Nick Duckett has released his latest mind-bogglingly superb 4CD set on the history of r’n’b and it’s too good to ignore. With 109 impeccably remastered tracks and an informative memorabilia-filled 68-page booklet this is simply the definitive statement on the era. It’s worth owning just to have Ann Cole’s original version of ‘Got My Mojo Working’, later misappropriated by Muddy Waters but, from the obvious must-haves – BB King, Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley – to the more esoteric delights of The Peacheroos, Marigolds and Diablos, every cut is 100% juicy. Sound Quality: 88% .
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
Welcome to the world of ‘alternative tropical punk’. No, I’ve no idea what it means either, but that’s how Los Angeles quartet Abe Vigoda (named after an actor) describe themselves. They don’t really hit their stride until the title cut, ‘Crush’, track 4, but its crazed polyrythmic intensity forced me to listen more closely to everything that had gone before. It’s far from easy-listening but, once you get the hang of it, it’s like a thrill ride through a long, twisting, dark cave, from which you emerge with a pounding heart, feeling strangely euphoric.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
This sparkling Motown homage should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers that Collins’ first UK No1 was his 1982 cover of The Supremes’ ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’. It’s more a question of why he left it so long. For the most part, he’s chosen to faithfully recreate the sound and arrangements of 18 ’60s classics, even drafting in members of Motown’s revered Funk Brothers session crew to get it spot-on. Even so, the voice is unmistakeably Collins, and his passion for the material is unmistakable in the effervescent zip of every track.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
By the time your average band gets around to celebrating its 20th anniversary, they’ve usually slowed down and are headed out to pasture. Ireland’s Saw Doctors, thankfully, have never been your average band, so their seventh studio album is, if anything, more vibrantly tuneful than ever. The core of the band remains intact but the arrival of powerful new drummer Eimhin Cradock has significantly upped their energy levels and his contributions as a songwriter beautifully complement those of founder members Davy Carton and Leo Moran. Shamelessly sentimental, unrepentantly traditional, The Saw Doctors also remain kick-ass rockers and tunesmiths extraordinaire.
Johnny Black  |  Dec 08, 2010  |  0 comments
I fondly remember the thrill of hearing the band’s eponymous 1976 debut album, so I wished for something a little more exciting from their first reunion in eight years. Petty has attempted to get back to his roots by writing a bunch of blues and r’n’b flavoured songs but, although things start well with the punchy ‘Jefferson Jericho Blues’, a drift towards pastiche sets in fast and there’s a lack of energy that no amount of laidback finesse can replace. ‘Candy’, for example, is entertaining but insubstantial, just another reworking of the venerable Memphis riff with Petty overdoing his down home vocal. More passion and a little less journeyman cool would be welcome here.

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