Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 16th July
Think of the 1970s and what do you think of? Flares, men with perms, medallions and hairy chests? Or houses decorated throughout in bold patterns of orange and brown?
Well, not everything in the 1970s was bad. There was some pretty good music, Think Supertramp, 10cc, Paul McCartney and ELO (add your own middle of the road 1970s artist of choice here) and you are beginning to get a flavour of what Silvertwin’s debut album is all about. But this is not an album covering well known 70s tracks.
It is instead one of original work that has clearly been very heavily influenced indeed by the sounds of the 70s.
Neither is this a parody of 70s middle of the road music. The compositions sound exactly like those you would have heard in the 70s but are not poking fun. It’s just like coming across an album of lost recordings from the 70s, except that there is no radio interference, cassette hiss or LP scratches to detract from the enjoyment of these well played and produced songs. In fact, the whole album was recorded onto tape rather than digitally to reproduce the original 70s feel as much as possible, and the instruments sound just like those you would have heard then. It’s cleverly done and clearly put together with love.
The songs themselves are also well crafted. Vocal harmonies abound and there are musical phrases scattered about which sound familiar and which you expect to resolve into a “real” 1970s track you know well, only for Silvertwin to take us into another direction completely. You can’t help but smile at being sold these musical dummies, but even if you don’t fall for them, or don’t know the original tracks they reference, they don’t spoil the enjoyment of the music.
Most tracks follow the normal 4 beats to the bar standard, but worth mentioning is the sweeping waltz of a ballad of the final track, “Driving Me Wild”. “For you I’d do it again” they sing… I hope they do; I loved this.
This is a very happy album, full of delight for one who still enjoys decent 1970s music. I know it’s common (especially amongst reviewers) to sneer at everything that is not avant garde but this collection is full of such nostalgic joy from simpler times that it’s impossible not to like it.
5. The Night Is Ours
6. I Don’t Want You Anymore
7. You Only
8. Love Me Hate Me
9. Take Me On
10. Driving me Wild
Reviewed by Andi Bridges
Album released 30th July
If your knowledge of Los Lobos begins and ends with the La Bamba soundtrack from 1987 then this album will really surprise you.
The 13-song set finds the band mapping their musical DNA with a kaleidoscopic selection of tribute songs, and in the process creating a crucial snapshot of L.A.’s musical heritage. The band are no strangers to re-interpretation as their 2009 Los Lobos goes Disney album will attest to.
Since forming in 1973, in Dixon California, the last five decades have seen the East L.A. band exploring an enormous diversity of genres — rock and roll, R&B, surf music, soul, Mariachi and música norteña, punk rock and country — and all the while building a boldly unpredictable sound all their own. This time out the multiple Grammy Award winning American Chicano rock band, have produced an album that encompasses all those influences and serves as a love letter to Los Angeles.
In a nod to their roots, 'Native Sons' opens with 'Love Special Delivery' by Thee Midniters, an East L.A. garage band and one of the first Chicano rock groups to ever score a major hit in the U.S. This version, with original Thee Midniters drummer Aaron Ballesteros playing on it, is all surf drums and horn section and fairly motors along.
The album continues with the 60s vibe although in a more soulful way with ‘Misery’, originally by Barrett Strong who also wrote numerous Motown hits alongside Norman Whitfield. Buffalo Springfield get the Los Lobos treatment next as they run ‘Bluebird’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ together and the groove moves into 70s laidback West Coast, albeit with underlying latin percussion.
A Jackson Browne song ‘Jamaica Say You Will’ continues the theme after a fiery Latin rhythm fuelled ‘Los Chucos Suaves’, sticking close to the Lalo Guerrero original. Not ones to settle on a style for too long we are soon off for a jump jive version of Percy Mayfield’s ‘Never No More’, Percy being most famous for penning ‘Hit The Road, Jack’.
The only original song on the record is the title track ‘Native Son’ which revisits the soulful groove employed earlier. It is all horn section and swing, conjuring images of sharp suited Motown artists of years gone by.
Next up is ‘Farmer John’ written by Don and Dewey in 1959, however this cover has more in common with The Premiers garage version from 1964. After that, Los Lobos take another musical detour with an almost lounge version of Willie Bobo’s ‘Dichoso’, underpinned with plenty of Latin percussion as the foundation to build the track on.
Any tribute to California wouldn’t be complete without a Beach Boys song and they go for a deep cut ‘Sail On, Sailor’ giving a faithful rendition very close to the original.
The longest track on the album, clocking in at 8 mins 32 seconds is a cover of ‘The World Is A Ghetto’ originally by War. Wah-wah guitar introduces the tune before Hammond organ takes over, again very similar to the original but with a funky conga pattern just lifting it.
A cover of 'Flat Top Joint' by The Blasters, the seminal L.A. roots-rock band is interesting because Steve Berlin was a member before joining Los Lobos. This version retains the rockabilly groove of the original. The album closes with a slow number as surely all good parties/discos should. ‘Where Lovers Go’ an instrumental from 1965 by The Jaguars.
There is an overwhelming sense of nostalgia running through the album and I had visions of how the film would look if this was a soundtrack. However Los Lobos have managed to achieve what they set out to do and I for one enjoyed not only the album but also discovering the source material and source bands.
Ultimately the five members of the band: David Hidalgo (vocals, guitars) - Louie Pérez, Jr. (vocals, guitars) - Cesar Rosas (vocals, guitars, bass, Hammond B3 organ) - Conrad Lozano (vocals, bass) - Steve Berlin (saxes, midi sax, keyboards) have put together an album that hangs together like a party compilation, full of eclectic songs and song choices, great for dancing and drinking as the sun goes down over the Hollywood hills.
1. Love Special Delivery
3. Bluebird / For What It’s Worth
4. Los Chucos Suaves
5. Jamaica Say You Will
6. Never No More
7. Native Son
8. Farmer John
10. Sail On, Sailor
11. The World Is A Ghetto
12. Flat Top Joint
13. Where Lovers Go
Album reviewed by John Seales
Released 30th Aug
LUMP – the product of London singer-songwriter Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay of the band Tunng – return with upcoming sophomore album ‘Animal’
“Bloom at Night” opens the album with electronic repetitive phrases bouncing across the stereo spectrum. Laura Marling’s clear voice is accompanied by self-harmonies and then the bass and percussion kicks in. The track morphs into “Gamma Ray”, heavier and darker. The instrumental has a definite electronic feel, but this fits with the slightly creepy feel - not just of this track but present throughout the work.
“Animal” is a tad more upbeat and cheerful, but the lyrics as with the rest of the album do not provide a narrative, but are more like free verse with “hair on a pillow, blood on a shirt” and “killing a white dove just for the story”. Make of them what you will, but to me they provide interest and are open to your own interpretation.
“Climb Every Wall” starts with an off pitch that deliberately jars in a musical metaphor. It is the closest we get to an anthem. But the slightly uncomfortable feeling continues.
“Red Snakes” is quieter and more reflective, with primary piano accompaniment to a slow tempo. It’s beautifully put together, and if you can listen to this without at least feeling a little sad, I’d like to know where you left your empathy. For me, this is the track I’d happily listen to again and again.
“Paradise” is one of the more commercial tracks on the album, but there’s something missing. It sounds more like a demo than a finished album track. The psychedelic pitch wobbling guitar sound made me smile, though!
“Hair On The Pillow” is a short instrumental that provides a musical sorbet before launching into the remainder of the album with “We Cannot Resist”, another more commercial offering, or at least when compared to the other more avant garde tracks here.
By this point, my baseline has been reset.
“Oberon” is again a quieter and sadder song, soon giving way to the final track, “Phantom Limb”, which does nothing to dispel the overall feeling of strangeness that pervades this fascinating album.
Make sure you listen with headphones or a quality stereo set up - they’ve clearly enjoyed themselves channel hopping.
Many years ago, I had an album by a chap called John Surman called “Withholding Pattern”. It was full of challenging compositions, and I never could quite decide whether or not I liked it, but very often when I was bored of run of the mill commercial music, I would fire up the turntable and intrigue myself again. “Animal” reminds me in many ways of the way I felt about that album.
There’s a lot to be praised here, and I can see it becoming a cult success.
1. Bloom at Night
2. Gamma Ray
4. Climb Every Wall
5. Red Snakes
7. Hair On The Pillow
8. We Cannot Resist
10. Phantom Limb
Album reviewed by John Seales
Released 27th Aug
Dakota Jones is not a person but the name of a band that comes from Brooklyn, New York. It’s a four piece band made up of :
Tristan Carter-Jones (vocals)
Scott Kramp (bass)
Steve Ross (drums)
Randy Jacobs (guitar)
It’s their debut album, which of course is key to any band’s career.
The first track, “I Did It To Myself”, opens with a strong statement of intent. From the first few beats of the drums funk started spilling out all over the place and my body started moving in sympathy with the rhythm. Fortunately, I was in a room by myself, but beware if you should listen to this on the train, you will get some very strange looks.
Two minutes and 47 seconds of this impressive opener is over too quickly, and “Blacklight” takes over. More laid back and gentle, Tristan Carter-Jones’ mellow voice gives us some unashamedly raunchy lyrics and Randy Jacob’s deliciously dirty guitar solo adds more to the sensual mix.
“We Playin Bad Games” is another demonstration of Tristan’s honey-dripping soulful voice backed up by great musicianship across the board and great production that is starting to become apparent as the hallmark of this album. Soul, funk, blues and rock all combine in a melodic recipe of delight.
“Watcha Gonna Do About It” does nothing to alter this impression. It gives us some variety in the form of a syncopated beat but the underlying foundation of superb instrumentalists and a heck of a voice remain.
“Medicine” continues the theme of fleshy desires, followed by “Lord Please” which delivers a multitracked vocal performance, backed by a rhythmic tom.
“Black Magic (That Power)” has Tristan singing “You got that poison between your thighs”, so you can see that the underlying sensuality driven lyric continues. And so it does (though maybe to a lesser extent) into “Like That” which also has a sublime guitar break from Randy Jacobs, who incidentally used to be in Was(Not Was).
“Down Slow” has a lovely gentle vibe with guitar arpeggios and a smooth bass backing Tristan’s voice. I can see this one bring out the lights held aloft in the darkness in a gig. It builds with percussion coming in half way through the track; lovely.
“Noise” surprises us with some horn (I am of course speaking musically) and we realise that we are almost at the end of this amazing debut album. “California” is the closing track is another demonstration of an amazing voice backed up by some wonderful musicianship.
Dakota Jones have made a very strong statement with their first album. The combination of a great voice backed by great musicians, great production values and great tunes makes this a must-have.
I Did It To Myself
We Playin Bad Games
Whatcha Gonna Do About It
Black Magic (That Power)
BONUS TRACK - California
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 27th Aug via Cosmic Glue
Granfalloon is the musical project of Manchester based artist and producer Richard Lomax, and while its his project he seems to have an eclectic and widespread pool of friends and artists he can call on. Positive Songs, although mainly the work of Lomax, has collaborations with people from over half a dozen countries even squeezing in some from his hometown of Manchester solidifying the Cities sound interwoven throughout.
‘I don’t feel blue’ opens the album lightly, acoustic guitar and Harmonica, with some quiet backgrounds sounds of a crowd quickly building into something large and airy, it feels free and minimalistic while managing to maintain a full rich sound. Thick layered vocals create an almost ethereal open space balanced out by the sounds of hands sliding against guitar strings left in, having the production not over polished works great with the style.
‘The pigeon’ the same lyric for almost the entirety of the song, “Come and see the doves on the window ledge there is hope on the outside” with the with titles pigeon only cropping up briefly in the middle. Despite just using the one line over and over the song isn’t just interesting, it’s actually my favourite on the album, the funky groove is carried by the music, little guitar solos pushed to the background, under bright drums chunky bass and electric piano, it shouldn’t be this catchy with such few words!
The album often feels centred around the drums, bass and vocals, A solid bright funky sound with the other the other instruments sometimes along for the ride, before being allowed to take the lime light!
‘Save point’ has such a crisp neat drum sound that at times it could be a sample that someone’s laid a funky bassline over. Whereas with ‘My Tribe’ the drums are still up front with the bass but taking second place to the vocals, that go from wide backing vocals under the lead to just noises in sections being used to help carry the melody along, you can really hear the core of the album.
‘The LUV song’, stands out as a bit of an oddity, playful and melodic, with a touch of The Divine Company, with almost cheesy lyrics, it doesn’t sound like anything else. It’s a little stripped back with delicate vocals, and while it may be sickly sweet in its sound at times, it breaks the album up nicely it’s a well written and catchy palate cleanser.
Granfalloon get back to exploring their Indie roots, putting in a little country twist, with the staccato drums and drawn out organ of ‘A Holiday From Nothing’, to the open rung out chords and lyrically lead ‘See You Soon’ showing a more mainstream side to the album, while retaining their well crafter and distinct sound.
This album has a lot or unusual sounds and styles, it’s hard to miss all the influences and collaborations, but it has still still managed to be brought together for one cohesive album.
Often sounding like a mix of Beck and the polyphonic spree, trying everything they can find in a music shop.
It’s an uplifting and motivating collection, and it’s hard not to smile and tap along.
1. I Don’t Feel Blue
2. The Pigeon
3. Save Point
4. My Tribe
5. The LUV Song
6. A Holiday From Nothing
7. The River Knows
8. See You Soon
9. Who You Are
10. Working On Your Own
11. Better Than Today
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album out now
Four years on from his last album, Newton Faulkner returns with his seventh studio album Interference (Of Light). Known for his trademark acoustic singer-songwriter sound, Faulkner has branched out with his newest album including some noticeably heavier elements that enhance Faulkner’s work to great effect.
Album opener ‘Sinking Sand’ kicks off with a thumping drum beat before Faulkner's vocals fire up in in a very rock and roll style. Add in the heavy electric guitars, and this is a clear departure from Faulkner's trademark acoustic style with him opting for a heavier sound and feel.
These heavier elements can be felt throughout the album. ‘Riding High’ again has a great drum beat and the inclusion of horns on the track again gives that heavier feel. The use of the electric guitars on ‘I Can Pretend’ also shows how Faulkner has branched out from his trademark style.
Whilst it is clear that Faulkner has expanded his sound with this album, there is still plenty of tracks that fans of Faulkner’s singer-songwriter style will love. ‘Here tonight’ is a prime example of what Faulkner has been so good at over the years, clean crisp vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar this is Faulkner at his purest and best.
‘Better Way’ and ‘It’s Getting Late’ again have that singer-songwriter feel that is sure to please fans of Faulkner's previous work.
Interference (Of Light) is out now, and with his latest release Newton Faulkner has expanded his sound to include some heavier elements on the album to great effect.
There is however enough of Faulkner's trademark singer-songwriter sound to satisfy fans.
1. Sinking Sand
3. Back From The Dead
4. Riding High
5. Four Leaf Clover
6. Killing Time
7. Here Tonight
8. Better Way
9. World Away
10. I Can Pretend
11. Leave Me Lonely
13. The Sun Is Coming Up
14. Rest Of Me
15. Ache For You
16. Its Getting Late
Reviewed by John McEvoy
Album released 27th Aug
What can you say about the legendary Muddy Waters that hasn’t already been said?
Born in 1913, Waters went on to become the Godfather of the Blues from the 50’s onwards. His distinctive blues guitar style and vocals influenced a generation of bands including of course The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and a whole host of musical giants. Sadly, he passed away in 83 from heart failure, but it would be no exaggeration to say that his influence is still as strong today as it has ever been.
He released a total of 14 albums throughout his career from 1960 to 1981, and there were also numerous live and compilation albums released throughout, and this latest release is a double album made up of a selection of his finest performances from his 3 visits to the Montreux festival in 72, 74 & 77.
Featuring a total of 16 tracks, this showcases just how innovative and frankly brilliant Waters was. Opening track “Nobody knows Chicago Like I do’ sets the scene with a slow blues groove, and wailing harmonica throughout, and his distinctive voice is at the top of his game. From there on in, this album features standards as well as lesser-known tracks and is an absolute treat from start to finish.
Throughout this release, the pace effortlessly changes gear from the traditional slow blues sound into the 12-bar boogie woogie sound of “Got My Mojo Working’ and ‘Can’t Get No Grindin’ for example and is a testament the versatility and musicianship of Muddy Waters and his band.
Throughout this album the sound quality is crystal clear and has been fully remastered in glorious HD sound. Available in various formats including heavy weight vinyl and CD, this is without a doubt an album that will appeal to both Waters fans and is a great introduction to people who may be unfamiliar with his work.
1. Nobody Knows Chicago Like I Do
2. Mannish Boy
3. Long Distance Call
4. Rollin' And Tumblin'
5. Country Jail
6. Got My Mojo Working
7. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man
8. I'm Ready
9. Still A Fool
10. Trouble No More
12. Rock Me Baby
13. Same Thing
14. Howlin' Wolf
15. Can't Get No Grindin' (What's The Matter With The Meal)
16. Electric Man
Reviewed by John McEvoy
Album released 27th Aug
To say that Marianne Faithfull has had a colourful life would be the mother of all understatements. Discovered by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham in the 60’s, she has subsequently gone on to release over 20 albums, appeared in several movies, and was Mick Jaggers partners for a few years in the late 60’s!
That is just a very brief summary of her life to date. I would suggest that you check out her Wiki page if you want to know all the fine details.
This new album from BMG features some of Marianne’s best performances from her 5 visits to the Montreux Jazz festival in 95, 99, 02, 05 and 09 respectively, and the first thing that strikes you with this album is the clarity of the recording which I hope will come through regardless of whatever format you choose to listen to this album on.
Opening track “Madame George’ written by Van Morrison sets the tone with with her distinctive vocal style which has a curious half sung, half spoken style which is vaguely reminiscent of Grace Jones. It’s then straight into ‘Broken English’ the title track from her 7th album outing originally released in 1979 and as she mentions before the song, ‘this is one of her favourite songs’ and is superbly delivered, all underpinned by a quality backing band.
There are numerous highlights contained on this album and ‘Song For Nico’ is for me another stand out track which she introduces as an ‘homage’ to Nico who she felt was under rated.
Elsewhere with this release, there are excellent cover versions of well know songs such as the Duke Ellington song ‘Solitude’ and John Lennons ‘Working Class Hero’ which she initially covered on her ‘Broken English album release.
This album may not be to everyones taste, but to those who have closely followed Marianne Faithfulls career this will be regarded as an essential addition to their collection, and the good news is that it is available in various formats including vinyl.
The quality of the sound is truly outstanding and I would heartily recommend that you look this one up and try it for yourselves.
1. Madame George
2. Broken English
3. Times Square
5. Song For Nico
6. Come Stay With Me
7. Sister Morphine
9. Hold On Hold On
11. Working Class Hero
12. Tower Song
13. Strange Weather
14. Why D’ya like it?
Reviewed by John McEvoy
Album released 17th Sept
Paul Carrack is back with his 18th album on the 17th September and it’s clear from the very first track that he has lost none of his ability to write and deliver great tunes accompanied by a band who are genuinely of the highest quality.
Possibly best known for his work with Mike and The Mechanics, he was also the vocalist on the Ace classic “How Long’ and has had his songs covered by luminaries such as Tom Jones, Diana Ross and Michael McDonald to name just a few.
Opening track “Good And Ready’ sets the tone for the album with a funky beat underpinned by a truly remarkably outstanding horns section which are a feature throughout all 10 tracks.
“Along Way To Go” opens with a killer Hammond organ rift and a sound vaguely reminiscent of Bill Withers and the classic ‘Use Me’ which is no bad thing as far as this reviewer is concerned.
“I Miss You” written about not being able to see his daughter and granddaughter due to Covid restrictions is another slice of soul which feature some wonderful backing vocals and the unmistakable nod to Stevie Wonder with his use of the melodica. The big band swing beat is very much front and centre with “Lighten Up Your Mood’ which surely has to be dead cert to be feature on the next series of Later with Jools Holland.
My personal favourite “Precious Time” is a slice of mellow samba with his distinctive vocals front and centre. The quality tunes come one after another on this album and the closer is the cover version of Charlie Rich and “Behind Closed Doors” which is beautifully delivered and I’m sure Mr Rich would approve.
I’ll be completely honest in closing this review in saying that when I initially started to review this album I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it really is.
Great tunes, expertly delivered by a band at the very top of their game, a truly outstanding horns section, all overlaid by Paul Carracks distinctive vocals make this as far as I’m concerned one of Wall of Sounds top 10 albums of the year.
He’s doing a UK tour early next year and I would urge you to catch him live, based on this new album I think it’s safe to say you won’t regret it.
Correction: I mentioned that this album was recorded by Paul Carrack and his band. This wasn't actually the case! The album was written, produced and mixed by Paul Carrack Carrack himself.
But that's not all... Due to Covid restrictions he also played almost all the instruments himself as well!!
All instruments performed by Paul Carrack except:
Tenor and baritone sax on tracks 1, 8 and 9 and all sax solos: Steve Beighton
Trombone: Dennis Rollins
Tenor sax: Pee Wee Ellis
Trumpet: Andy Greenwood
Backing vocals on tracks 2, 3 and 7: Michelle John
Horn arrangement on tracks 1, 8 and 9: Paul Carrack
Horn arrangement on track 5: Pee Wee Ellis
Horn Arrangement on tracks 2 and 6: Paul Carrack and Dave Arch
Orchestra arrangement on track 4: Dave Arch
Drums on track 7: Jack Carrack
Guitar on track 2: Robbie MacIntosh
Percussion: Peter Van Hooke
· Good And Ready
· A Long Way To Go
· I Miss You
· You’re Not Alone
· Lighten Up Your Mood
· Precious Time
· When Love Is Blind
· Shame On You, Shame On Me
· Set Me Free
· Behind Closed Doors
Review by John Seales
Album released 24th Sept
Growing up in his home town of Liverpool, Rosenblume says that his main influences came from his father’s cassette collection in the car as they spent many journeys listening and singing along to The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, James Taylor & Carole King.
The first track, “Enough To Burn”, starts with a pulsating four note repetition, and in comes Rosenblume’s strong and versatile voice. Choir like harmonies build the atmosphere. Three minutes in, the mood changes completely from sadness with a hint of menace into up tempo skiffle style fun; great stuff.
The second track, “Knight In Shining Armour” was released as a single earlier this year. A happy feeling song with with your standard fare of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards and vocals, this felt very American middle of the road. Very enjoyable and well produced though a tad more one dimensional than “Enough To Burn”.
“Arming Souls” has a little more oomph. You can hear the influences mentioned above working their magic. At this point I should probably mention that the musicianship and production on the whole of this album is exemplary. Quality stuff.
“Turn Every Fire” strips it back with a three beats to the bar slow piece full of understated passion and yearning. I’m impressed; this guy has a wide range indeed. It’s good to have an album that has a coherence without every track sounding essentially the same. This track was released as a single a couple of years back.
“Halfway There” (I enjoyed the joke of the track with this name being put at this point in the album) is altogether funkier, with horns driving us into a faster piece. From swaying on my chair listening to “Turn Every Fire”, my old and aching body could not resist the vibe and I was Dad dancing and having a whale of a time.
The mood changes again with “It’ll Be Alright”, with a fingerpicked acoustic guitar leading a gentler mood. Back to swaying on the chair!
“Darkness Before The Light” is another assured track, followed by “In The Long Run”, a reflective and spacious short piece of beauty.
“Name In The Sand” gives us another hint of US style MOR, before (and all too soon) we reach the final track, “Paint Things Red” which gives us a toe-tapper of an adieu.
Superb for a debut album. I really look forward to hearing more from this talented chap. In the meantime, I’ll listen again to this one.
1. Enough To Burn
2. Knight In Shining Armour – Radio Edit
3. Arming Souls
4. Turn Every Fire
5. Halfway There
6. It’ll Be Alright
7. Darkness Before The Light
8. In The Long Run
9. Name In The Sand
10. Paint Things Red
Spearmint are a prolific band from London. Their self description from their own website www.spearmint.net reads thus:
“We’re not part of any scene or movement, we don’t do cover versions, we don’t have guest-lists and we don’t do encores. We are trying to make perfect Pop which means something, trying to capture bits of life and play them back to you in three minute bursts. We mostly fail, but sometimes we get close”
So that leaves things fairly open, doesn’t it?
It’s therefore with a fairly open expectation that we click play on the first of their tracks on their new album, “Holland Park”. This is the first of a fully packed album of 14 tracks, so let’s hope it’s good…
“They Call Us Stupid” reveals electronic keyboard sugary pop with a wah-wah leading into a fuller and rounder middle. It doesn’t tug at the heartstrings but is very well put together and great candy floss.
“Bundunyabba Blue” continues with the upbeat pop vibe with the first single from this album. “Walk Away From Hollywood” is more guitar driven. Pure pop and happy in feel, you can’t stop your foot tapping.
“Since Bowie Died” has a very different feel, with synthetic strings backing a solo vocal, no percussion and 3 beats to the bar providing a sad interlude to the otherwise pervasive standard (but excellent) pop fare.
“Rock And Roll Never Was” definitely has a more rocky feel, though the pervasive pop is never totally absent from this unusual tribute to past popular music. “The World’s On Fire” is far enough into the album to be confident in confirming that Spearmint’s ambition of creating perfect Pop has been well achieved. A gentle feel here gives no reason to doubt the placement of the pop pigeonhole which this album inhabits.
“Lazy Susan” is a song about the voice of the speaking clock. At this point in the album, it’s becoming clear that, as with many of the tracks here, it’s worth a listen to the lyrics as the feel of the music doesn’t always reflect the emotion behind the words.
“The Streets Of Harlesden” feels like some kind of updated London equivalent to “Ferry Across The Mersey”, with a delightful little repeated guitar lick. One of my favourites here.
The album’s title track follows, with a spoken vocal about early experiences of music and being in a band in the 1970s. It’s a massive 12 minutes 12 seconds long and as such stands out as something very different. There are clever references to other tracks here along the way. It’s certainly different but to my mind doesn’t sit comfortably with the rest of the tracks here, feeling slightly self-indulgent rather than entertaining.
With “Black Vinyl” we are back to a more standard track length of 2 minutes 16 seconds, the surprise here being that it’s an instrumental (every album has to have one, it’s some kind of law…). It doesn’t go anywhere very much but is pleasant enough.
“Mole” returns us after the somewhat strange interlude of tracks 9 and 10 to the meat of the album; pure pop with more meaningful lyrics than most. “I Won’t Try To Fix You” is more reflective, with more pathos in both the music and the words, but without altogether losing the oft-repeated word in this review – pop.
“She Says She Wants To Save The Pigs” wins this reviewer’s vote for the most wacky track title. I’m not entirely sure that this was meant as a comedy track, but it does seem wonderfully silly and left me with a smile on my face.
“Albion” closes the album with a eulogy - “the only thing I could think to do was to write a song that remembers you”. Again, the music is upbeat but there’s more to be found if you are prepared to do more than just let the music wash over you.
Overall, this album gives a strong and persistent pop vibe, happy and upbeat. You can enjoy this for what it is, or you can take the time to listen to the lyrics, where there is more to be found than is often the case.
Sometimes we want to be fed a chocolate assortment, with occasional surprises when we get beneath the chocolatey shell. For those times, this is an excellent choice.
1. They Call Us Stupid
2. Bundunyabba Blue
3. Walk Away From Hollywood
4. Since Bowie Died
5. Rock And Roll Never Was
6. The World’s On Fire
7. Lazy Susan
8. The Streets Of Harlesden
9. Holland Park
10. Black Vinyl
12. I Won’t Try To Fix You
13. She Says She Wants To Save The Pigs
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 1st Oct
The Dublin based alt-pop group The crayon Set are back with their third studio album Downer Disco. The follow up to their 2017 album Lost Languages Downer Disco is filled with some fantastic electronic and synth-pop elements that is a great development of the band’s sound.
The opening track of the album ‘Don’t Step Back Too Far’ instantly introduces the refreshing electronic elements. Opening with a catchy guitar hook the track then introduces the synths which build into a swirling wall of sound creating a brilliant synth-pop track.
The album continues with a beautifully melancholic sound. ‘Out of Your Mind’ opens with a monotonous synth that develops into a track that fells both happy and sad all at once. The interplay between the male and female vocals adds another layer to the track and again gives the feeling of being both happy and sad.
The Bands founder Robert Baker explained that “The idea behind the band as the name suggests, was for it to incorporate different colours i.e. musical styles and influences”. This idea can certainly be felt on this album. ‘Flames’ has a distinct country feel. ‘Not The End of The World’ has a surreal synth laden sound and ‘Rock Star’ has a light indi rock feel.
Released on the 1st October, ‘Disco Downer’ is brilliant development of The Crayon Set’s sound, and this is well worth checking out.
1. Don’t Step Back Too Far
2. Summer Song
3. Out of Your Mind
6. Rock Star
8. Not the End of the World
9. Miss You in My Dreams
Reviewed by Levi Tubman
Album released 15th Oct
This is a collection of rarities and best of from a with a history spanning 30 years and albums in double figures, they’ve a big back catalogue to pull from, backing up the 21 track release with a 30th anniversary tour, slightly delayed by Covid!
Fans are often surprised that they are from the Midlands, as they fully embody the Madchester sound, touring around Manchester heavily in the late 80’s and early 90’s with bands like the Stone roses and Happy Mondays, while not quite hitting their levels of fame, they have managed to keep performing and releasing for over 3 decades.
The album starts at the beginning with ‘The Only One I Know’, A single off their very first album back in 1990, laid back vocals, with breaks from guitar, organ, drums and bass, its not only a sound of a time but also a place, early Manchester clubs ringing with its unique sound and the birth of Britpop.
The whole album is laid out as a biography of the band, songs placed in chronological order instead of popularity or band favourite’s, and you get to hear how their style and writing progresses over time as it plays.
1992’s ‘Weirdo’ has their first foray into electronic sounds, with an angry tone, keeping their vocal bass and organ core, the drums are looped and sampled with electronic synths breaking through in sections. ‘Can’t get out of bed’, 2 years later is full of bright light vocals and guitars pushing the pop in Britpop, the compilation shining light on the bands wide scope.
The album wouldn’t be complete without a few hits from the bands biggest commercial success, 1997’s Telling Stories. During the summer you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the band, pulling 4 tracks of the album all of which made the top 5, including the superb ‘North Country Boy’. While not particularly up tempo, and not by any means high energy, it’s just a fantastically written song that’s not only a product of its time but helped to define it.
‘Forever’ is a thick heavy sound, opening their 1999 album ‘Us and Only Us’. It’s a darker tone with almost an overpowering organ from their new Keyboard player after Rob Collins was killed in an accident towards the end of recording ‘Telling Stories’. A new Album with a new Label and Keyboard player after losing a founding member helped bring a new angst to their sound, moving away from Britpop to a new mature sound.
Although the Band would never reach the popularity they had during the 90’s, they released a few albums over the new Millennium including one of their best, ‘Modern Nature’, with tracks ‘Come Home Baby’ and ‘Let the Good Times Be Never Ending’.
While in places a little more Pop, it’s the getting back more to their roots, little Bass lead sections in between Organ crescendos it’s wholly a Charlatans Record. Although sadly only half recorded by drummer Jon Brookes who died of a brain tumour part way through. With drummers from bands such as The Verve and New order helping finish off the record, and no doubt helping get back to their roots.
I didn’t have to listen to any of these tracks to review the album, but of course I did, and listening to the best of The Charlatans was always going to be enjoyable. The band could be described as a modern British staple, writing and performing for over 3 decades. They’ve managed to find a way to keep their own sound while growing with the world around them.
Despite Britpop having a bit of a resurgence, they keep adding modern elements to their music, with many of their peers succumbing to the lifestyle, including one of their founding members, they’re a band that’s here to stay, hope to see you all at their 40th anniversary tour in another 10 years!
1) The Only One I Know
3) Can’t Get out of Bed
4) Jesus Hairdo
5) Just When You’re Thinking Things Over
6) North Country Boy
7) Tellin’ Stories
8) One to Another
9) How High
10) Forever (Edit)
11) Impossible (Edit)
12) Love is the Key
13) A Man Needs to be Told
14) Up at The Lake
15) Blackened Blue Eyes
16) Oh Vanity
17) My Foolish Pride
18) Come Home Baby
19) Let the Good Times be Never Ending (Edit)
20) Plastic Machinery
21) Totally Eclipsing
Reviewed by Stuart Clarkson
Album released 15th Oct
Set the controls for the heart of the 1950’s. Pokey LaFarge’s seventh album remains firmly rooted in retro style of this period in American music.
The album was conceived in Texas during an enforced period of lockdown during what should have been a tour promoting his previous album ‘Rock Bottom Rhapsody’. That album featured the excellent song ‘F*** Me Up’ although there is little on this album to rival its louche feel inspired by a great piano riff.
The opener ‘Get It Fore It’s Gone’ is a real toe tapper with a catchy chorus that sets a good tone to open the album. I detected a slight element of Buddy Holly in the delivery and feel of the song which is never a bad thing.
I think that the finest track on the album is ‘Fine to Me’, which oozes attitude and features some superb honky-tonk piano playing as well as an ever-present handclap that gives the song an instant hook. If the next album could be based around this track then we’re all in for a treat.
‘Rotterdam’ is also a catchy little number as Pokey professes his longing for the city. This one should go down a storm when he plays there next year as part of his ongoing extensive American and European tour.
‘Yo-You’ could have been recorded by Elvis around the Blue Hawaii period.
Elsewhere the songs feature some interesting one liners. ‘Drink of You’ gives us ‘There’s always something to drink about when I drink of you’. ‘Killing Time’ is a doo-wop style song that includes the line ‘I’m killing time, it ain’t killing me’.
The final track ‘Goodnight Goodbye (Hope Not Forever)’ opines ‘Nothing says goodbye like a stiff drink and a tear’.
These lines lift the songs above ordinary and add an acerbic twist to the sugar-coated sound and otherwise middle of the road feel to much of the album.
I feel that Pokey really excels when he rocks a little more and plays with attitude on the faster songs. The crooner style songs whilst perhaps representing a time of reflection during the lockdown period, present a pleasant diversion but little more for this reviewer.
Overall an interesting listen that will appeal to his large fanbase.
1. Get It ‘Fore It’s Gone
2. Mi Ideal
3. Fine to Me
4. Drink of You
6. To Love or Be Alone
7. Long for the Heaven I Seek
8. Killing Time
10. Goodnight, Goodbye (Hope Not Forever)
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 15th Oct
Buffalo Nichols hails from Milwaukee, where he started learning and honing his craft. His travels have helped him develop it, to the point where we have now been presented with this, his debut album.
“Lost And Lonesome” sets out his stall well. Slide and fingerpicked steel strung acoustic guitar have a purity and a pared back feel that meld well with Buffalo’s soulful voice.
The intro to “Living Hell” shows off Buffalo’s guitar skills excellently, and as a (not very good) guitarist I am jealous of the way his fingers master the fretboard. The bluesy guitar is backed up by a bass drum, driving this composition along. It’s a great piece of blues and I could see it becoming a standard.
“Sick Bed Blues” as a title had me worried – but the hackneyed “Well I woke up this morning” fortunately does not make an appearance. Once again, his almost nonchalant skills on the guitar impress, and the piece is perfectly formed and – as with other songs here – has a purity and honesty that thumbs its nose at sampled synthesised electropop.
“These Things” continues the theme of acoustic guitar driven blues, with a folky edge. Here a violin adds to the instrumental mix.
Midway through the album, and I am impressed. Very often we may feel that a debut album “shows promise” or similar words of encouragement to keep improving, but this artist is at the top of his game already.
“How To Love” confirms (if it was needed) the blues heart of this piece of work “The way you hurt me showed me how to love” sings Buffalo in this tale of woe. “Another Man” gives us more strong blues, this time with a black perspective on respect for life. Simple but very heartfelt, it’s not an easy listen for the complacent.
“Back On Top” has more prominent drum and bass, slide guitar taking the place of the fingerpicking and having more of a blues/rock feel as a result. It’s an accomplished track and would be great live.
“Sorry It Was You” has the biggest ensemble of instruments on the whole album, with even a distorted electric guitar solo making an appearance. It’s still indisputably a blues number however, and the extra instruments fade out until we’re just left with the fingerpicking good skill of Mr Nichols, fading out until the next time.
If you like pure blues and can appreciate a well-played guitar you can’t go wrong here.
1. Lost And Lonesome
2. Living Hell
3. Sick Bed Blues
4. These Things
5. How To Love
6. Another Man
7. Back On Top
8. Sorry It Was You
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 15th Oct
My partner knows the words to virtually every song she has ever heard. On the other hand, when I sing along to a favourite tune I very often will sing elements of the instrumental, and I have in the past even bought music because I particularly like a bass riff (“Sergeant Rock”, by XTC, since you ask).
To my mind, really great music occurs when the yin and the yang of instrumentals and vocals are both great, and combine to form something outstanding. Think “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel; that’s what I’m talking about.
“But what has this to do with the price of fish, or more importantly David Keenan’s new album?”, I hear you cry. If we listen to the album together maybe I can explain…
The first track, “What Then?”, opens with an instrumental Irish folky feel, then David’s lilting voice comes to the fore. It’s immediately apparent that the instrumental is not the raison d’etre of this artist. The music instead supports and cradles the wordsmithery of this man. Here is a poem put to music.
“Bark” has more musicalised poetry. “Wretches on crutches sing “Ave Maria”” he sings, and the mind is taken into the swirling emotions of his words, the music acting as a canvas upon which he paints his poetry.
“A beggar to a beggar cried, “I’ve placed two coins on your dead eyes, and I’ll grieve the passing of a saint, for circumstance lived our lives, short and sweet” form part of the lyrics of the next track. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the music itself here, it’s just clearly outclassed by, and subservient to, the words. And Keenan’s heart lies clearly with his exceptional words.
Just as it’s impossible to truly describe music with words, it’s not possible to truly represent the quality of the poetry here with a few short quotes.
In times of old, when poetry was truly popular in its own right, I wonder whether Mr Keenan would have even bothered with the music. But the present is the present, and music now allows this poet the opportunity to reach a wider potential audience than his words alone would.
And so it continues through the album. Tales of life tumble from Keenan’s lips, laden with understated emotion and despair. This is an album to be listened to with care. You won’t find any commercial sugary sweet pop here but there is some real lyrical talent here that deserves to be heard.
1. What Then?
3. Beggar to Beggar
5. Peter O’Toole’s Drinking Stories
6. Hopeful Dystopia
7. The Grave Of Johnny Filth
8. The Boarding House
9. Me, Myself And Lunacy
10. Sentimental Dole
11. Grogan’s Druid
Reviewed by Liam McEvoy
Album released 15th Oct
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes return with their fourth studio album Sticky. The follow up to their 2019’s End of Suffering is an electric, pulsating album that thunders through the speakers grabbing your attention from the first moment to the last.
Album opener and title track ‘Sticky’ kicks the album off with some serious attitude, a hammering bass opens the track before the storming guitars begin turning the track into a brilliant punk-rock track that feels like it reaches through the speakers and demands your full attention. Carter with his snarling vocals does not let your attention go for the duration of the album.
‘Band Bang’ is another great example of what this band are about. It’s a track that pulses and crackles with energy whilst dealing with the complex topics of mental health, something Carter in particular is very outspoken about.
The fourth outing from Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes also has a host of British talent alongside Carter. IDLES front man Joe Talbot features on ‘My Town’, an anthemic track filled with rage and pent-up energy about how people at their core are all the same.
Singer Cassyette appears on ‘Off With His Head’ adding her vocals to create an almost insidious atmosphere on the track. Primal Screams’ Bobby Gillespie is on the closing track ‘Original Sin’ an almost ethereal feeling tune that closes the album is style.
Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes are certainly back with a bang. Sticky is an album that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the end.
Set for release on the 15th October 2021, they have produced another stunning album that is sure to delight both fans and critics alike.
2. Cupids Arrow
3. Bang Bang (feat lynks)
4. Take It To The Brink
5. My Town (Feat Joe Talbot)
6. Go Get A Tattoo (Feat Lynks)
7. Off With His Head (Feat Cassyette)
8. Cobra Queen
9. Rat Race
10.Original Sin (Feat Bobby Gillespie)
Reviewed by John Seales
Album released 22nd Oct
Skinny Lister are a London based folk band who have been around since 2009. Last year they re-released their album “Down On Deptford Broadway”, which we reviewed on Wall Of Sound.
Their new album, “A Matter Of Life And Love”, is some six years on from the original release of “Down On Deptford Broadway”, so let’s see how much (if at all) their sound has evolved.
“Shout It Out” in a few bars confirms that this band has not lost its Mojo. Folk with a strong influence of rock melds with multi part vocal harmonies to create some very happy music. Think a grown-up version of Dexy’s Midnight Runners combined with enough alcohol to liberate but not inebriate and you’re not far off.
“Tough Stuff Like Us” has a very strong feeling of Madness. That’s as in the band, not as in lunacy. Skinny Lister carry this off with aplomb and as ever are superb instrumentally.
“Like It’s The First Time” is a builder, and I’d love to see and hear it live. I can just imagine the crowd singing along and the bass cabs rocking off the floor whilst the drummer gives hit kit some serious hammering. “Damn The Amsterdam” is a sea shanty and is a brilliant meld of voices harmonising over some simple percussion.
“A Matter Of Life And Love” brings back the Madness vibe. It’s a well composed and produced piece, delivered with skill. Over the past three tracks we have really been shown Skinny Lister’s breadth of musical talent – three very different tracks all of top quality.
“Embers” continues to impress, with a swaying three beats to the bar, a smoother and more gentle side to their folk roots.
“Shoulder To Shoulder” is a song of strength in numbers “Shoulder to shoulder we march on, my shoulder’s your shoulder to cry on, my shoulder’s your shoulder to stand on” they sing. Another great one live, I should imagine.
“Bavaria Area” rocks along nicely, and then “Bonny’s Eyes” gives us a gentle ballad accompanied predominantly by a fingerpicked acoustic guitar. Settle into a nice warm comforting song…
“Life At A Loose End” then gives us a slightly punky, Poly Styrene feel.
“Breakfast At Heathrow” is a cracking little number about alcoholic courage. “Breakfast at Heathrow, the beer and the vino, keeps the fear of flying further from your mind”. As ever, their delivery is impeccable, the humour is ever present, and you just can’t help loving this band.
All too soon, “History” returns us to their folk-rock roots and another accomplished and brilliant album by Skinny Lister is complete. Buy one of their albums and/or go and see them live, this is one great band.
1. Shout It Out
2. Tough Stuff Like Us
3. Like It’s The First Time
4. Damn The Amsterdam (featuring The Longest Johns)
5. A Matter Of Life & Love
7. Shoulder To Shoulder
8. Bavaria Area
9. Bonny’s Eyes
10. Life At A Loose End
11. Breakfast At Heathrow
Reviewed by John McEvoy
Album released 29th Oct
Believe it or not, The Verve have been around in various guises for over 30 years now, and have broken up and reformed more times that you’ve had hot dinners! (A slight exaggeration I grant you, but you get the picture).
However, during this time their front man, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Richard Ashcroft has remained front and centre throughout and during this period The Verve and Ashcroft in his own right have managed to produce what many people regard as some of the finest music of a generation.
And so, we come to Acoustic Hymns Vol1, which delivers pretty much what it says on the tin, and of course the opening track just had to be the mighty ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ and the lush orchestral arrangements on this 7:11 seconds epic sound as wonderful as ever.
This album not only features reworks of The Verve classics but also some great versions of material from his solo albums and ‘C’mon People’ from his ‘Alone With Everybody’ album originally released in 2000 is a fine version, featuring Liam Gallagher, their vocals perfectly complement each other.
Elsewhere ‘Lucky Man’ is another outstanding track which reminds you just how good a songwriter Ashcroft is, and the gospel tinged ‘This Thing Called Life’ is given a new lease of life with this lively and vibrant version.
Of course no Richard Ashcroft ‘collection’ would be complete without this career defining ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ written in 1995 and featured on The Verve album ‘Urban Hymns’. From the first few opening bars with piano and strings, this is an era defining classic, given a new lease of life, and is the perfect way to bring this album to a close.
As retrospectives go, you would be hard pushed to find a better example in 2021, and it’s testament to the quality of both his solo and band material.
For some lucky people out there, this may be the first time they’ve heard of The Verve and on the back of this release will delve into Richard Ashcroft’s back catalogue. They will certainly be well rewarded!
· Bittersweet Symphony
· A Song For Lovers
· Sonnet 01
· C’Mon People (We’re Making It Now)
· Weeping Willow
· Lucky Man
· This Thing Called Life
· Space And Time
· Velvet Morning
· Break The Night With Colour
· One Day
· The Drugs Don’t Work
Reviewed By John McEvoy
Album released 5th Nov 21
Australian band The Parcels are back with their second album Day/Night, and it's fair to say that this may be a band that many of you may not have heard of. Have a listen to this release and I think you may wonder why this is the case.
This double album has been on repeat at Wall of Sound towers for the last few days, and for very good reason. We just may have a contender here for ‘The Album Of The Year’ award. From the sumptuous string arrangements on opening track ‘’Light’, through to closing tune ‘Inside’, this is journey through some of the finest tunes of 2021.
One minute reminiscent of Jungle, the next Steely Dan, and then Daft Punk, it’s easy to see why Daft Punk got involved with them a few years back producing their single ‘Overnight’.
Indeed such is the quality of this album, at times I thought I was listening to an extended version of ‘Random Access Memories’.
This is vast release in terms of both tracks and time, coming in at a total of 19 tracks with a run time of almost 90 minutes, and like all great albums (as far as this reviewer is concerned at least) it gets better with each and every listen.
Vocally their harmonies are a recurring feature throughout, and this underpinned by musicianship which is of the highest quality throughout.
‘Daywalk’ mid-way through is for me pure Steely Dan with a Walter Becker guitar break at the start leading into a mellow funk workout which is an absolute joy to listen to.
Try if you will, to imagine a mash up of Jungle/Daft Punk/Chic/Steely Dan, and you may get an idea of just how good this release really is.
It would be no exaggeration to say that ‘Day/Night’ is that increasingly rare thing in the world of albums, ‘All Killers, No Fillers’, and is a serious contender for Wall of Sound Album of the year!
· Coming Back
· The Worst Thing
· In The City
· Now I Care Some More
· Something Greater
· Day Walk
· Never Loved
· I Call This Home
· Lord Henry
· The Fear
· Night Walk