The Rails Fair Warning Island Records 3777424 Husband-and-wife folk-rock duo The Rails released their debut album earlier this year: eleven songs of heartbreak, love and despair. Sounds eerily like Richard and Linda Thompson's subject matter, doesn't it? In fact, The Rails are guitarist James Walbourne and vocalist and guitarist Kami Thompson, and yes, Kami is the youngest daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson. Released on the classic Island Pink label, revived especially for The Rails, these eleven tracks are contemporary folk-rock of the finest kind.Kami, of course, is bound to have been influenced by her parents in one way or another, whilst her husband James's style is reminiscent of Richard's guitar playing.However, this is no retread of Bright Lights or a pale imitation of the Thompsons. Instead it is something magical and new, adding twists to folk-rock storytelling, with two great interpretations of trad songs, the opening Bonnie Portmore and the great William Taylor.It is on their own material, though, that the sparks really fly and a unique style comes through.The fab Breakneck Speed features some fiddle work by Eliza Carthy, while Panic Attack Blues, the dark Send her to Holloway and the wonderful, rocking Borstal all showcase the talents of two songwriters working together. This release from The Rails is the sound of a couple relishing their family heritage but putting their own stamp on it --a brilliant album.
House of Hats This Love Willow Walk Records Brighton-based four-piece House of Hats have been making waves across the UK recently, with rave reviews from Maverick Magazine and Zoë Ball amongst others.They bring their acoustic folk sound to a wider audience on this, their debut album.
Reminiscent of bands like The Fleet Foxes, and the early harmonies of Buckingham-Nicks pre-Fleetwood Mac, tracks like Home Is Where the Heart Is, Rivers Will Run, and King of the Average Pace stand out.The beautifully sparse arrangements and gorgeous female vocals make this an album to fall in love with on a cold winter's night.
Clutching at Straws Come What May Straws Music Mention alternative folk these days, and people think of Mumford & Sons.Note to readers: just having a banjo all over it doesn't make it folk music, alternative or otherwise!Luckily we have quartets like Clutching at Straws to balance out the pseudo-folk with a heavy dose of reality and, in the truest folk tradition, music for the people.This, their debut release, is full of charm, style, and talent in bucket-loads, and although it is only thirty-seven minutes long, every minute counts.There are some marvellous harmony vocals on contemporary folk tales such as Come What May, The Price You Paid and Through Your Eyes, this is the sort of record that worms its way into your consciousness and takes over your CD player. The band may be called Clutching at Straws, but they are actually verging on greatness.
Greenslade Large Afternoon Angel Air SJPCD411 Originally released in 2000 (and promoted with a fantastic gig at the HLC), this was Greenslade's first studio album since their quartet of classic albums in the early 1970's. The selling point was always the twin keyboard sound, and here Dave Greenslade is joined by original member Tony Reeves on bass, with John Young on vocals and keys and Chris Cozens on drums. Usually anything that John Young is involved in is bound to be class, but this album is a bit hit and miss. When it flies, it absolutely soars, such as on Hallelujah Anyway, In the Night and On Suite, all of which feature some sublime keyboard interplay and John's superb vocals. After the original Greenslade split up Dave Greenslade spent many years working in TV, and as result a lot of the instrumentals tend to drift a bit towards generic TV jingle music, with only the odd flash of greatness coming through. If this project had stayed together it would have been fascinating to see what direction they might have taken.Sadly, instead of being a springboard to greater success, this patchy album seems more like a full stop, and the tracks leave its promise unfulfilled.
Rick Wakeman Softsword Esotoric Records ECLEC2452 Out There Esoteric Records ECLEC2438 Out of the Blue Esoteric Records ECLEC2451 At the Grand Piano, Live in Lugano (DVD) Esoteric Records EANTDVD1003 Fields of Green Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2461 In the Nick of Time Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2462 Esoteric Records have recently announced that they are embarking on a massive reissue project with keyboard and piano legend Rick Wakeman to bring some of the gems from the latter part of his career back to life.These four releases form the first wave of this campaign. Known for his work with The Strawbs and Yes, and as a session musician for the likes of David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens and Viv Stanshall, amongst others, Rick has been extremely prolific in a forty-plus years career that shows no sign of slowing down.Softsword, originally released in 1991, is one of Rick's trademark symphonic concept albums, based around King John and the Magna Carta, with a fantastic band including regular collaborators Chrissie Hammond on vocals, David Paton on guitars and bass, Stuart Sawney on percussion and Anabel Blakeney on gemshorn.Sadly, 1991 was not a year when symphonic prog would have been appreciated, and so the subtle performances, the brilliant songwriting and the musical intensity met with a deafening indifferene.Now the album is ripe for reappraisal.Tracks like The Story of Love and Hymn of Hope are as strong as anything that Rick ever produced, and with the sound newly remastered, this is one of the great lost albums.
2003's Out There and its companion live album Out of the Blue (2001) showcase the last recorded line-up of Rick's occasional band The English Rock Ensemble. With powerhouse vocalist Damian Wilson as frontman, long-term collaborator (and former Strawbs drummer) Tony Fernandez, Ant Glynne on guitars, Lee Pomeroy on bass, and Rick's son Adam joining on additional keyboards on Out of the Blue, this a formidable array of talented musicians. Out of the Blue sees the band perform a full-on rock show, with some of the rockier side of Rick's canon on display, from a rioutous rout through selections from Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a blast from the No Earthly Connection album, and the epic and dynamic The Visit/Return of the Phantom, this is a set designed to showcase the strength of the band. Damian Wilson demonstrates an amazing vocal range (he once auditioned to replace Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden once, and played the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérableson stage). Culminating in an amazing powerhouse encore of the Yes classic StarshipTrooper, this live album is a great testament to this line-up's shows. The studio album Out There sees the line-up remain the same.This is a concept album based on space travel, aptly dedicated to the crew of the last space shuttle to take flight -- another latter-day Wakeman classic.From the opening title track epic to the closing The Cathedral of the Sky, this is pure classic Wakeman.The English Rock Ensemble form a tight musical unit: Rick's keyboards and Ant's guitar spar magnificently as a backdrop to Damian's majestic vocals.This is a welcome return to CD for a long out-of-print album which contains some of the best of Rick's prog concept work.
As a complete contrast to the albums, the DVD release Live at Lugano shows Rick's amazing piano playing accompanied by an orchestra, taken from a performance in the Swiss city of Lugano recorded in 2009, and released here for the first time on DVD --and what a performance it is.Rick is peerless live, and he and the Orchestra Della Svizzera Italiano conducted by Guy Protheroe work their way through a fantastic set. There is a magnificent version of the King Arthur Suite, a haunting performance of Gone But Not Forgotten from the lesser-known White Rock album, and a wonderful version of Catherine Howard, whilst the interplay on the interpretations of Help! and Eleanor Rigby has to be seen to be believed. Rick's greatest works were all composed to be performed with an orchestra, and the magic shines through on every note. The version here of Journey to The Centre of the Earth is particularly superb. If you are a fan of symphonic progressive suites, this is an essential purchase.
Continuing on with the Rick Wakeman remasters: 1997's Fields of Green showcases Rick's then current band.It included Chrissie Hammond on vocals, Phil Laughlin on bass, Stuart Sawney on drums, and on guitar a young talent, Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith, who is now better known as Fraser T. Smith, a songwriter for the likes of Clare Maguire and Cheryl Cole and touring guitarist for Craig David. The record opens with Election '97/Arthur, which was the BBC's 1997 election theme, remixing and reworking elements from the King Arthur album. The interpretation of the Yes classic Starship Trooper is also wonderful, with Chrissie's vocals hitting all the right notes, whilst the title track and The Promise of Love show off her voice and the band's versatility to fine effect. The beauty of each Rick Wakeman album is that he always manages to find the best musicians to work with.
In the Nick of Time captures Rick with the English Rock Ensemble again, but comes from a tour where Damian Wilson had been replaced by Ashley Holt, who had worked with Rick on some of his seminal seventies albums. Holt's vocal work is excellent on this live album, while Rick reworks some of his classics like No Earthly Connection, and White Rock.The newer material (Out There and Dance of a Thousand Lights) works really well too. With an illuminating essay on prog rock, this is another gem in Rick's canon, and it is wonderful that Esoteric are bringing these lost albums back out.
Dodson & Fogg After the Fall Rexford Bedlo
Rexford Bedlo Wisdom Twins Records Here are not one, but two new albums involving prolific psych-folk songwriter Chris Wade.First up is the latest from his Dodson & Fogg project, After the Fall, with legendary violinist Scarlet Rivera adding her unique sound to the fantastic opener You're an Island, whilst Ricky Romain returns with his sitar, as does folk legend Alison O'Donnell and Tree's amazing vocalist Celia Humphries. This is, of course, Chris Wade's show, and he pulls the album together with some great song-writing, such as the funky folk of Life's Life, with its great acoustic riff.Chris is in control throughout, stepping back and allowing the guests room to manoeuvre, but always there, with his subtle acoustic guitar work and fantastically observed lyrics. The album is both intimate and imposing, the sound of a late-night acoustic café.
Rexford Bedlo is a totally different kettle of fish, a collaboration between Chris Wade and his brother Andy. They are both talented songwriters but they work in slightly different genres, so on the album Chris's folkier idiom is mixed with Andy's rock tendencies, reminding me of the glory days of Island Records' Pink Label, when everyone played on everyone else's album. The brothers, of course, have an instant connection, and the collaboration is superb on these eleven tracks, from the brilliant opener Hold On (To What You Love) via the Floydian On and On (It Goes) and the gently beautiful Lily's Lullaby (for Chris's new daughter), to the slow-build rock of Take Your Breath Away.Andy's soulful vocals provide a great counterpoint to Chris' softer style. There are have been some fantastic musical brothers in history --the Allmans, the Everlys, and the Lakemans-- and now we can add the Wades to that list.
Mike Hyder Craftsman Rockular Records RRMH01 Prolific songwriter and frontman for English prog/psych band The Treat, Mike Hyder has taken some time out from his band job to release this well written and superbly performed four-track debut solo album.The epic, nearly nineteen minutes-long title track, which refes to Hyder's profession, displays his versatile guitar and vocals, with some heartfelt and intelligent lyrics about the art of song-writing.It is a departure from the sound of The Treat, mixing up a wide range of inflences from folk to rock, via blues and back.
Hyder is never one to waste a good lick or a driving riff, and this is very much a guitar-oriented album.Hyder's playing is exemplary throughout. The Rock, with its more reflective and introspective tone, features a beautiful solo that would fit on any Oldfield album, its folkier moments sounding like early seventies Richard Thompson-era Fairport. The wistful and optimistic Eden is the shortest track on this album, clocking in at only eight minutes long. This is a very personal album for Mike, and he really lets rip with a vengeance on the closing track The Organisation, his vocals building in intensity with the guitar work to an explosive finale of anger and frustration. This is a fantastic album.
Mike Kershaw Ice Age www.kershmusic.com Having reviewed last year's This Long Night fairly recently, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a new album from Mike so quickly. Following up on the former release, this is a logical progression of Mike's song-writing.Here, his stunning keyboard work, instinct for a good melody, and emotive lyrics are to the fore on a beautifully crafted jewel of an album.With dynamic keyboard work and great vocals, this is a progressive treat, and features some simply amazing songs. From the superb opening work on Frame and Glass via the pulsating Inside the Frame to the frankly magnificent closing When Winter Comes, this is an album that you will return to again and again.
Robert ReedSanctuary Tigermoth Records TMRCD0714 Multi-instrumentalist and composer, the songwriter behind 2006's Chimpan A album and the highly successful Kompendium project, and member of influential prog band Magenta, Rob Reed now presents his first solo album.Rob has been heavily influenced throughout his career by Oldfield's work, and Sanctuary is an homage to it. Like Oldfield on Tubular Bells, Rob plays all the instruments.To get the authentic sound, he was also assisted by Bells producers Simon Heyworth and Tom Newman.
So how do we categorise this, then? Is it a tribute album? No: whilst the themes are Oldfieldesque, the music is all new.Is it a pastiche? Not really, as it's not a parody. So it's an album of all-new music intended to evoke Old(field) music. Once you have figured out what Rob is aiming to do here, this two-part concerto works very well.Evoking not just Tubular Bells, but also Oldfield's first four albums up to and including Incantations, Rob goes nuts, from the guitar soloing right down to the nonsense chants provided by Synergy Vocals. This is the best Mike Oldfield album that Mike never made, and call it what you like, it is an astonishing piece of work.
Lee Abraham Distant Days Edge of Life Records EOLR001 Former Galahad bassist Lee Abraham is no mean songwriter, as this, his second solo album, confirms. With a core band of Chris Harrison on guitars, Alistair Begg on Chapman Stick, Rob Arnold on piano, and Gerald Mulligan on drums, the guest list on this album is a veritable who's who of prog. Karl Groom, Dec Burke, Steve Thorne and John Young all take a turn in the spotlight on this fantastic album.The finely crafted songs like Closing the Door, Distant Days, Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday (with its cracking turn by Thorne on vocals) include the centrepiece of the album, the epic Walk Away, with its emotive lyrics sung to soulful perfection by Young.Featuring excellent guitar and vocals, this is a great release from a fantastic songwriter an performer, and the cover, reminiscent of Hipgnosis' best work, is a belter too.
Nick Magnus N'Monix Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1032 Here's another treat for the ears.Regular Steve Hackett collaborator Nick Magnus releases his latest long player on Esoteric, with eight fantastic tracks that showcase his versatility, wit, and unique style.
The hauntingly beautiful Memory showcases soprano vocals from Kate Faber, whilst Steve Hackett adds his unique guitar to the witty and thought-provoking Eminent Victorians.The addition of Tim Bowness's magnificent vocals on Broken makes it a standout on the album.The record closes with the duo of Shadowland, featuring perfect interplay by Hackett and Magnus, and the moving Entropy, which deals with the heartbreak caused by dementia: James Reeves's strong vocals pair beautifully with Magnus's music.With excellent lyrics by Dick Foster, this is an absolute joy of an album from start to finish.
John Lodge Natural Avenue Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2437 In 1976, songwriter John Lodge (a member of the Moody Blues, who were on an extended hiatus at the time) took the opportunity to record and release this, his debut solo album. With Lodge's old friend Kenney Jones on drums, and guests like Mel Collins, Jimmy Jewell, Chris Spedding and Mick Weaver, this is full of great songs and performances. Any one of the tracks could have slotted into a Moody Blues album, from the brass-driven title track with its harmony vocals and Kenney's manic percussion to the closing Children of Rock 'n' Roll.Lodge's vocals are on top form throughout the album, with lush orchestration and musical interplay to match. Housed in a suitably impressive Roger Dean cover, and augmented by a single A- and B-side, this is an excellent digression into alternative territory for all fans of the Moody Blues in particular and great song-writing in general.
Panama Limited Jug Band Panama Limited= Indian Summer Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2435 Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2436 Here are a couple of curios from the tail end of the sixties, remastered and expanded on Esoteric. Formed in late 1968 and influenced by Missisippi Delta blues, the band translated that sound for the contemporary urban London scene, with interesting results.Their debut album, one of the first released by EMI's legendary Harvest Records, saw them perform what was pretty much their live set, mixing blues with folk, skiffle and rock, with members like Liz Hanns from the folk scene, and underground bluesmen like Denis Parker, Gary Compton, Ron Needes and Brian Strachan.This created an interesting sound that typified the manic free-for-all of the late sixties.By 1970's Indian Summer, they had dropped the Jug Band from their name and added Annie Matthews's vocals and harmonica, hardening up their sound to match the album's heavier themes. Captain Beefheart had recently released Troutmask Replica, and the vocals on this album are gruffer and heavier, picking up where Beefheart left off. With a more intense sound than the debut album, and a plethora of ideas, there is plenty of light and shade on this record, particularly on Citadel Chapters.This is followed up by the more melancholic Woman I Love.The title track itself is a fantastic paean to the end of the warm season, with inspired bass playing, beautiful vocals from Matthews and Parker, and dark undertones. The late sixties and early seventies were such an experimental and eclectic time that I doubt such bands would even exist today, never mind get signed by a major label.This is a fascinating brace of lost English blues classics.
Steve Hackett The Bremen Broadcast Esoteric Recordings DVDEANTDVD1001 By 1978 Steve Hackett had left Genesis behind and was focusing instead on his solo career, a path he has pursued successfully to this day.This concert, recorded for the German TV station Studio Hamburg and first broadcast in 1979, makes its first appearance here on remastered DVD and with two extra tracks, recorded at the same session and never previously released. Taken from Steve's first live tour, featuring himself on guitar and vocals, his brother John on flute, guitar and bass pedals, Nick Magnus on keyboards, Dick Cadbury on bass and vocals, John Shearer on drums and Pete Hicks on vocals, this is a fantastic live representation of material from Steve's first three solo albums, with storming versions of Ace of Wands and Shadow of the Hierophant, as well as ATower Struck Down/Spectral Morning. The band is on fire, Steve's guitar work is, as might be expected, superb, and this is on the whole a very confident performance.
Keith Emerson Changing States Esoteric Records ECLEC2440 Recorded in the early nineties and finally issued in 1995, this is a superb Keith Emerson solo album, with some cracking hidden gems as well as a couple of fantastic covers. Recorded during an ELP hiatus, and then radically reworked in parts for the band's Black Moon, this album is an unknown diamond in Keith's lengthy and influential career. The reworking of Gershwin's Summertime is an absolute ball, with the laidback jazzy vibe that comes from a studio jam, whilst Keith's classical style comes to the fore on his version of Prokofiev's Montagues and Capulets as well as the all-in symphonic rendition of Abbadon's Bolero, an old ELP staple, here in a definitive performance.However, songs like The Band Keeps Playing are very much cut from contemporary cloth, and rubbish any notion that Emerson got left behind in the punk aftermath.
Jim Capaldi The Contender Esoteric Recordings ECLEC22432 Esoteric present a welcome reissue for this album, originally recorded and released in 1978.It showcases Capaldi at the rockier end of his songwriting spectrum, and is a fantastic recording from start to finish. Unsurprisingly, as it was recorded in the late seventies, there is a disco vibe running through the album.However, unlike other similar contemporary dabblings in disco, this does not jar, probably because Jim was an extremely versatile drummer and already had a way with a groove.Recorded with long-term collaborators Peter Bonas on guitar, Trevor Morais on drums, Alan Spenner on bass, Ray Allen on sax, congas and vocals, and Capaldi himself on vocals, the release starts with the driving rock of Dirty Business, then diverts us with a funky strings-heavy cover of Sealed With a Kiss, profoundly different from the original and with some fantastic organ work from Chris Parren. Daughter of the Night is another slice of groovy disco rock, with Jim's vocals superb throughout. The Contender features the distinctive guitar of the late Paul Kossof and is a vocal tour de force from Jim, one of the album's highlights.Disc Two of this remastered set contains a previously unreleased live performance from Jim and the Contenders, recorded in the Netherlands as they promoted this album, and blimey, do they sound like they mean it here, with galvanising, tight renditions of Low Rider, the fantastic Elixir of Life (another album highlight), and Electric Nights.It's great to hear this concert in conjunction with this album, a real treat for Capaldi fans.
Andy Summers Synaesthesia Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2430 Summers is known primarily as the guitarist with the Police, but there is so much more to him than that.This 1995 album on the CMP label disappeared almost as soon as it was released due to financial difficulties with the label at the time, but it is a case in point. Featuring some fantastic jazz rock work, as well as drumming from a certain Ginger Baker, whose unpredictability and talent make him a fantastic musical foil for Summers, and with additional guests including Greg Bisnette, Jerry Watts, and Mitchel Forman, this release bounces ideas around like musical balls. This is a taut and exciting album, from the opening magic of Cubano Rebop, via the driving guitar work of Monk Hangs Ten to the fantastic title track. Summers is an assured band leader, and this is intriguing jazz-rock that bounces, flows, and pulls the listener along with it.This assured and excellent release is finally getting the attention that it deserves.
Lew Bear Ripples www.lewbear.co.uk Having drummed for Test Meets and Celtic band Cross the Border, Lew Bear has released three solo albums of which Ripples is his latest. Mixing traditional English folk with some rock influences, Lew is a versatile performer and a great vocalist, and these songs summon up various wistful moods.Highlights include the amazing interpretation of Kipling's If..., the hard-edged folk of The Tramp, the bluesy Entropy (reminiscent of Bert Jansch at his most ethereal), and the fantastically fatalistic Gimme Some Whisky. Lew's guitar playing veers from the soft and gentle to full-on rock, and his vocals change to suit the mood, while the mix of stompbox and guitar is a great sound, and there are guest spots from the legendary John Duffy on bouzouki. Lew Bear is an accomplished performer and songwriter, and will become better-known based on the quality of this album.Ripples is a folk gem.
Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22465 In the tortuous history of Yes, the album Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe is one of the most interesting diversions.In 1988, Jon Anderson was in the middle of a hiatus from the then-contemporary Yes line-up, and decided to record an album with his old musical comrades from the early seventies' Yes line-up. With the classic Yes songwriting axis of Howe, Wakeman and Anderson firing on all cylinders, and eighties recording techniques, this gives a contemporary twist to the sound of albums like Fragile or Going For The One.Including the opening epic Themes, the wonderful Quartet and the beautiful Let's Pretend, this is what Yes would have sounded like had the band carried on with the Wakeman/Howe/Anderson troika. With superb musical interplay between all five musicians, and Jon's vocals on fine form, this is better than anything produced by Yes at the time.
Tin Spirits Scorch Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1035 This is the second album from Swindon rock band Tin Spirits, and it is a superb follow-up to 2011's Wired to the Earth. This inventive and exciting quartet, made up of Dave Gregory on guitars (XTC, Big Big Train), Mark Kilminster on bass and vocals, Douglas Mussard on drums and vocals, and Daniel Steinhardt on guitars and vocals, are at the top of their game on this fantastic slice of English rock.The infectious Summer Now features sublime guitar work from Gregory, and the Tin Spirit trademark is present in the fabulous vocals that flow throughout the album. The record includes the brilliant Old Hands and Binary Man and the excellent acoustic interlude of She Moves Among Us, which leads into the extraordinary Garden State. This is the high point on the album, an absolutely beautiful slice of English contemporary prog: fifteen minutes-plus of the most astonishing harmonies, beautiful lyrics, and instrumental interplay between all four members.It transcends genres --perfection on record. If Wired to the Earth was a fabulous introduction to Tin Spirits, Scorch is where they come of age.It is a musical masterpiece.
Martin Barre Order of Play Edifying Records EDFCD006 With Jethro Tull on an extended hiatus, lead guitarist Martin Barre has formed a new band, with Dan Crisp on vocals and guitar, Alan Bray on bass, George Lindsay on drums, and Richard Beesley on sax and clarinets.On tour they play a selection of Jethro Tull classics and blues material. The new album Order of Play takes the highlights of the live show and lays them down on record.Since Barre is a guitarist rather than a vocalist, the new Jethro Tull renditions focus on guitar.There is a stunning excerpt from Thick as a Brick, the blues-heavy Song for Jeffrey and the brilliant closing Locomotive Breath. The focus is very much on the band's heavier, bluesier back catalogue. The traditional blues material like Crossroads and Steal Your Heart Away nestles wonderfully alongside the Tull originals, and it sounds as if Barre is having the time of his life with his new band.It's a shame that Jethro Tull are not currently touring, but since Ian Anderson has one band and Martin Barre has another, at least we get to see two live bands playing the whole spectrum of the repertoire.
Help Yourself Reaffirmation: An Anthology Esoteric Records ECLEC22459 Another lost rock band, rediscovered and remastered on Esoteric, Help Yourself were formed in the 1970s as the band for frontman Malcolm Morley, and through their brief career they released four albums (Help Yourself, Strange Affair, Beware the Shadow and The Return of Ken Whalley).Here selections from each album, along with some A- and B-sides, are collected for the first time in a full retrospective.
Recorded between 1971 and 1973, these four albums are an interesting chapter in the history of the band Man, considering that two members (Malcom Morley & Ken Whalley) later joined the Welsh group, yet the music here is as far from psycedelic rock as can be imagined.Essentially, it takes the American West Coast sound and gives it an English twist.This comprehensive and well-compiled anthology showcases the group's versatility and talent, cherry-picking the gems from the four albums.The six tracks from the Strange Affair album in particular see them hitting their stride, whilst the B-side version of Johnny B. Goode highlights the bands versatility.The live version of their song Eddie Waring is a fantastic way to end this comprehensive anthology, with its driving guitar and pounding beat. Help Yourself may not have reached the heights of their contemporaries, but the music that they left us is well worth a listen.
Roger Ruskin Spear Unusual Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2464 I think that if any one group were to sum up the spirit of Albion, it would be the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.When they split, they scattered their distinctive sounds far and wide across the musical scene of the early seventies, as perceived frontmen Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall took the band's worldview in very different directions.
However, the other Bonzo who had a distinguished subsequent musical career is the talented, idiosyncratic son of influential painter Ruskin Spear, Roger.He put the zing into the Bonzos with his sax and brass accompaniment, plus his eccentric stage craft and his knowledge of music-hall numbers. All of this is displayed to great effect on this album from 1973, the follow-up to his debut Electric Shocks. It includes a number of guest musicians, including Andy 'Thunderclap' Newman, the band Help Yourself, and the Maggie Streeder Singers - in reality the female vocal group The Ladybirds, who worked with many big names of the seventies but could not be credited here for contractual reasons.
With a mix of contemporary covers like a wonderfully whimsical version of Pinball Wizard and an astonishing take on Heartbreak Hotel, mixed with music-hall material given the Roger Ruskin Spear treatment (such as On Her Doorstep Last Night, with a wonderful comedy West Country accent on the chorus), this also includes a rollicking version of When Yuba Plays the Rumba on a Tuba.The originals include Trouble With My Trousers (a lyrical leitmotiv developed over several Bonzo albums), the great Shove-Off Shostakovich (a sort of Roll Over Beethoven on acid), and the homage to feel-good TV, Morecambe & Wise. This is a fabulous album, with some genuinely original musical touches, and plenty of the revue flair that made the Bonzos great.--James R. Turner