The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.
Barclay James Harvest, "Victims of Circumstance" (Esoteric ECLEC 22330)- BJH began life in the early seventies as prime purveyors of a distinctive brand of symphonic prog-rock which earned them a whole host of critical plaudits but precious little in the way of solid album sales. By the time that "Victims of Circumstance" appeared on the scene in 1984 mellotron player Woolly Wolstenholme had long since left the fold and the band's remaining three members had decided to jettison the more dramatic aspects of their old sound in favour of a much more radio friendly and pop orientated approach to music-making . This CD re-issue also features a bonus disc recorded live at London's Wembley Arena later the same year showcasing much loved old favourites such as "Child of the Universe," "Hymn" and "Poor Man's Moody Blues."
Zoltan Kocsis, "Debussy : Piano Works" (Decca 478 3943) - This absorbing 2 CD set finds Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis exploring the sensuous sound world created by Claude Debussy, as he tackles the composer's ground breaking "Preludes" and "Children's Corner." Debussy's supremely eclectic musical influences traversed the globe as he immersed himself in the delights of everything from early American jazz to Javanese gamelan,and Kocsis' beautifully clear and lucid playing has a vibrancy that's often lacking in more orthodox interpretations of this unique character's work.
"Let's Have A Party-Girls Gone Rockin' Vol.2" (Fantastic Voyage FVTD006)- The significant role that female vocalists played in the early development of rock'n'roll has often been undervalued , although Fantastic Voyage are helping to redress the balance a little by releasing anthologies such as this. The contents range far and wide in their choice of subject matter,including the soulful rhythm and blues of Etta James,Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker alongside the much more country orientated sound of Wanda Jackson and Brenda Lee. The compilers have also found space for a fine cover of Leiber and Stoller's "Trouble" by Jackie de Shannon,who would go on to find fame and fortune in the sixties by penning hits such as "When You Walk In The Room " and "Come and Stay With Me," for The Searchers and Marianne Faithfull respectively.
Little Feat, "Rooster Rag" (Rounder / Decca)- The untimely death of their charismatic frontman Lowell George in 1979 left a gaping void in Little Feat's ranks that they found it very difficult to fill ,and almost a decade passed before the remaining members of the band could be tempted back into the studio again. Founder member Bill Payne is still striving manfully to keep the Little Feat brand alive however ,and this eclectic new collection features four songs that the keyboardist composed in tandem with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter,along with some stylish contributions from guitarist Fred Tackett and heartfelt covers of Mississippi John Hurt's "Candy Man Blues" and Little Walter's "Mellow Down Easy." Splendid stuff.
The Alan Bown, "Outward Bown" (Cherry Red / Grapefruit CRSE60220)- This interesting historical artefact revives the first album recorded by British psychdelic pop outfit The Alan Bown, serving up stereo and mono mixes of the finished product, which first saw the light of day in 1968 but vanished without a trace when their record company collapsed a few months later. "Outward Bown" remains one of the great lost gems of the psychedelic era,boasting beautifully dated gems such as "We Can Help You," "Toyland" and an impassioned re-working of "All Along The Watchtower," which apparently inspired Jimi Hendrix to cut his own version of the Dylan song.