Thursday, 31 July 2014

Nina Simone - Pastel Blues

Wonderful Wail

Listening to this 1964 album just now I realise how little I know of her genius, one aspect of that even in the production of these tracks at this time - sounding very 'modern' in their instrumentations and rhythms [over-simplifying, I know]. It is the vocal that truly amazes [ditto] in its strength and those reverberations at times. Most on this album is piano-led blues, and her rendition of Strange Fruit is as blue as it gets, but two tracks that stand out even above this excellence are the ten minute wonderful rant Sinnerman, and the hypnotic chant Be My Husband - the way her voice keeps breaking into those falsetto wails.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Will Kimbrough - Sideshow Love

Main Stage Quality

This is a strong singer-songwriter album with many bluesy acoustic tracks providing thoughtfully familiar vehicles for thoughtfully familiar narratives about life and love in the best of this tradition. What I like in particular are the slower and beautifully structured ballads like Soulfully, I Want Too Much, Has Anybody Seen My Heart, the gorgeous I Can Count On You with its sweet descending lines, the harmony of Who Believes in You, and the reverb lullaby of closer Emotion Sickness. These are lovely melodies.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Blues Pills - Blues Pills

Marvelously Medicated

With instrumental elements of early Fleetwood Mac, but a raunchier female vocal that latter FM’s Stevie Nicks, Blues Pills has been medicated on the psychedelia and rock of earlier times, mainlined through their growing up, one imagines, so that the musical blood flows quite instinctively. 

The guitar work [by 17 year old Dorian Sorriaux] is at times Peter Green-esque - echoes of The Green Manalishi clearly infused in both opening tracks High Class Woman and Ain't No Change - but Elin Larsson's vocal won't get a namecheck here, just an acknowledgement that it belts out and soars and entices as wonderfully as any other established female precursors. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Ruby - Waiting For Light

Ruby and John

Just listening to Ruby's latest, recorded at her home in Scotland and over some time I think with the title track released back in January/February 2013, and it is exactly as I remember her earlier work in the mid-90s: electronic pulses and static and other noises amongst strident to lush vocals, sometimes multi-tracked - she was one of the first artists in my listening experience to merge this electronica with singer/songwriter traditions. So my fond recollections have been reinforced by this similar offering, but made all the more acceptable and pleasing by her distinctive cover of John Martyn's Go Down Easy. I think John would have been delighted as well.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Mike Mattison - You Can't Fight Love

Soul Echo Two

Quite an array of soul sounds are reflected by this former singer with the Derek Trucks Band, from smooth to funk, and opener You Can't Fight Love has the feel of Al Green, though Mattison's vocal doesn't reach the sweet falsetto, or try to.  There are great guitar solos and horn backings to provide plenty of umph to this solid vocal performance, but the nod to a soulful past is what pleases most because it is presented so well.

Lee Fields - Emma Jean

Soul Echo One

Apparently Lee Fields has been performing since 1969 and perhaps the competition then for good male soul singers was rather daunting, but this latest release has him reasserting his soul credentials with comfortable if not dynamic presence. No one will fill the vacuum left by the passing of Bobby Womack, but Fields does have a similar growl/rasp in his voice [compared otherwise with James Brown] and this is therefore a timely presence in that sad absence, the echo of a distinctive vocal an apt tribute.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Who - Quadrophenia - Live in London

Still Classic

Playing very loud in the background as I continue to mark, this recent live recording of the iconic rock opera is still classic in both performance and creation: Daltry is in fine and deeply fulsome vocal throughout - it is genuinely powerful - and Townsend is as distinctive as ever, especially on tracks like Who Are You and Pinball Wizard. The backing band and singers are exemplary. This is so much more than nostalgic, disc two providing all the 'hits' with wondrous thunder.