She’s So Fine: The Rise of the Girl Groups (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 160)
This three-CD set revives a string of timeless pop classics from the golden era of the female vocal group in the late 1950s and early 60s.
This includes offerings from The Crystals, The Chantels and the Marvelettes, whose infectious 1961 hit Please Mr Postman gave Tamla Motown its first US chart-topper.
Their much more illustrious stable-mates The Supremes also make an appearance with two minor hits from the following year in the shape of Your Heart Belongs To Me and Let Me Go The Right Way, but the real stars of the show are New Jersey’s Shirelles, whose sizeable contribution to the proceedings includes Dedicated To The One I Love and Goffin-King’s sublime Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.
Electric Guest: Mondo (Warner Bros)
The debut album from highly regarded Los Angeles duo Electric Guest finds them working with veteran producer Danger Mouse as they mine a rich vein of skilfully crafted electronic pop, revelling in a love of melody that could almost be viewed as an eccentricity in these troubled times.
Some doubts have been expressed as to whether or not British audiences will share their American cousins’ enthusiasm for Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton’s ironically detached brand of music-making. but there’s surely no denying the appeal of stand-out tracks such as Waves and This Head I Hold.
Karl Engel: Mozart Piano Concertos (Teldec 2564 65139 2)
This inexpensive 10-CD box set brings together the complete cycle of Mozart Piano Concertos, drawing on the series of recordings made by Karl Engel and Salzburg’s Mozaretum Orchestra during the latter half of the 1970s.
Engel was very much a “musician’s musican”, and although the Swiss musician may never have enjoyed the popular acclaim showered on many of his contemporaries his interpretations of Mozart’s keyboard masterworks never stray too far from the composer’s original intentions.
They are certainly well worth 11 hours or so of anyone’s time.
Bill Kirchen: Seeds and Stems (Proper PRPCD112)
Seeds and Stems marks the latest step in the long and richly rewarding musical journey which began when singer and guitarist Kirchen helped to found Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen long long ago in 1967.
Their rollicking blend of country music and Western swing put the band at the forefront of the Americana movement long before the term had been invented, and Kirchen is still a prime purveyor of memorable roots music more than four decades later.
He revisits old favourites such as Too Much Fun and the affecting title tune alongside a beguiling revamp of Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.
Kenny Chesney: Life On A Rock (Columbia/Blue Chair Records)
Country superstar Kenny Chesney has already notched up album sales in excess of 30 million, and the memorable Life On A Rock seems destined to become the Tennessee-born tunesmith’s latest chart-topper
It boasts a series of highly personal reflections on life in his relaxed homebase in the Virgin Islands, underpinned by contributions from the venerable Willie Nelson and The Wailers.
The latter outfit strut their stuff on a not-entirely-convincing slice of pseudo-reggae entitled Spread The Love, and Kenny also unveils a heartfelt paean of praise to their former frontman in the shape of Marley.
The crowd-pleasing Pirate Flag and When I See This Bar are the best of the rest.