Tom Russell, “Aztec Jazz” (Proper PRPCD 113) - If there was any semblance of natural justice left in this benighted world Tom Russell would have become a star of major proportions long long ago,but this almost criminally gifted singer-songwriter sadly remains a relatively obscure figure despite possessing the sort of richly rewarding back catalogue which would put many of his better known contemporaries to shame. The acoustic balladeer’s latest Proper offering was recorded live in Norway last year and finds Tom sharing the stage with his regular guitarist Thad Beckman and the 25 members of the Norwegian Wind Ensemble as they tackle Mats Halling’s newly minted arrangements of some affecting creations from his recent albums, including “Guadalupe,” “Nina Simone” and “East of Woodstock,West of Vietnam.” Splendid stuff.
Scott Cook, “One More Time Around” (Groove Revival GRP006) - Canadian roots troubadour Scott Cook was earning a living in the rather unlikely setting of a Taiwanese kindergarten when he made the momentous decision to abandon his teaching career and embark on the much more uncertain life of a travelling musician. The past six years have found him roaming the backroads of North America rather like a 21st century Woody Guthrie, releasing the occasional low-key album along the way to delight the growing coterie of fans who’ve been charmed by his beguiling vocals and relaxed finger picked guitar work. “One More Time Around” is Scott’s fourth self-styled “love letter to the world,” and stand-out tracks such as “Pass It Along” and “The Poet Game” should help to win a whole host of new converts over to the Alberta based performer’s refreshingly human cause.
Dr. Feelgood, “Taking No Prisoners” (EMI Records) - Manic guitarist Wilko Johnson’s decision to leave the Feelgoods in March 1977 could easily have hastened the band’s demise but Canvey Island’s finest musical exports stubbornly opted to soldier on regardless, swiftly recruiting John “Gypie” Mayo to fill the gaping void left by Wilko’s departure. This handsomely packaged anthology chronicles Mayo’s four-year stint with the supercharged pub rockers in admirable detail, bringing together live and studio recordings, hitherto unreleased tracks and some interesting videos from the era,including a complete “BBC Sight & Sound In Concert” show from December 1977.
The Proclaimers, “The Very Best Of (1987-2012)” (Chrysalis Records)- The Proclaimers first won the hearts of music lovers across the land with the release of 1987’s “This Is The Story,” a stunning debut set whose sublime fusion of raucous tunefulness and righteous indignation marked out the Reid twins as a uniquely Scottish variant on the Everly Brothers. This new anthology features tracks from each of the Auchtermuchty duo’s nine studio albums but it’s their early offerings which still pack by far the greatest punch, most notably “Sunshine on Leith,” “Letter From America” and their sole US hit, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).”
New Order, “Live at Bestival 2012” (Sunday Best Records) - All profits from sales of this triumphant live set will go to the Isle of Wight Youth Trust, which represents a commendable gesture on the part of the current incarnation of New Order. The band were in peerless form at last year’s Bestival shindig as they raided their hugely successful repertoire for gems such as “True Faith,” “Temptation” and “Blue Monday” before closing proceedings with two old Joy Division favourites, “Transmission” and the classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”