Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Deep Purple: The Battle Rages On/Come Hell Or High Water (Cherry Red HNECD 037D)
This muscular marriage of live and studio recordings couples the classic Purple line-up’s 1993 album, The Battle Rages On, with a splendid concert package which was captured for posterity in Stuttgart and Birmingham a few months later, drawing on two of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s final live appearances with the British rock institution.
The latter offering is particularly impressive, showcasing the band at their imperious best as they launch into perennial crowd pleasers such as Speed King, Child in Time and their show stopping finale Smoke on the Water.
Chris Spedding: Backwood Progression/The Only Lick I Know (Esoteric ECLEC 2433 / 2434)
Chris Spedding is best remembered these days for his quirkily insistent 1975 hit Motorbikin’, but this supremely versatile session guitarist was arguably at his creative peak when he released these eclectic albums on the Harvest label during the early 1970s.
These newly remastered recordings are now available on CD for the very first time and find Chris serving up some of the most intelligently crafted pop-rock that you could ever wish to hear, including distinctive covers of Dylan’s Please Mrs Henry, Hank Williams’ Honky Tonk Blues and James Carr’s soul classic Dark End of the Street.
Soul City: Los Angeles (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 192)
The latest two-CD anthology from the good people at Fantastic Voyage explores the flourishing soul scene of late 1950s and early 1960s Los Angeles, drawing on recordings culled from the archives of labels such as Aladdin, Liberty, Imperial and Sam Cooke’s SAR.
Stellar performers such as Sly Stone, Johnnie Taylor and Johnny “Guitar” Watson all make telling contributions to a richly rewarding package, and astute compiler Clive Richardson has also found space for gems such as The Valentinos’ infectious Lookin’ For A Love and Don and Dewey’s unusual fiddle-led instrumentals, Soul Motion and Stretchin’ Out.
Doo Wop Revival: The R&B Vocal Group Sound 1961-1962 (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 190)
This fun-packed three-CD anthology focuses attention on no less than 90 peerless examples of vibrant rhythm and blues from the early 1960s, including classic tracks from the likes of The Miracles, The Drifters and The Marcels of Blue Moon fame.
America’s mainstream pop scene may have been in a fairly parlous state during this period but there’s certainly nothing bland or insipid about this soulful package, and soul devotees should be thrilled to discover a teenage Bobby Womack handling lead vocals on The Valentinos’ Lookin’ For A Love and a similarly youthful Wilson Pickett emoting his way through The Falcons’ 1962 hit, I Found A Love, alongside the likes of The Contours’ Do You Love Me and The Isley Brothers’ exhilarating Twist and Shout.
Stone the Crows: Featuring Maggie Bell (Talking Elephant TECD 239)
Stone the Crows made quite an impact on the British music scene during the early 1970s but the untimely death of guitarist and creative mainstay Les Harvey in a tragic accident in 1972 put paid to the Glaswegian blues rockers’ hopes of achieving lasting stardom, although they struggled on for a while with the similarly ill-fated Jimmy McCulloch as Harvey’s replacement.
This griity retrospective concentrates on the band’s earlier recordings, including four tracks from their second and best album, Ode To John Law, led by Sad Mary and Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Argent: In Deep (Talking Elephant TECD 241)
The latest CD re-issue from the good people at Talking Elephant revives the fourth Argent album, which was first released in 1973, hot on the heels of their major singles success with Hold Your Head Up.
The band always seemed to represent a fairly uneasy compromise between singer-guitarist Russ Ballard’s pop sensibilities and keyboardist Rod Argent’s prog-rock pretensions and the musical fault lines were certainly evident here as they served up the highly commercial God Gave Rock and Roll To You and It’s Only Money alongside much more cerebral tracks such as Candles on the River.
Coco Montoya: Songs from the Road (Ruf 1203)
This gifted singer and guitarist has experienced quite a few highs and lows during the course of his long and chequered career, including stints working with veteran bluesmen Albert Collins and John Mayall and a singularly unproductive period working as a bartender in Los Angeles when the creative muse temporarily deserted him during the mid-1980s.
This enjoyable two-CD set in Ruf’s Songs from the Road series captures a Coco Montoya show at Seattle’s Triple Door venue which found him revisiting his impressive back catalogue for compelling tracks such as Gotta Mind To Travel and My Side of the Fence, aided and abetted by Brant Leeper’s splendid organ work.
Colin Cooper Project: From The Vaults (Repertoire REPUK 1199)
Former Climax Blues Band mainstay Cooper recorded this collection of much-loved blues standards at his home studio in Stafford during the lengthy period between 1995 and his death from cancer in 2008.
The tracks were never really intended for commercial release but they’re well worth hearing nonetheless, with Cooper’s mellow vocals and fluent guitar work illuminating old favourites such as Rambling On My Mind, Key To the Highway and It Hurts Me Too.