Kevin Bryan reviews new music, compilations and re-released gems.
Simple Minds: Big Music
Scotland’s prime purveyors of widescreen stadium-rock are much less prolific on the recording front these days, but Jim Kerr and company have finally been tempted back into the studio for the first time since the release of 2009’s Graffiti Soul, and this typicaly expansive offering is the result.
It would be a trifle unrealistic to expect Simple Minds to spring too many surprises on their devotees at this advanced stage of their career but Big Music still succeeds in serving up a string of powerful and passionate rock anthems for your listening pleasure nonetheless, with the forthcoming single Honest Town emerging as the best of the bunch.
The Everly Brothers: The Very Best of the Everly Brothers
The Everlys’ distinctive brand of tunefully harmonised pop has been the subject of countless compilations over the years, and this new two-CD set explores very familiar territory as it revives the cream of their output from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Don and Phil’s smoothly expressive approach to music-making also went on to influence performers such as Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles during their formative years, and although the duo’s personal relationship may have grown increasingly fractious as the years wore on their classic early recordings have lost little of their pristine melodic charm with the passage of time.
Various: Look Again To The Wind – Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited
Johnny Cash’s 1964 long-player Bitter Tears must have been one of the first concept albums as it explored the sad plight of the Native American population via eight songs which helped to forge the singer’s reputation as a campaigner for human dignity and, in this case, long overdue social justice.
Producer Joe Henry has enlisted the aid of some of the leading lights of America’s roots music fraternity to breathe new life into this impressive song cycle half a century after its intital release, with the likes of Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch making telling contributions to a splendid package which also features Cash’s old friend Kris Kristofferson on The Ballad of Ira Hayes.
Various: The Blues
The contents of this compelling collection showcase some of the finest examples of urban and country blues that you could ever wish to hear, drawing on archive recordings from many of the leading lights of the genre.
The impact that many of these performers made on mainstream pop and rock music during the 1950s and 1960s simply can’t be overstated, and this inexpensive two-CD set features memorable contributions by everyone from legendary Delta bluesmen Robert Johnson and Son House to innovative harmonica ace Little Walter and guitar boogie specialist John Lee Hooker, who chips in with his 1948 R&Bb hit Crawlin’ King Snake.