Kevin Bryan reviews new music, compilations and re-released gems.
The Balham Alligators: Bayou-Degradable
The Alligators’ tasty melange of musical styles was all the rage in London’s pubs and clubs during the early 1980s, leaning heavily on the creative contribution of singer, pianist and accordion ace Geraint Watkins.
This impressive two-CD anthology captures their unique fusion of rock, blues, cajun and country music at its most infectious and appealing, including covers of everything from Bonnie Raiit’s Love Has No Pride to Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode and the Chris Montez hit Let’s Dance, all of them delivered with the maverick charm which always made these irascible characters’ live gigs such an unforgettable experience.
Don McLean: Live in Manchester
This engaging throwback to the golden age of the singer-songwriter was recorded at Manchester’s now sadly defunct Free Trade Hall in October 1991.
The American troubadour regaled his adoring audience with some choice album tracks before revisiting the tuneful gems which captured the hearts of record buyers on both sides of the Atlantic during his commercial heyday in the early 1970s, including Vincent, And I Love You So and his epic pop anthem, American Pie, which is apparently the longest song to ever top the US singles charts.
Lucinda Williams: Back Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
Lucinda Williams’ highly personal approach to quality control has meant she’s never been the most prolific of performers, which makes it all the more surprising that the alt country legend should have released the first double album of a career which now spans more than four decades.
Lucinda’s cracked and deeply vulnerable vocals lend added poignancy to a collection of songs which radiate genuine warmth and humanity, with When I Look At The World, Temporary Nature and a fine cover of the late J J Cale’s Magnolia emerging as three of her most affecting contributions.
Yardbirds: Making Tracks
This mildly diverting audio-visual package was recorded at four separate locations on the Yardbirds’ American tours of 2010 and 2011.
The band’s original rhythm section of Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja supplied the firm foundations for newly minted re-treads of golden oldies such as For Your Love, Shapes of Things and Heart Full of Soul, with youthful lead guitarist Ben King striving manfully to fill the shoes once occupied by rock greats such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.