This week’s music releases

Etta James: The Essential Collection
Etta James: The Essential Collection

Kevin Bryan reviews new music, compilations and re-released gems.

Etta James: The Essential Collection

Veteran R&B vocalist Etta James was a frequent visitor to the Montreux Jazz Festival over the years, and this splendid audio-visual package serves up a selection of recordings culled from her various appearances at this prestigious event alongside a DVD capturing her typically compelling performance at the 1993 gathering.

Etta revisited the cream of her illustrious back catalogue for her highly receptive Swiss audience, breathing new life into gems such as I Just Want To Make Love To You, I’d Rather Go Blind and her soulful signature song, At Last.

Melanie: Candles in the Rain

This enchanting singer-songwriter set first appeared on the market in 1970 and supplied New York-born Melanie Safka with an unexpected UK singles success in the shape of her impassioned revamp of the Stones’ Ruby Tuesday.

It would probably be wise to draw a discreet veil over her annoyingly twee musical adaptation of A A Milne’s Alexander Beetle but the rest of Candles in the Rain is well worth an hour or so of anyone’s time, including the two bonus tracks, the 1940s standard Almost Like Being In Love and a fine cover of Lindisfarne’s Meet Me On The Corner.

Various: Alice in Wonderland and other Rainy Day Girls

Charly’s latest two-CD retrospective explores some of the more obscure psychedelic sounds emanating from America’s Bible Belt during the late 1960s.

Few of the acts involved made any lasting impression on the course of rock history, but their inventive and imaginative offerings perfectly capture the quirkily counter-cultural mood of those far-off times, with The Jerms, The Rugbys and The Strange Bedfellows emerging as the best of a fascinating bunch.

Zoco Duo: Historias

This absorbing collaboration between classical guitarist Jacob Cordover and oboe and cor anglais player Laura Karney draws its subject matter from a variety of highly evocative sources, including the Spanish songs of Joaquin Rodrigo and the melancholy tango of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla among others.

The finished product is exotic, atmospheric and appealingly multi-textured, and should be required listening for open minded music lovers everywhere.