Josh Rouse: The Happiness Waltz (Yep Roc YEP-2283)
Life must seem to be pretty idyllic for Josh Rouse these days.
The gifted Nebraska born singer-songwriter relocated to sunny Spain in 2005, where he built a state-of-the-art home studio so he could indulge his passion for free-flowing melodic pop whenever the urge to indulge in some therapeutic music-making became too strong to resist.
The Happiness Waltz is Rouse’s latest magnum opus, a pleasing throwback to 70s soft rock, boasting easy-on-the-ear creations such as A Lot Like Magic, Julie (Come Out of the Rain) and the deliciously melancholy title track.
McAuley Schenker Group: M.S.G. (Cherry Red HNECD003)
Former Grand Prix vocalist Robin McAuley was originally recruited by Michael Schenker in the mid-80s as a humble sideman, but the relationship between the two men blossomed so rapidly that Robin was soon sharing equal billing with the oddball German guitarist.
1992’s M.S.G. was the final studio album the duo recorded together, as the onset of the grunge phenomenon put paid to their hopes of achieving rock stardom in the USA, despite the undoubted quality of radio-friendly hard rock anthems such as Eve, When I’m Gone and Lonely Nights.
Big Country: The Journey (Cherry Red CDBRED 566)
Big Country effectively ceased to exist as a performing unit when creative mainstay Stuart Adamson died in a Hawaii hotel room in 2001, but founder members Bruce Watson and Mark Brzezicki are still striving manfully to keep the band’s name alive.
The duo enlisted former Alarm frontman Mike Peters to fill the gaping void left by Stuart’s sad demise, and Simple Minds’ bassist Derek Forbes and Bruce’s son Jamie also make telling contributions to a workmanlike set which comes closest to recapturing the distinctive Big Country sound on the rousing Return.
Devon Allman: Turquoise (Ruf RUF 1186)
The Allman Brothers Band were the leading lights of America’s Southern rock renaissance during the early 70s, and their genetic inheritance lives on in the shape of this rather belated solo debut from singer/guitarist Devon Allman.
This soulful performer is the son of six-times-married Allmans keyboard ace Gregg, and Turquoise builds on his recent work with blues-rock supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood.
It serves up a gritty cover of Tom Petty’s Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around alongside a nicely varied assortment of self-penned songs.
Lol Coxhill & Morgan Fisher: Slow Music (Cherry Red CDMRED537)
This fairly cerebral collaboration between free-thinking sax player Coxhill and master tape manipulator and former Mott the Hoople stalwart Morgan Fisher first saw the light of day in 1980, and found the two men making use of a series of innovative studio techniques to create sound collages loosely based on pieces such as Handel’s Largo and Lol’s 1970 single Pretty Little Girl.
The finished product has been cited as a major influence on electronic bands of the time such as Japan, with Yellow Magic Orchestra, but its minimalist, ambient sound remains very much an acquired taste.