Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 (Rhino Records)
This wide-ranging two-CD set features some of the highlights of the two-night guitar festival which was held at New York’s prestigious Madison Square Garden earlier this year.
Clapton masterminds these star-studded charity events every three years to raise much-needed funds for the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, and his latest package includes rousing performances from the likes of the Allman Brothers Band, Taj Mahal and Keith Richards, who shares the stage with Eric for Key To The Highway before the former Cream guitarist revisits his 1960s heyday with the concert finale, Sunshine of Your Love.
The Road To Rock & Roll Vol 2: Dangerous Liasons (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 181)
Stuart Colman’s latest carefully researched anthology focuses attention on some of the vibrant recordings which would have set the toes of American teenagers tapping during the early 1950s as they paved the way for the rock ‘n’ roll explosion which would engulf popular music later in the decade.
The two-CD set serves up a heady blend of hillbilly music, rhythm and blues and western swing, including potent performances from the likes of Hank Williams, T-Bone Walker, Fats Domino and Tiny Bradshaw, whose jump blues opus The Train Kept A-Rollin’ was apparently the first song Led Zeppelin played together when they started out as a band in 1968.
Beth Nielsen Chapman: UnCovered (BNC Records)
This interesting vehicle for the talents of Beth Nielsen Chapman finds the Nashville based singer-songwriter tackling some of the songs which she’s penned for other artists over the years but never actually recorded herself.
Beth is aided and abetted by luminaries such as Duane Eddy, Vince Gill and Kim Carnes of Bette Davis Eyes fame as she applies her personal stamp to memorable ditties such as Simple Things, Sweet Love Shine and Willie Nelson’s 1989 country chart-topper, Nothin’ I Can Do About It Now.
Sweet: The Answer (Angel Air SJPCD 427)
The original incarnation of Sweet ceased to exist when the three remaining members of the 1970s glam rockers’ line-up finally gave up the ghost in 1981, but guitarist Andy Scott still soldiers on with his own version of the band, and this highly sought-after 1992 offering captures the tuneful rockers in particularly tight and punchy form.
The hook-laden contents offer diehard Sweet devotees an enjoyably derivative hour or so of listening pleasure, with Do As I Say and Is It True emerging as the best of the bunch.
Mark Anderson: Von Bulow Volume 2 (Nimbus NI 5907)
Conductor, pianist and composer Hans von Bulow was one of the leading lights of the German musical firmament during the 19th century, but this notoriously difficult character’s keyboard creations are rarely heard these days.
Fellow pianist Mark Anderson has set himself the task of reviving some of these technically taxing works for the benefit of a modern audience, and the seven compositions showcased here capture the melodic fluency and harmonic invention which was such an integral feature of Bulow’s writing.
Lowell Fulson: Trouble,Trouble – The Definitive Early Years Collection (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 176)
Oklahoma-born Fulson may never have enjoyed the status of household name but blues afficiandos won’t need me to remind them this distinctive singer and guitarist has assembled a highly impressive body of work over the years, and this fine three-CD set provides a comprehensive overview of his first two decades as a recording artist.
Compiler Neil Slaven opens proceedings with some of the tracks Fulson laid down for posterity after leaving the US Navy in 1945, and the entertainment level rarely flags from then on as Lowell launches into classic creations such as Blue Shadows, Everyday I Have the Blues and his 1954 showstopper, Reconsider Baby.
The Len Price 3: Nobody Knows (JLM0001)
The Len Price 3 obviously spent their formative years steeped in the mod musical culture of the mid-1960s, and Nobody Knows finds them channelling the spirit of outfits such as The Who and The Kinks to create a rollicking celebration of all that’s best in energised pop.
This effervescent Kent trio are frequently hailed as the best band you’ve never heard of, but this must surely be a temporary state of affairs, as tracks such as Nobody Knows, My Grandad Jim and their epic finale The London Institute are surely much too impressive to be consigned to relative obscurity.
Leonidas Kavakos: Brahms Violin Concerto, Bartok:Rhapsodies (Decca 478 5342)
Athens-born violinist Leonidas Kavakos makes his concerto debut on Decca with this masterly rendition of Johannes Brahms’ monumental creation, aided and abetted by the massed ranks of Lepizig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra and their conductor Riccardo Chailly.
The Greek virtuoso also investigates Bartok’s two highly-evocative Rhapsodies in tandem with piano accompanist Peter Nagy before the duo tackle the great Joseph Joachim’s arrangements of four of Brahms’ hugely popular Hungarian Dances.
Ducks Deluxe: Rockin’ at the Moon (Mystic MYS CD 214)
The pub-rock movement which sprang up in London during the early 1970s provided a refreshingly direct antidote to the cerebral excesses of prog rock, and Ducks DeLuxe were one of the prime exponents of this short-lived genre.
Charismatic frontman Sean Tyla reassembled the band in 2012 to celebrate their 40th anniversary, recording this muscular CD at Putney’s Half Moon to remind listeners of just how potent his old outfit could be in a live context.
Newly recruited guitarist Brinsley Schwarz slotted snugly into their line-up as Tyla and company injected archive gems such as Coast To Coast, Fireball and the Flamin’ Groovies’ Teenage Head with all their old power and panache.
Gabor Farkas: Liszt Sonata in B minor, Verdi paraphrases (Warner Classics)
Classical pianist Farkas obviously feels a natural affinity for the music of his compatriot Franz Liszt, and this absorbing 2008 recital presents a varied selection of keyboard works from the pen of the great Hungarian composer.
Liszt was a great exponent of the art of the transcription, and this CD places his arrangements of melodies from Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Simon Boccanegra alongside the intricate Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 and his dramatic and often wildly expressive Sonata in B Minor.