Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Billy Bragg: Live at The Union Chapel, London (Cooking Vinyl)
The atmospheric Union Chapel in Islington provided the venue for a very special Billy Bragg concert in June 2013, as the Bard of Barking and his impressive band regaled their London audience with some choice extracts from his recently released album, Tooth & Nail, and a generous helping of classic creations from his illustrious back catalogue.
Bragg’s approach to music-making may be a little more mellow and folksy these days but the passage of time hasn’t dimmed the impact of emotionally charged ditties such as Between The Wars or Never Buy The Sun, and this splendid CD/DVD package closes with Billy’s solo rendition of the entire Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy album.
Rachel Sweet: B-A-B-Y (RPM Retro D 939)
The precocious Miss Sweet was just 16 years old when she recorded her debut album, Fool Around, for Stiff Records in 1978, leaning heavily on the creative input of mildly eccentric writer-producer Liam Sternberg of Walk Like An Egyptian fame.
The venture wasn’t an unqualified success but the contents certainly repay closer investigation, and they make an appearance here alongside the rest of the quirkily memorable material that this gifted native of Akron, Ohio, recorded in tandem with The Rumour and The Blockheads during her two-year sojourn with Stiff, including fine tracks such as Wildwood Saloon, Truckstop Queen and It’s So Different Here.
The Albion Dance Band: I Got New Shoes Revisited (Talking Elephant TECD 235)
Many of England’s finest folk-rock performers have passed through the Albion Band’s ranks since Ashley Hutchings assembled the original line-up in 1971 to provide the instrumental underpinning for his then wife Shirley Collins’ No Roses album, and this 1988 offering featured telling contributions from vocalist Polly Bolton and Show of Hands’ Phil Beer.
Hutchings remained firmly at the helm, however, wielding his trusty bass and penning seven of the tracks as the band served up a beguiling blend of eclectic songs and rumbustious dance tunes, with Trip To Bath and the poignant I Only Wanna Dance With You emerging as the best of the bunch.