Our top pop picker pushes his favourite flavours
Pete Brown & Phil Ryan,”Ardours of the Lost Rake & Coals To Jerusalem”(Esoteric ECLEC 22396)- Pete Brown may be best remembered these days as the performance poet who penned the memorably elliptical lyrics for Cream classics such as “I Feel Free,” “White Room” and “Sunshine Of Your Love,” but he also went on to forge a lengthy musical partnership with former Man stalwart Phil Ryan, and this CD re-issue brings together two albums that the duo recorded together in the early nineties. The contents were originally released on Pete’s own label and mine an interesting vein of jazzy prog-rock,although Ryan’s slick keyboard work often seems strangely at odds with Brown’s typically ragged vocal contributions.
“Guitar Moods-The Ultimate Collection” (Deutsche Grammophon 479 1281)- This engaging celebration of the classical guitarist’s art ranges far and wide in its choice of subject matter,drawing on compositions by giants of the genre such as Albeniz,Tarrega and Rodrigo alongside some choice extracts from the Beatles’ songbook in the shape of “Norwegian Wood,” “Here Comes The Sun” and “The Fool on the Hill.” Swedish guitarist Goran Sollscher was responsible for breathing new life into these tuneful slices of Merseybeat, and he’s joined here by illustrious performers such as Narciso Yepes and the great Andres Segovia,whose interpretations of Handel’s “Sarabande” and Bach’s “Courante” are arguably the highlights of the entire set.
The Electric Prunes,”Mass in F Minor/Release of an Oath” (Cherry Red/Morello MRLL 16)- The Electric Prunes first made an impact on the U.S.Charts in 1967 with their classic psychdelic singles,”Get Me To The World on Time” and “I Had Too Much To Dream(Last Night),” but this fairly rough and ready garage band fatally over-reached themselves a year later when they attempted to record the religious themed “Mass in F minor” with producer/arranger David Axelrod. This challenging task proved to be totally beyond them and Axelrod had to rope in a group of session musicians to underpin the Prunes’ vocals ,a policy which he also adopted for the follow-up,”Release of an Oath.” Both albums are flawed but fascinating, and well worth an hour or so of anyone’s time.
Surfer Blood,”Pythons” (Sire/Warner Brothers 2535847)-Surfer Blood’s second album was produced by the redoubtable Gil Norton of Pixies and Foo Fighters fame,and finds the sun-kissed Florida band mining a rich vein of free flowing melodic rock strongly reminiscent of outfits such as Pavement or The Lemonheads. The innovative Guided by Voices have also been a major influence on Surfer Blood’s sound,most notably on “Gravity,” one of the album’s stand-out tracks alongside the mildly derivative “Beyond The Grave” and “I Was Wrong.”
Various Artists, “Young Folks” (Rhino Records)- Rhino’s latest anthology showcases the work of some of the finest artists operating in the acoustic pop and singer-songwriter genres at the moment,including festival favourites such as Damien Rice,Paolo Nutini and Bellowhead to name but a few. The easy on the ear 2CD set is also notable for the quality of the cover versions on offer,with Ellie Goulding’s “Your Song” and James Vincent McMorrow’s revamp of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” emerging as the best of an attractive bunch alongside Midlake’s “Roscoe” and Fleet Foxes’ “Mykonos.”