Kevin Bryan’s CD lowdown

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A LOOK at some of the latest CDs to hit the shelves with Kevin Bryan.

Billy Bragg, ‘Tooth & Nail’ (Cooking Vinyl COOCKCD 580)- The Bard of Barking’s rather belated follow-up to 2008’s ‘Mr. Love and Justice’ signals a return to the mellow rootsy sound which was such an appealing feature of his work with the excellent Wilco on the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ sessions during the late 90s. Times might be hard for many of his devotees these days but overt political comment is limited to a heartfelt cover of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Ain’t Got No Home’ as Billy explores the timeless themes of love and loss via fine tracks such as ‘Handyman Blues’ and ‘Goodbye, Goodbye’.

Johnny Marr, ‘The Messenger’ (Warner NVCD001)-The Mancunian guitarist whose jangling Rickenbacker supplied the signature sound for The Smiths’ run of chart success during the 80s has immersed himself in a succession of collaborative projects since his former outfit’s sad demise,but ‘The Messenger’ represents his first fully fledged solo album. Marr may be no great shakes as a singer or lyricist but his instrumental prowess ensures the success of this eclectic package, with ‘Lockdown’ and ‘New Town Velocity’ emerging as the best of the bunch.

‘Siren’ (Cherry Red / Turpentine TURPD 2) - The criminally under-rated Mr Coyne succumbed to the effects of lung fibrosis in his adopted home of Nuremberg in 2002, leaving behind a string of uncompromising recordings which were notable for their intensity and determined refusal to kowtow to the commercial demands of the rock industry. The late John Peel was one of the first people to recognise this unique songwriting talent,signing Coyne’s band Siren to his relatively short-lived Dandelion label and releasing this excellent debut set in 1969. Their compelling bluesy sound is well represented here by fine bonus tracks such as ‘The Stride’, ‘Mandy Lee’ and ‘Bottle Up And Go’.

‘Verdi:The Great Operas’ (Regis RRC 9012)- This mammoth 18 CD set draws on some classic recordings of Verdi operas from the 50s,showcasing show-stopping performances from luminaries such as Maria Callas,Victoria de Los Angeles and Giuseppe di Stefano among others.As an introduction to the world of opera it’s well nigh faultless,giving newcomers to the genre an opportunity to immerse themselves in the delights of Verdi masterworks such as ‘Aida’, ‘Rigoletto’ and ‘La Traviata’ for the very reasonable asking price of just under £20.

Laibach,’Nova Akropola’ (Cherry Red CD MRED 67)- The enigmatic Slovenian purveyors of almost comically grim industrial rock recorded their second album ,’Nova Akropola’, for Cherry Red in 1985, serving up a radical re-vamp of ‘Mars’ from Holst’s ‘Planets Suite’ alongside a generous helping of the deadpan militaristic fare which had already become their trademark. Laibach’s provocative approach to music-making is probably best experienced in relatively small doses, but their stiffly stentorian exercises in self-parody are well worth hearing nonetheless.