Kevin Bryan’s music review - 16th April

In his latest review, Kevin Bryan tells us what’s hot in the music scene.

Decameron, Say Hello To The Band (Esoteric ECLEC 2320)

Decameron’s contribution to the English folk-rock scene during the early seventies has never really received the recognition that it deserves, so it would be a great pity if this re-issue of the band’s splendid debut set were to slip by unnoticed too. Decameron had already been honing their skills on the folk club circuit for several years when Say Hello To The Band appeared on the Vertigo label in 1973, showcasing the tuneful and eclectic sound which founder member Dave Bell memorably described as having one foot in Tin Pan Alley and the other on the village green. Innocent Sylvester Prime and the dramatic narrative of Byard’s Leap capture the quartet at their most compelling.

Janis Ian, Live: Working Without A Net (Edsel EDSD 2065)

This richly rewarding live anthology draws on recordings made at a variety of venues on both sides of the Atlantic between 1990 and 2003,including heartfelt performances of many of her finest songs. The moody introspection of classic creations such as Stars and At Seventeen contrasts nicely with the much more whimsical charms of Cosmopolitan Girl and Boots Like Emmy Lou’s, and the inventive New Yorker also breathes new life into Society’s Child, the barbed slice of social commentary which the fourteen year old Janis Ian had penned in 1965 and which finally entered the higher reaches of the U.S. singles charts when it was released for the third time two years later.

Matthew Fisher, A Salty Dog Returns (Angel Air SJPCD 389)

Keyboard ace Fisher is probably best remembered these days as the musician who provided the memorable Hammond organ sound on Procol Harum’s early vinyl output, including gems such as A Salty Dog and A Whiter Shade of Pale. Matthew left the band in 1969 to embark on an ill-fated solo career, and by the time that this album was released in 1994 he’d jettisoned the instrument which had earned him so many critical plaudits to assemble a selection of painfully insipid synthesised instrumentals whose appeal is unlikely to extend beyond the most fanatical of Procol Harum devotees.

Stokowski, Percy Grainger Favourites (Cala CACD 0542)

An evocative anthology from the great Leopold Stokowski and his Symphony Orchestra, serving up the complete contents of his 1950 collaboration with Percy Grainger alongside works by Ibert, Debussy, Sibelius and Vaughan Williams. The latter’s Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis has always been one of the most popular pieces in the twentieth century orchestral canon, and Stokowski turns in a highly individual interpretation of this much loved work in a 1952 recording featuring several of the New York Philharmonic’s finest soloists at the time,including cellist Leonard Rose.

Jefferson Starship, The Best of Mick’s Picks (Retroworld FLOATD6127)

This new 2 CD set from Retroworld presents followers of this rather erratic rock institution with a selection of live tracks from the Jefferson Starship archives. The distinctly patchy contents span the years between 1999 and 2005, including numbers recorded at the Cavern in Liverpool and B.B.King’s Blues Club in New York by an assortment of musicians including veteran frontmen Marty Balin and Paul Kantner and Tubes drummer Prairie Prince, with charismatic vocalist Grace Slick’s absence most keenly felt during classic sixties anthems such as White Rabbit and Somebody To Love.