The Blasters, American Music / Trouble Bound (Retroworld FLOATM 6130)
This tight and tasteful Californian band first made their mark on the West Coast punk scene in the early eighties, drawing on their varied musical influences to create an early brand of Americana that was as infectious and compelling as it was commercially unsuccessful. American Music first saw the light of day in 1980 and featured a fine blend of Dave Alvin creations and inspired covers, including the original version of the Shakin’ Stevens hit, Marie Marie. Alvin left the band in 1986 to pursue a solo career, but he was tempted to return to the fold in 2002 to record Trouble Bound, an energised live set which found The Blasters breathing new life into much loved old favourites such as Long White Cadillac, Red Rose and Billy Boy Arnold’s I Wish You Would.
Brewer & Shipley, Down in LA (Cherry Red / Now Sounds CRNOW 32)
Midwestern folk rock duo Brewer and Shipley finally enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame when One Toke Over The Line soared into the higher reaches of the US singles charts in 1971, but three years earlier they had been earning a living as jobbing songwriters with A&M’s publishing offshoot, Good Sam Music. The pair’s innate abilities as performers in their own right were soon spotted by the powers that be at A&M, and this album was assembled with a star studded musical line-up featuring top notch session men such as drummer Jim Gordon, guitarist James Burton and keyboard ace Leon Russell, finally hitting the record stores of America in October 1968. The finished product was much less commercial than their later vinyl output and notched up fairly minimal sales as a result, although it remains an interesting period piece nonetheless.
Matching Mole, Matching Mole (Esoteric ECLEC 22311)
This two CD set focuses attention on the short-lived prog rock outfit formed by drummer Robert Wyatt after his departure from Soft Machine, expanding the original contents of their 1972 debut album with the inclusion of some hitherto unreleased alternate takes and two tracks culled from radio sessions early the same year. Wyatt penned the bulk of the rather cerebral material on offer here, although the songwriting duties were shared with former Caravan keyboardist Dave Sinclair on the affecting O Caroline, a charmingly lightweight ode to lost love which provides an ideal vehicle for Robert’s cracked and vulnerable vocal delivery.
UFO, Too Hot To Handle - The Very Best of (Music Club Deluxe MCDLX140)
This inexpensive two CD anthology traces the career of UFO, the refreshingly direct British rock band who have influenced a whole host of aspiring young musicians in the four decades which have slipped by since their formation long, long ago in 1969. The mid seventies was in many ways UFO’s creative heyday, and this highly productive period in their career is well represented here by fine tracks such as Doctor Doctor and Rock Bottom. It is also gratifying to note that the radio friendly rockers are still going strong in 2012, with frontman Phil Mogg now well into his sixties and arguably sounding better than ever.
Pierre Fournier and Friedrich Gulda, Beethoven: Complete Works for Cello and Piano (Regis RRC 2092)
The collaboration between jazz loving Viennese pianist Gulda and lyrical French cellist Pierre Fournier may not at first glance have seemed like a musical marriage made in heaven, but this apparently ill-matched pairing actually proved surprisingly successful, and these recordings find them operating at the peak of their performing powers. The contents were captured for posterity by Deutsche Grammophon in 1959 and these peerless recordings have now been digitally remastered and released at super budget price by the good people at Regis Records, making this an essential purchase for devotees of Beethoven’s chamber music everywhere.