Kevin Bryan’s music review - 24th April

“Big River Big Songs - The Tyne” (MWMDVD 78)- This undemanding celebration of Tyneside’s rich musical heritage is presented by Eric Robson and Emmerdale’s Charlie Hardwick and ranges far and wide in its choice of subject matter, drawing on performances from such unlikely bedfellows as Mark Knopfler , AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and operatic baritone Sir Thomas Allen,who tackles “The Hexhamshire Lass” and “Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny.” The overall feel of the DVD is rather reminiscent of a hastily cobbled together regional television documentary but the excellent Pete Scott’s poignant “Mally Didn’t Come” is well worth investigating,as are two classic performances from the Lindisfarne archives, “Meet Me On The Corner” and the inevitable “Fog on the Tyne.”

Fish, “Songs From The Mirror” (Talking Elephant TECD193)- This polished collection of covers first saw the light of day in 1993, and found the former Fish frontman paying homage to some of his musical influences as he revived an assortment of seventies gems such as the Moody Blues’ “Question,” Alex Harvey’s “Boston Tea Party” and Genesis’ “I Know What I Like” with varying degrees of success.The suggestion that Fish conceived this project simply as a way of fulfilling his contractual obligations to Polydor Records at the time has never really been rebutted, but “Songs From The Mirror” remains a highly listenable CD nonetheless.

Ronnie Spector,” Unfinished Business” (Lemon CDLEM 18)- A slickly produced album of archetypal eighties power ballads from the former Ronettes chanteuse, boasting arguably the finest work that she’d done since her golden era in the early sixties. Her collaboration with The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs on “Dangerous” is particularly impressive, and Ronnie also turns in a fine dance orientated version of the Elvis hit “Burnin’ Love,” but the real highpoint of this CD re-issue is the bonus track,a sparkling treatment of Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” which she’d recorded in 1977 with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

“Contraband” (Celtic Folk ERSE 1)- An interesting folk-rock set from 1974 featuring the work of Contraband, a young six piece band who set out to establish themselves as Scotland’s answer to Fairport Convention but sadly gave up the ghost soon after this album was released. Their repertoire of ancient and modern ballads and sprightly electrified jigs has lost little of its charm with the passage of time, and “The Banks of Claudy” and “On The Road” capture Contraband at their brilliant best , with the 18 year old Mae McKenna’s superb vocals setting the seal on this unjustly overlooked archive offering.

Heather Nova, “300 Days At Sea” (Salt Water 6015665624)- Heather Nova’s eighth studio set was recorded in the Bermudan singer-songwriter’s home on a small rocky island using only solar power, which tended to focus the attentions of all concerned on the job in hand . “300 Days At Sea” also re-united Heather with the musicians and production team who’d worked on her highly impressive “Oyster” and “Siren” albums more than a decade earlier ,and the finished product must have exceeded everyone’s expectations, with “Higher Ground, “ “The Good Ship Moon” and “Turn The Compass Ground” emerging as the pick of an intense and compelling package.