In the latest of his music reviews, Kevin Bryan reveals what’s hot and what’s not.
Ringo Starr, 2012 (Universal Music)
The former Beatles drummer is obviously a firm believer in the old adage that quality is far more important than quantity, as the overall playing time of his new solo offering clocks in at a little under half an hour. This collaboration with old chums such as Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart and Benmont Tench springs very few musical surprises on the unsuspecting listener , showcasing amiable re-makes of a couple of tracks from his seventies back catalogue in the shape of Wings and “Step Lightly” alongside covers of Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” and Lonnie Donegan’s skiffle classic Rock Island Line. Ringo also reflects on his Merseyside roots with In Liverpool, a wistful exercise in nostalgia which is arguably the highlight of a typically undemanding set.
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball (Columbia Records)
Springsteen’s genuine concern for the often parlous plight of his fellow human beings has fuelled much of his finest work over the years, and no matter what the situation Bruce’s songwriting always seemed to offer hope and a little light at the end of what was often a very long tunnel. That light now seems to have been firmly extinguished on the evidence presented by Wrecking Ball, the first album that he’s recorded without the support of the massed ranks of the E Street Band since 2005’s Devils & Dust. Springsteen’s angry response to the banking crisis is captured in compelling tracks such as Jack Of All Trades, Death To My Hometown and a fine new arrangement of Land of Hope and Dreams.
Cowboy Junkies, The Wilderness (Proper PRPCD099)
The Cowboy Junkies complete their ambitious four album Nomad series with the release of The Wilderness, a languid collection which finds the enigmatic Canadians returning to their alternative folk roots. Vocalist Margo Timmins remains a model of quiet intensity as she delivers a beguiling batch of songs which explore the quest to find substance and meaning from the chaos of modern life. The bulk of the set was penned in late 2007 and early 2008, with “Damaged From The Start” and “Fairytale” emerging as the best of a highly satisfying bunch.
Stackridge, Best Of - Volume Two (Angel Air SJPCD 396)
This splendid anthology was assembled by Stackridge founder members James Warren and Andy Davis,drawing on more than three decades worth of exemplary music-making in the process. The gentle quirkiness which became Stackridge’s trademark peremeates choice offerings from the early seventies such as 32 West Mall, Teatime and the single version of Slark, a rambling fourteen minute epic which the band re-recorded in a drastically pared down form in the vain hope of making an impact on the UK charts long long ago in 1971.
Harmonie Universelle, Vivaldi:La Porta delle Muse (Accent ACC 24266)
Antonio Vivaldi is probably best remembered these days for the ever popular Four Seasons and very little else, but the prolific Venetian actually penned a vast body of work during the course of his lengthy career, including numerous concertos,choral works and operas. This rich and vibrant recital from Baroque specialists Harmonie Universelle explores the unedited original versions of some of the great man’s compositions for violin and strings, including world premiere recordings of four of his creations.