Kevin Bryan’s record review - December 17th

In his latest weekly music review, Kevin Bryan gives us his thoughts on the latest album reviews.

String Driven Thing, “The Machine That Cried” (Esoteric ECLEC2346)- These prime purveyors of portentous prog rock actually began life as a Scottish folk group in the late sixties, but the addition of demon fiddler Grahame Smith to their ranks a few years later propelled the band in a much more interesting musical direction,and this splendid offering must rank as their crowning glory. “The Machine That Cried” actually prompted a good deal of collective head-scratching at their record label when the quintet delivered it to them for release in 1973,as the powers that be at Charisma felt that songwriter Chris Adams rather morose world view was unlikely to win over too many new converts to their cause. Nothing could have been further from the truth however,and “Sold Down The River” and the title track capture String Driven Thing at their bleakly memorable best.

Huey and the New Yorkers,” Say It To My Face” (Naim NAIMCD180)-Native New Yorker Huey Morgan has developed into something of a Renaissance man since he made the decision to cross the pond and set up home in London a decade or so ago, and the streetwise Fun Lovin’ Criminals frontman is now firmly established as one of British radio’s most popular DJs. The gritty singer and guitarist has just released his first solo album and it’s a pleasingly eclectic affair, showcasing Morgan’s growing maturity as a writer and performer as Huey’s sterling efforts are underpinned by some telling instrumental contributions from his old friends in the Tangier Blues Band and veteran pedal steel guitarist B.J.Cole.

“Last Shop Standing”(Blue Hippo/Proper PFILMS004)- This timely new DVD highlights the perilous plight of Britain’s independent record shops, whose ranks have been decimated during the past decade by the twin threats of predatory supermarket pricing and online file sharing. Notable talking heads such as Billy Bragg,Johnny Marr and Paul Weller supply their reminiscences of these endangered musical institutions,and the whole shebang is held together by the knowledgeable presence of Graham Jones,whose book of the same name provided the inspiration for the whole project.

Wishbone Ash, “Live in Geneva 1995”(Angel Air SJPCD402)- Guitarist Andy Powell was the only original member remaining in the Wishbone Ash line-up when the band set out to mark their 25th anniversary with a show at the Rock Heroes Festival in April 1995.Powell and his newly recruited cohorts delivered a crisply performed jaunt down memory lane for their appreciative Swiss audience , with their familiar twin guitar sound gracing much loved old favourites such as “The King Will Come,” “Blind Eye” and “Blowin’ Free.”

Claudio Arrau, “Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas” (Decca 478 3694)-The great Chilean pianist built up a vast and varied repertoire during the course of a career which spanned more than half a century, but he always felt a particular affinity for the music of Beethoven, and this weighty anthology draws on the great man’s complete cycle of piano sonatas. Arrau’s distinctive blend of fervour and restraint informs these highly acclaimed archive recordings from the early sixties,and as an added bonus the compilers have also included the “Diabelli Variations” from a decade or so earlier.