Record Review with Kevin Bryan

Here are Kevin Bryan’s first record reviews of 2016.

Melanie - Stoneground Words (Morello/Cherry Red)­. This polished and musicianly set was the first, and in many ways the most impressive, of all the fine albums that singer­/songwriter Melanie released during the early 70s. With the notable exception of Pete Seeger’s My Rainbow Race the contents of this excellent 1972 offering were all freshly minted Melanie creations, with an array of top­notch New York session men underpinning reflective gems such as Summer Weaving, Stoneground Words and the gospelly Together Alone.

Shawn Phillips - Perspective (Talking Elephant)­. Shawn Phillips has somehow managed to maintain a musical career spanning more than half a century despite this innovative Texan performer’s obvious disdain for the lure of fame and popularity. The man who was once described by legendary rock impresario Bill Graham as “the best kept secret in the music business” continues to turn out albums of rare intelligence and quality too, and this splendid two-CD set is a typically varied and eclectic offering, boasting a string of exquisitely crafted tracks led by Brilliance, Circles and Silhouettes.

Beans on Toast - Rolling Up The Hill (Xtra Mile Recordings)­. Rolling Up The Hill is the seventh studio set from quirky acoustic balladeer Jay McAllister, captured for posterity in Kansas earlier this year with sympathetic support from husband and wife country duo Truckstop Honeymoon. Jay traditionally releases a new Beans on Toast album each year on his birthday, December 1, and his latest offering is a particularly beguiling piece of work, delivering his refreshingly honest musings on the human condition with the irreverence and folksy wit which has become his trademark.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Simply (Union Square)­. This controversial pop­rock outfit made an immediate impact on the nation’s consciousness when their propulsive debut single, Relax, soared into the higher reaches of the singles charts despite being banned by the powers that be at the BBC. This chart­topping 1983 hit is one of the highlights of Union Square’s nicely packaged 3CD retrospective, alongside the similarly successful follow­up, Two Tribes, and their

distinctively overblown covers of everything from Gerry and the Pacemakers’ Ferry Cross The Mersey to Bruce Springsteen’s anthemic Born To Run.