Van Halen, “A Different Kind of Truth” (Polydor Records)- This splendidly assured offering finds flambuoyant frontman David Lee Roth re-visiting former glories as he unveils his first studio album with the band since the excellent “1984” appeared on the scene almost thirty years ago. Roth’s long overdue return to the fold has certainly lent a whole new lease of life to the Van Halen sound , and demon guitarist Eddie Van Halen is in particularly fine fettle here as he indulges in some stunning displays of instrumental wizardry during prime cuts such as “China Town, “ “Bullethead” and “Big River.”
Ten Years After, “Hear Them Calling” (Talking Elephant TECD 188)- Alvin Lee’s energised blues-rock outfit are probably best remembered these days for their show-stopping performance of “I’m Going Home” at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 , a gloriously self-indulgent essay in guitar pyrotechnics which captured the spirit of an era and provided one of the highlights of the subsequent film and audio releases of this legendary event. Ten Years After went on to assemble quite an impressive back catalogue for the Deram label during the late sixties and early seventies, and this fine 2 CD retrospective showcases the cream of their early repertoire, including “Hear Me Calling,” the moodily atmospheric “No Title” and an alternate live version of “I’m Going Home,” although the band’s sizeable 1970 hit, “Love Like A Man” has rather surprisingly been omitted from the package.
Andy Steele, “Night Fishing” (Talking Elephant TECD 189)- Cheshire-born Steele’s deceptively lightweight musings on the human condition have already prompted comparisons with everyone from early Tim Buckley to the multi-talented John Tams, and his new Talking Elephant collection must rank as Andy’s most accomplished offering to date. The finished product is a little reminiscent of the likes of Mumford and Sons at their most gentle and reflective, with “On Kentish Ground, “ “Brevity Lost” and “Dorothy Hare” emerging as the cream of a particularly excellent crop.
Alistair Ogilvy, “Leaves Sae Green” (Greentrax CDTRAX 365)- This subtly under-stated set marks the Greentrax debut of Alistair Ogilvy, a single-minded young folkie who has set himself the considerable task of rescuing Scottish traditional music from its long-standing infatutation with heather,tartan and tweeness in general. “Leaves Sae Green” is certainly a refreshingly cliche free offering , featuring venerable old ballads such as “Earl Richard” and “Bonnie Ship The Diamond” alongside the much more contemporary delights of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country” and the late lamented Davy Steele’s poignant “The Rose O’Summerlee.”
Clodagh Rodgers, “Come Back and Shake Me” (RPM RETRO 905)- This easy on the ear anthology brings together the best of the catchy bubblegum pop creations that Ballymena born Rodgers recorded with American tunesmith Kenny Young during the late sixties and early seventies,including her three greatest chart successes, “Come Back and Shake Me, “ “Goodnight Midnight” and “Biljo.” This relatively short-lived collaboration was obviously a musical marriage made in heaven, and the entire package provides a fascinating outlet for Young’s infectiously commercial approach to music-making.