The latest record reviews, by Kevin Bryan
Barclay James Harvest, “Glasnost” (Esoteric ECLEC2 2384)- BJH first established their impeccable prog rock credentials when they recorded a string of excellent but sadly under appreciated albums for the Harvest label in the early 1970s.
As is so often the case the band’s popularity seemed to grow exponentially just as their creative spark began to fizzle out, and their increasingly bland repertoire had already won the hearts of audiences on both sides of the German political divide by the time that their open-air show in East Berlin’s Treptower Park was preserved for posterity in July 1987.
This newly expanded and remastered two-CD set showcases the entire concert, with old favourites “Mockingbird,” “Medicine Man” and “Poor Man’s Moody Blues” emerging as the best of the bunch.
Willie Nelson and Family, “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” (Sony Music)- Willie has always marched to the beat of a different drummer in his approach to music-making, and this celebration of the great man’s 80th birthday offers up a typically eclectic and unpredictable selection of songs for your listening pleasure.
Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” and jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt’s classic “Nuages” are both given the distinctive Nelson treatment, and the languid Texan also glides effortlessly through The Platters’ “Twilight Time” and tuneful 1930s gems such as “South of the Border” and “Walking My Baby Back Home” with the understated charm which has become his trademark.
Steve Earle & The Dukes (and Duchesses), “The Low Highway” (New West Records) - This is the 15th studio album that the Texan singer-songwriter has released since he burst on to the country-rock scene in 1986 with the infectious “Guitar Town,” and tracks such as “Down The Road” and “The Low Highway” have obviously been informed by Earle’s experiences on the road as an inveterate touring musician.
His parallel careers as an actor and novelist mean that time is always at a premium as far as Steve’s recording exploits are concerned but there’s certainly nothing rushed about this heartfelt new offering, and the self-confessed “redneck socialist” has rarely been captured in finer fettle than this.
“1962 British Hit Parade Parts 1 & 2” (Fantastic Voyage FVSD 152/153) - Music historian Stuart Coleman’ latest series of anthologies focuses attention on every single that managed to scrape into the British charts during the dim and distant year of 1962.
The Crystals, Four Seasons and The Beatles all made their first appearance in the Top 30 half a century ago, and they share the limelight here with gems from the likes of Carole King, Elvis Presley and The Tornados.
The two five-CD sets also feature quite a few offerings which should really have been consigned to the dustbin of history, including long forgotten ditties from the likes of Ray Bennett, Valerie Mountain and The Clyde Valley Stompers.
Shawn Phillips, “Rumplestiltskin’s Resolve” (Talking Elephant TECD 212) - Phillips’ unique musical gifts first attracted public attention when he played guitar on Donovan’s 1965 album “Fairy Tale,” and the Texan singer-songwriter went on to record a string of critically-acclaimed solo albums for the A&M label during the following decade, although record sales sadly remained fairly minimal.
This intense collection was released in 1976, and found Shawn exploiting his impressive four octave vocal range on challenging tracks such as “Today”, “Wailing Wall” and “Serendipity Peace.”