Kevin Bryan’s Record Review

Gene Vincent, “Race With The Devil” (Metro Select METRSL039)- Leather clad rocker Vincent made an immediate impact on the public consciousness when his self-penned debut single, “Be-Bop-A Lula” soared into the higher reaches of the U.S. singles charts in 1956. Gene would sadly never enjoy the same level of commercial success again, but he did bequeath a fine body of work to posterity, and this anthology wisely concentrates on the Virginia born singer’s hugely influential fifties output, with reluctant rock’n’roller Cliff Gallup’s stinging guitar solos illuminating prime cuts such as “Blue Jean Bop,” “Race With The Devil” and “Who Slapped John” before this unassuming character slipped out of the limelight and took up a rather more prosaic new life as a school maintenance man.

Pepe Romero,”Spanish Nights” (D.G.479 0073)- Pepe Romero may have been based in America since his family fled from Franco’s culturally stifling regime in 1957, but the vision of an idealised Spain still colours many of his fondest childhood memories , and “Spanish Nights” represents Pepe’s musical homage to that vanished world of his youth. The veteran classical guitarist’s first solo album for Deutsche Grammophon finds Romero immersing himself in the musical culture of his homeland as he serves up exquisite performances of some highly evocative works by composers such as Rodrigo, Torroba and Joaquin Turina.

Johnny Cash,”The Essential Collection” (Metro METRSV002)- Anthologies of Johnny Cash’s late fifties output have found their way onto the market with monotonous regularity in recent years, but what lifts this new 3 disc set above the level of the mundane is the inclusion of a live DVD recorded at the 1994 Montreux Jazz Festival. “The Man In Black” marked his only appearance at this prestigious musical event by delivering a compelling set showcasing some choice extracts from his “American Recordings” album alongside well worn old favourites like “Folsom Prison Blues,” “San Quentin” and “I Walk The Line,” with his wife June Carter Cash chipping in on vocals on two more stand-out tracks, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Jackson.”

Suzanne Vega,”Close-Up Vol.4,Songs of Family” (Cooking Vinyl COOKCD524)- This highly regarded singer-songwriter has spent the past few years exploring the bulk of her back catalogue in the critically acclaimed “Close-Up” series, turning in stripped down and intimate versions of many of her finest songs in the process. This new Cooking Vinyl CD completes the process in fine style, reviving and re-imaging material relating to Suzanne’s family and close personal friends, including one of her earliest creations, “The Silver Lady,” which the gifted New Yorker penned at the tender age of just 14.

Paul Weller,”Sonik Kicks” (Island 278 980 5)- On the evidence presented by Weller’s latest Island album there appears to be very little likelihood of this determined character reaching for his comfiest slippers and settling for a life of middle-aged mediocrity any time soon.”Sonik Kicks” is a typically hectic and forward looking offering from the former Jam frontman , boasting guest appearances from Britpop luminaries such as Graham Coxon and Noel Gallagher as it draws on elements of everything from krautrock to psychedelia,reggae and jazz. The finished product reflects Weller’s restless refusal to ever take the soft option in his approach to music-making, with “That Dangerous Age,” “When Your Garden’s Overgrown” and the abrasive “Green” emerging as three of the stand-out tracks.