Reviews

PAT METHENY: 'Day Trip' (Label: Nonesuch)

Saturday, 05 April 2008 10:39 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

PAT METHENY: 'Day Trip'

The fact that he scored a UK Top 20 pop hit in an unlikely collaboration with rock icon David Bowie on 'This Is America' and yet could convincingly push the free jazz envelope with iconoclastic saxophonist Ornette Coleman via 'Song X' cemented Pat Metheny's reputation early on as a musical chameleon with a predilection for risk-taking. Thus in a long career characterised by unusual twists and turns, this session featuring ubiquitous bassist Christian McBride and drummer, Antonio Sanchez, might seem a tad orthodox - mundane even - but the sheer quality of the trio's musicianship results in a veritable feast for the ear. Compared with the panoramic vistas of the recently reissued 'Secret Story,' 'Day Trip's' pastel-hued chamber jazz offers a more intimate, contemplative ambience. This is epitomised by the plaintive simplicity of the Hurricane Katrina-inspired song, 'Is This America?' Other highlights include 'At Last You're Here' with its sweet sense of bucolic lyricism and the propulsive 'Let's Move,' which is driven by a frenetic flurry of fretboard notes from Metheny. An excellent set from the jazz guitar doyen.
(CW) 4/5

 

HAROLD McNAIR: 'The Fence' (Label: Hux Records)

Saturday, 05 April 2008 10:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

HAROLD McNAIR: 'The Fence'

An early death - he succumbed to lung cancer aged just 39 in 1971 - undoubtedly robbed this talented Jamaican-born alto saxophone player and flautist of wider recognition. Though revered by the jazz cognoscenti - and some rock fans, who might recall his role as co-founder of Ginger Baker's Air Force - McNair is now a largely forgotten figure (though a few well-read pop music anoraks will remember McNair's role as a sideman on several records by psychedelic folk singer, Donovan, in the late-'60s). McNair arrived in the UK in 1961 after a stint with Quincy Jones in the States and immediately made an impact with British jazz fans. A year prior to his demise, B&C Records issued this excellent album, where McNair leads an octet including pianist Keith Tippett and the durable Danny Thompson on bass. Highlights include the mesmeric title track - which has a laidback Grant Green-esque type groove - the rock-tinged epic modal jazz of 'Early In The Morning' and a bucolic, flute-led rendition of the antique folk song, 'Scarborough Fair.' McNair also throws in a jazzed-up 12-minute version of the Fab Four's 'Here, There & Everywhere' as a closer. The original, very collectable, vinyl version of this album is extremely hard to find - so now, thanks to Hux Records, jazz buffs can snap up this lost classic for a small fraction of the exorbitant ebay price.
(CW) 4/5


 

HEIDI: The Love Album (Label: Havavision)

Saturday, 05 April 2008 10:08 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

HEIDI: The Love Album

Here's an oddity - a quiet storm, love concept album from a woman's point of view. The woman in question here is Heidi Spiliopoulos and working with producer Steve Wellington she's put together a feminine equivalent to the stuff that Barry White, Marvin Gaye and Teddy P did so well back in the day. The problem, though, is that Heidi's voice is clearly not in the same league as those aforementioned superstars. Don't get me wrong, it's pleasant enough but a little lightweight and it's no coincidence that the album's strongest track is a duet with someone called Von Qwest. The song in question is 'You Know I'm Ready'. Written by Andrew Roachford, it has a steady mid-tempo rhythm and might pleasure some sophisticated soul dancers. In truth, there's little else here that would detain them - unless of course their dancing was of a more horizontal kind. Yes, there are lashings of quiet storm moments here. Gentle songs like 'Love' and 'You Take Me There' have a real lazy, laconic feel to them and remind me of Leon Ware in his 'Musical Massage' era. They're all about creating an overall atmosphere and as such don't stand too strongly on their own. 'Only Love Goes On' is maybe the LP's most complex cut - almost jazzy, while the spoken 'People Unite' reminds us that real love is not all about getting it on. However my contention is that the love (carnal or social) concept LP has been done better many times before and will be done better in the future. In the meantime, though, if you want to check it out go to www.soulchoonz.com.
(BB) 2/5

 

VARIOUS: 'Funky Nassau - The Compass Point Story 1980-1986' (Label: Strut)

Friday, 04 April 2008 10:24 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: 'Funky Nassau - The Compass Point Story 1980-1986'

In the early '80s, I was listening to a lot of records emanating from Chris Blackwell's Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. Blackwell, of course, was the boss of Island Records back then - before it was devoured by the voracious Universal group - and his roster at that time included an eclectic mix of artists, ranging from reggae icon, Bob Marley, and Irish post-punk band, U2, to ex-Vinegar Joe man Robert Palmer, singer/songwriter John Martyn and US new wavers, the B-52s. Most of all, it was Blackwell's interest in black music - and particularly reggae - that interested me. As well as Bob Marley, Blackwell's roster included reggae trio, Black Uhuru, ex-model-turned-singer and soon-to-be actress Grace Jones, Stateside soul singer Gwen Guthrie and Scottish dance/funk group, Set The Tone. Many of the records by those acts were cut at Compass Point, where the house band was built around the solid, in-the-pocket grooves laid down by the legendary twosome comprising bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar. As this fascinating compilation on the re-activated Strut label illustrates, the grooves coming out of Compass Point were tough, sinewy and bass-heavy and often fused with the experimentalism and post-new wave sensibilities of idiosyncratic acts like Talking Heads (the group's funk-fuelled 'Born Under Punches' is included here). The set kicks off with the extended version of Grace Jones's jaunty 'My Jamaican Guy' and includes Tom Tom Club's seminal proto hip-hop groove, 'Genius Of Love' as well as Larry Levan's mix of Gwen Guthrie's dance floor classic, 'Padlock.' Set The Tone - a group that was hyped-up beyond belief and still failed to deliver the goods in terms of sales - are represented by the Francois Kevorkian mix of their single 'Dance Sucker.' Of the oddities that were recorded at Compass Point, you'll find Ian Dury and The Blockheads' controversial 'Spasticus Autisticus' and a dub version of Will Powers' 'Adventures In Success.' Listeners fascinated by early '80s dance music will find much to interest them here in this richly variegated collection.
(CW) 3/5

 

VAN MORRISON: Keep It Simple (Label: Exile, Polydor)

Friday, 04 April 2008 05:39 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VAN MORRISON: Keep It Simple

'Keep It Simple' is Van Morrison's first album of all-new material since 2005 and it's the first in a while where all the songs are his own. But despite what might appear to be some kind of an "originality sabbatical", the Morrison sound remains essentially the same as it ever was. He uses the same musical, lyrical, and philosophical ingredients that he's relied on throughout his career and produced the same mesmerising mix of blues, jazz, soul, and country, all tempered with a deep-felt Celtic sensitivity. There's also no surprise in the fact that though the album's called 'Keep It Simple' there's nothing here that's actually that simple. Even the superficially basic blues opener 'How Can A Poor Boy' shows the complexities that make Morrison one of the few contemporary artists who can still genuinely challenge… and "contemporary" and "challenge" are the key words here. On the lovely and light 'That's Entrainment' for instance, he takes full flight - insisting that the connections his music makes are for the moment… the here and now and not some idyllically -perceived history. It's clear that the past - be it Belfast, New York, Woodstock, LA, San Francisco, even the cosy Cotswolds have impacted on him, but his new music is all about contemporary connection. 'Behind The Ritual' is another of the LP's challenges, with its complex references to the historical symbolism of wine throughout history, while 'Soul' tries to define what is almost indefinable. Elsewhere 'Song Of Home' is a delicious blend of country and Celtic influences, 'Don't Go To Nightclubs Anymore' (with nodding mentions of Mose Allison and Georgie Fame) will bring some solace to all of us as our years advance, and 'Lover Come Back' is one of Morrison's most soulful laments. And let's be clear, Van Morrison's music is all about soul. It might not be classed as "soul" in the record store racks, but on 'Keep It Simple' there's passion and pain, care and compassion, life and love, and a genuine, bold determination to face and challenge emotional and philosophical issues…that's soul.
(BB) 4/5

 

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