Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Hot Hundred Hits of the 60s


Rating: 5/5

Review:
A brilliant compilation


This is a quite brilliant compilation, I think. It's packed with little gems in all sorts of genres from the (mainly early) 60s.  A glance at the tracklist will give an idea: from classics like The Girl of My Best Friend or Runaway through wonderfully sentimental stuff like He'll Have To Go and Tell Laura I Love Her to comedy novelty songs like My Old Man's A Dustman or Right Said Fred, it's a terrific trip through my childhood.

I have a lot of this stuff already, but there's a good deal here that I don't.  It's still a great bargain and it's just a pleasure to put on a disc and smile my way through it.  The digital remastering is excellent and you simply can't go wrong here.  Go on – you know you want to!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Denny Gerrard - Sinister Morning


Rating: 2/5

Review:
Very dull


Reading the description and some rave reviews of this obscure album from 1970 I thought it would be interesting.  Sadly, it wasn't; I found it very dull.

Denny Gerrard was in demand as an arranger and as an instrumentalist in the late 60s, but on this evidence he wasn't a very distinguished songwriter and his singing was very uninspiring.  There's a decent overall sound to the album, but with weak material, rather banal lyrics and soporific vocals it really doesn't add up to much for me.

I can't agree that this is a "lost gem".  I think it's just another very average album which may have sounded OK at the time but which has been understandable forgotten.  It plainly carries good memories for some reviewers, but I'm afraid I can't recommend it.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Dave van Ronk Collection 1958-62


Rating: 5/5

Review:
A fine collection


This is a very good collection from across the early career of Dave van Ronk. 

Van Ronk was one of those influential folk artists who never quite made the headlines himself but was widely respected and had a profound influence on some great artists – most notably Bob Dylan.   You can see why from this disc; he was a good, innovative blues and folk guitarist and a truly great singer who cared deeply about the folk/blues roots.  The early jug band stuff is enjoyable enough in a knockabout way (although it's not very good sound quality), but it's the more mature work which really impresses, played and sung with a power and artistry which really gets inside the songs.

If you have any interest in the folk/blues revival movement, or indeed in folk and blues in general, I can recommend this collection very warmly; it's a fine introduction to an unsung hero.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Eddie Cochran - Memorial Album


Rating: 5/5

Review:
Brilliant


Eddie Cochran was one of the true Greats, and you only have to look at the track list to know that this is brilliant: C'mon Everybody, Summertime Blues, Somethin' Else, Three Steps To Heaven…and so on, and so on.  It does tail off a bit for the last couple of tracks and, as a reissue of the original 1960 album only lasts just over half an hour, but you still get some of the greatest Rock & Roll ever recorded.

The digital remastering is very well done and you just can't go wrong here.  Very warmly recommended.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Evensong - Evensong


Rating: 4/5

Review:
Still a decent album


I missed Evensong at the time of its original release in 1973.  I'd have loved it then, I suspect, and it's still a pretty decent album coming to it fresh 45 years later.

The music is folky, slightly psychy and very much of its time.  It's quite lavishly produced in many places with acoustic guitars, strings, recorder…you get the idea, and the songs themselves are a variety of the romantic, the slightly mystic and so on, and even a rather good anti-war song in Take Your Son To Church Mother.  It's slightly cringeworthy in places (it's early 70s "mystic" – of course it is) but in general it's very listenable.  It's not especially original; I keep spotting bits and thinking "That's like Bob Lind's Elusive Butterfly/ Alternate Title by The Monkees…" and so on, but I like it as a period piece.

This isn't a classic album, but it has held up better than many from that time and if you're interested in the folk-influenced music of the early 70s, Evensong is well worth a listen.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Rough Guide to Hokum Blues


Rating: 5/5

Review:
Great stuff


I love these Rough Guides to the various Blues genres and this one is well up to standard.

Hokum Blues is a term for generally humorous songs, often based on thinly disguised sexual innuendo.  You know exactly where you are from the start here, with Bo Carter's Cigarette Blues: "Smoke my cigarette, baby/Draw it all night long…"  The lyrics throughout are often inventively filthy and often funny as a result, but the music is really high-quality.  There's some superb guitar work from the likes of Blind Blake, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Boy Fuller and many more immortals of the Blues, and some outstanding singing, too.  Ma Rainey's Black Bottom may lack lyrical subtlety, but she was an absolute genius of a singer and it shows here.  The same can be said of Bessie Smith and others and it's great stuff from start to finish, including plenty of well-known greats but also some obscurities which I am very glad to have in my collection.

The sound is generally very good and even though some recordings show their age with hiss or rather muddy sound, it's all very listenable.  Frankly, I don't think you can go wrong with this; it's a terrific compilation.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

John Renbourn - Live in Kyoto 1978


Rating: 5/5

Review:
A joy


This is a really good disc.  I'm pretty sceptical now about any posthumous release of "rediscovered" live material because so many of them are terrible recordings, but this is a wonderful, professional-standard recording of John Renbourn playing superbly.

The material shows the breadth and depth of John's musical interests, with traditional English music, blues, ragtime and so on.  There's even an encore of two pieces by the late Renaissance lutenist Hans Neusidler, which are extraordinary both in their composition and in John's amazing playing.  It's a fine, fine programme and the guitar work is stunning.  There's just the right amount of chat between tracks to give an idea of the live atmosphere but not to become tedious on repeated listening, and it's all very engaging.

John has been right near the top of my "Wish I could play like…" list for 50 years now.  If I ever play one-tenth as well as he does here, I'll be very, very happy.  (I know I won't but I can still dream and practice…)  It's a joy of a release which any Rebourn fan or any lover of great acoustic guitar playing will love.  Very warmly recommended.

(Just in case anyone is interested, John is rather rude about Hans Neusidler but there's a very good disc of lute music by his son Melchior recorded by the great Paul O'Dette, which I can also recommend very warmly. Amazon page HERE.)