The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.
Keith Christmas, "Stimulus" (Talking Elephant TECD 208)- This enjoyable Dylanesque romp was the brainchild of Essex born acoustic balladeer Keith Christmas and first saw the light of day at the tail-end of the sixties , just before the singer-songwriter movement really began to establish itself as a potent musical force via best selling albums from the likes of James Taylor,Joni Mitchell and Carole King. Keith also found the time to play acoustic guitar on Bowie's "Space Oddity" album during 1969 but his own musical exploits remained consigned to relative obscurity, although "Stimulus" remains a highly listenable exercise in stylish introspection, fleshed out here with the addition of "The Ballad of Robin Head" and four live tracks recorded in December of the same year.
Hawkwind,"Space Ritual" (EMI HAWKSS4)- The dubious delights of the band's particularly relentless brand of space rock are captured in all their unexpurgated glory in this live recording from 1972,captured at venues in London and Liverpool by the classic Hawkwind line-up featuring Robert Calvert, Dave Brock,Nik Turner and future Motorhead bassist Lemmy Kilmister. The finished product soared into the higher reaches of the UK album charts despite the band's wilful refusal to include their recent hit "Silver Machine" in their set list,and "Space Ritual "remains a fascinating historical artefact four decades later,with "Orgone Accumulator" and the stunning closer "Brainstorm" emerging as musical highpoints.
Placido Domingo, "Forever Domingo" (D.G.479 1096)- This greatest hits anthology draws on recordings made for Deutsche Grammophon between 1977 and 1992, showcasing Domingo's versatility as a performer as it features a string of lush easy listening ballads alongside some of the finest arias in the entire operatic canon. The latter category is well represented by perennial crowd-pleasers such as Puccini's "Recondita armonia," "E lucevan le stelle" and "Nessun dorma," and the great Spanish tenor also tackles arias by Bizet,Verdi and Donizetti before closing with a fine rendition of the Viennese operetta favourite,"Dein ist mein ganzes Herz."
Charles Trenet,"La Mer" (Retrospective RTR 4212)- This amiable French chansonnier is best remembered these days for "La Mer," the effortlessly memorable ditty which opens this 27 track anthology in such fine style. Charles Trenet apparently penned the song in just ten minutes during a train journey from Paris to his birthplace in Narbonne in 1938 and it's since gone on to be recorded by more than four thousand vocalists , supplying hits for everyone from Bobby Darin to George Benson. The skilfully crafted fusion of Gallic chanson and American swing rhythms which was such a prominent feature of Trenet's best work as a singer and songwriter is captured at its most appealing on tracks such as "Douce France," "Y'd de la joie" and "La cigale et la fourmi," the latter featuring a guest appearance by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Robert Palmer, "Heavy Nova / Don't Explain" (Edsel EDSK 7024),"Ridin' High / Honey" (EDSK 7025)- The former Dada and Vinegar Joe vocalist always seemed to take a perverse delight in bemusing his devoted fanbase with sudden and unexpected shifts in musical direction,and these CD re-issues from Palmer's time with EMI are typically eclectic and wide-ranging affairs. The contents run the gamut from big band jazz to blue eyed soul and heavy funk ,including the hit single,"Simply Irresistible" and distinctive covers of Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" and Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."