The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.
Ellen and the Escapades, "All The Crooked Scenes" (Branch Out Records)- The members of this Yorkshire based quintet first met when they were studying at Leeds College of Music, and the past few years have seen them building a growing reputation on the strength of their well received appearances at prestigious festivals such as Reading and Glastonbury ,where they won the "Emerging Talent" competition in 2010. The band may have found themselves pigeonholed alongside the hugely successful Mumford and Sons as alternative English folkies but their sound is equally influenced by country music and Americana in general, with the excellent "Preying On Your Mind" and "I'll Keep You Warm" emerging as the highlights of a fine debut set.
Paradise Lost, "Tragic Idol" (Century Media) - "Tragic Idol" is the 13th album that gothic metal merchants Paradise Lost have released during the course of a career which began long ago in 1988, and the doom laden contents are unlikely to disappoint their dedicated legion of devotees. Bone crunching guitar riffs and bleakly introspective lyrics are the order of the day as the band pummel their way through darkly compelling creations such as "In This We Dwell," "To The Darkness" and "Theories From Another World," with vocalist Nick Holmes in particularly fine fettle throughout.
"Humble Pie" (Cherry Red/ Lemon CDLEM 203)- This eminently soulful outfit marked their 1970 switch from Immediate Records to A&M with the release of their third album, the eponymously titled "Humble Pie." Newly recruited manager Dee Anthony had persuaded Steve Marriott and his cohorts to adopt a much more gritty and hard edged approach to music-making in an attempt to corner a slice of the lucrative American market, and his efforts bore fruit almost immediately on the evidence presented by this eclectic set. "Humble Pie" captured the band in a state of transition as the contents struck an attractive balance between the muscular rock of "One Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba" and Willie Dixon's "I'm Ready" and the much more gentle and reflective sound of tracks such as Peter Frampton's "Earth and Water Song."
"The Graham Gouldman Thing" (Rev-Ola CR REV210)- Graham Gouldman had already assembled a fairly impressive CV before he made the decision to join forces with 10cc in the early seventies, as the Mancunian songwriter had already penned a string of infectious hits for the likes of Wayne Fontana,The Hollies and Herman's Hermits during the previous decade. This obscure 1968 album brought together Gouldman and future Led Zeppelin mainstay John Paul Jones in a celebration of those throwaway pop successes , including delightfully dated re-workings of "Bus Stop, " "No Milk Today" and The Yardbirds' "For Your Love."
"Crime & Punishment" (Fantastic Voyage FVDD139)- Compiler Kris Needs' latest trawl through the archives has unearthed fifty tracks tenuously linked by the twin themes of crime and punishment, including offerings from such legendary bluesmen as John Lee Hooker,Mississippi John Hurt and Blind Willie McTell. The varied list of contributors also includes such unlikely bedfellows as Paul Robeson, Billie Holiday and bluegrass duo The Louvin Brothers, whose 1956 recording of the Appalachian murder ballad "The Knoxville Girl" is one of the highlights of this wide-ranging Fantastic Voyage anthology.