The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.
The Steve Miller Band, "Sailor" (Edsel EDSA 5004)- Steve Miller is best remembered these days for snappily memorable mid seventies hits such as "The Joker," "Fly Like An Eagle" and "Take the Money and Run,"but the Milwaukee born musician had already made a name for himself on the other side of the Atlantic a few years earlier with the distinctive fusion of psychdelia and the blues which dominates fine albums such as "Sailor." The contents were recorded at Wally Heider's Studio in Los Angeles in the heady summer of 1968, running the gamut from the adventurous atmospherics of "Song For Our Ancestors" to the infectious rock of "Living in the U.S.A.," and Miller also acknowledges his musical roots with an excellent rendition of Jimmy Reed's "You're So Fine."
Kate Rusby, "20" (Island Records)- The Barnsley nightingale makes her long overdue major label debut with an impressive offering celebrating the highlights of her illustrious career to date. The 2 CD set finds Kate tackling a batch of her favourite songs in tandem with some of the leading lights of the folk fraternity,including Dick Gaughan,Richard Thompson and Paul Brady, as well as unveiling a splendid new song,"Sun Grazers," which she performs in a duet with Paul Weller. Long term Rusby devotees should find these wistful re-workings of the cream of her back catalogue utterly enchanting,and the great Nic Jones also makes a heart-warming vocal contribution on one of the stand-out tracks,"The Lark."
Stackridge,"Radio Sessions 1971-1973" (Angel Air SJPCD 403)- The eccentric Bristolians were operating at the peak of their creative powers when the BBC captured these performances for posterity in the early seventies, delighting their radio audiences with some classic examples of their distinctive melodic whimsy,including a fifteen minute version of the epic "Slark." As an added bonus for Stackridge completists the CD also features a jaunty version of "The Lyder Loo," a hitherto unreleased number which had originally been slated for inclusion on the band's "Man In A Bowler Hat" album.
Mumford & Sons, "Babel" (Island 3712787)- The eagerly awaited follow-up to 2009's "Sigh No More" occupies much the same musical territory as its multi-million selling predecessor,although the overall mood of the set is a little darker and less instantly infectious this time around. Many of these songs have formed an integral part of the Mumfords' live show for the past year or so,which means that devotees of the band's work will already be familiar with the rustic charms of tracks such as "Lover's Eyes, " "Lover of the Light" and the banjo dominated "Whispers in the Dark," although I doubt whether the mildly uninvolving contents of "Babel" will win over too many new converts to their cause.
Claudio Abbado,"Verdi : 6 Great Operas" (D.G.479 0379)- Conductor Abbado's highly regarded Verdi recordings with the Orchestra of La Scala,Milan have achieved iconic status over the years, and these exemplary offerings have now been brought together to form the bulk of this weighty 14 CD set. Top notch operatic vocalists such as Placido Domingo,Mirella Freni and Jose Carreras all play their part in the success of a memorably tuneful package which also features Abbado's impressively precise performance of the composer's comedy "Falstaff" with Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and the Berlin Philharmonic.