Rockin’ the blues
A tribute, a farewell and cool blues are this month’s picks
REVAMP Various artists Virgin/EMI www.eltonjohn.com
Subtitled “Reimagining the Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin”, Revamp brings together a host of pop, rock and hip-hop artists, putting their stamp on these 13 classics. John makes an appearance on ‘Bennie and The Jets’, teaming with Pink and rapper Logic, before Coldplay gets mellow for ‘We All Fall In Love Sometimes’. Canadian pop star Alessia Cara is powerful on ‘That’s Why They Call It The Blues’, and Mumford & Sons are right at home on ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’. Las Vegas rockers The Killers restrain themselves on ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’, and Ed Sheeran delivers an acoustic version of ‘Candle In The Wind’. But it’s hard to go past Lady Gaga’s rendition of ‘Your Song’ as the album’s best. There’s also a countrified album available, Restoration, featuring another 13 John-Taupin tracks.
OVER AND OUT Rick Parfitt
Ear Music/Sony www.ear-music.net
Rick Parfitt, singer-guitarist with Status Quo since the late 1960s, passed away on Christmas Eve, 2016, but not before recording the vocals and guitars parts for his first-ever solo album, the prophetically titled Over And Out. The recording sessions were completed posthumously with producer Jo Webb, who also co-wrote six of the 10 tracks, and the likes of Brian May from Queen, Chris Wolstenholme from Muse and Parfitt’s former bandmates Alan Lancaster and John ‘Rhino’ Edwards. There are a few Quo reminders present, notably ‘Lonesome Road’, one of the best motoring tracks you’ll ever hear. ‘Everybody Knows How To Fly’ is another upbeat rocker, ‘Lock Myself Away’ is ’50s style rock ’n roll, and ‘Halloween’ features the long-time Status Quo producer displaying his array of guitar licks. Throw in a few ballads, and Over And Out is a worthy signoff.
SIX STRING ANTHOLOGY Bruce Mathiske
Australian guitar maestro Bruce Mathiske was presented with a challenge for his new album Six String Anthology, and that was to compose tracks based on the key of each guitar string. The majority of the album has Mathiske going solo, finger-picking his way through the 12 instrumentals, although fellow guitarists Steve Cowley and Michael Fitzgerald help out on the brisk opening track ‘Arequipa’. Adam Manning adds percussion to the Latin-styled ‘Santiago’, and Mathiske’s subtle didgeridoo appears on the atmospheric ‘Zephyr (Part II)’. The rest range from lively tracks like ‘String 5 – A Major’ to the mostly sedate ‘String 6 - E Minor’. Yet there’s usually a surprise in store as Mathiske switches the tempo midstream, notably on ‘String 3 – G Minor’. Not a road album, but one to be heard over a smooth late night port.
NO MERCY IN THIS LAND
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite Anti www.anti.com
US singersongwriter Ben Harper and veteran harmonica bluesman Charlie Musselwhite had teamed up for the 2013 Grammywinning blues album Get Up! That success, plus two years of touring, was the catalyst for Harper and Musselwhite to record their second collaboration, No Mercy In This Land. There are personal reflections amid the 10 tracks, notably the rocking blues of ‘The Bottle Wins Again’, recalling memories of Harper’s alcoholic father. ‘Bad Habits’ continues the soul-searching, and the pair get grungy on ‘Found The One’ with Musselwhite throwing in a trademark harmonica solo. Musselwhite takes lead vocals on the emotive ballad ‘When Love Is Not Enough’, and there’s a laid-back feel to the traditional-styled ‘I Trust You To Dig My Grave’. The finale, ‘Nothing At All’, is a slow, dramatic piece, putting the icing on the cake of a great album.
GOIN’ BACK DOWN Dave Hole
Only Blues Music www.davehole.com
Well-travelled Australian blues guitarist Dave Hole left nothing to chance for his 10th album Goin’ Back Down. The England-born, Perth-raised Hole spent the last three years honing these 11 tracks, eight of which are originals. For the first time, he took over production and engineering. His earthy vocals and familiar slide guitar are at their best on the blues-rock of ‘These Blues Are Here To Stay’, and he tones it down for the southern swampy sound of ‘Measure Of A Man’. He lifts the tempo on the Elmore James-penned ‘Shake Your Money Maker’, while there are zydeco undertones on the instrumental ‘’Bobby’s Rock’, another James composition. Hole surprises on ‘Tears For No Reason’, picking up his nylon string classical guitar for the ballad, and introduces a mellow ’60s pop sound to ‘Arrows In The Dark’.
ROXY: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT LIVE Neil Young
Neil Young released his sixth studio album Tonight’s The Night back in 1975. However, two years before, he gave the new tracks their first airing – at The Roxy in West Hollywood. Young’s backing band – The Santa Monica Flyers – included Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot from Crazy Horse, as well as Nils Lofgren who would later join Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. At long last these live recordings, together with on-stage banter, have been unearthed. There are two distinct versions of the title track, and the harmony-accentuated ‘New Mama’ is also a standout. Young’s trademark harmonica features on ‘Mellow My Mind’ and he adds a country flavour to ‘Roll Another Number (For The Road)’. There’s a long version of ‘Tired Eyes’, and the set finishes with ‘Walk On’, which would go on to appear on his 1974 album On The Beach.