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ALBUMS OF THE WEEK ? reviews: Adrian Caffery, Shereen Low, Steve Crancher, John Skilbeck, Kim Mayo,.

VARIOUS: Extended 80s.

BACK in the 1980s you were no one unless you had 12 inch versions of the coolest songs blarring out of your ghetto blaster. This ''definitive 12 inch collection'' of 38 hits on three discs is a splendid reminder of the decade style forgot although, in truth, many of the tracks are just slightly extended versions of the originals. There are interesting versions of Girls On Film, Atomic, Sledgehammer, Fade To Grey and All Cried Out. But length isn't everything and other tracks, such as Relax and Shout, will have you shouting ''don't bore us, get to the chorus''. Worth the price tag for Propaganda's long forgotten Duel alone.

MARIAH CAREY: Me. Iam Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse.

FOLLOWING months of delay, Mariah Carey offers up her 14th album, which she describes as "a reflection on some of the peaks and valleys that made me who I am today". The album features 14 tracks written by the singer, is her first new original material in nearly five years. Long-time Carey fans will find enough here to satisfy their sweet spots from the opening poignant ballad Cry, which harks back to old-school Carey with its stripped-back piano accompaniment, to lead single PSBeautiful and Supernatural.

LITTLE BARRIE: Shadow.

TURN the clock back to 1970, fire up the lava lamp, switch off the lights, settle into your bean bag - now you're ready to immerse yourself in Little Barrie's fourth album, Shadow. With booming bass (Lewis Wharton), thumping drums (Yes guitarist Steve Howe's son Virgil) and distorted guitar licks from Barrie Cadogan (Primal Scream), this ventures into that blues rock sound akin to early Led Zeppelin. And Nottingham trio Little Barrie do it with style. This is darker than previous albums, and don't expect too much like the excellent Surf Hell here. Shadow has reverb vocals, wah-wah guitar and attitude.

MARTHA: Courting Strong.

35 YEARS since Camberley punks The Members introduced the concept, meet the modern-day sound of the suburbs, personified by four adolescent upstarts from the County Durham village of Pity Me. Courting Strong is the quartet's debut album and serves as a prequel, a story-so-far set to jagged guitar pirouetting, a gallivant through the precocious years, no more obviously so than on the single 1997, Passing In The Hallway, and its ruler-snapping schoolroom sob story; "I've been so anaemic since you broke my double Helix and my heart," winces the band's singer Naomi Griffin.

LEE FIELDS AND THE EXPRESSIONS: Emma Jean.

NOW 63, Elmer "Lee" Fields has enjoyed along career as a soul singer. His 2012 album, Faithful Man, garnered glowing reviews and its follow-up, Emma Jean, is another latter-day masterpiece, with its 11 tracks harking back to the golden age of Tamla Motown and Stax. Unlike soul revivalists such as Fitz And The Tantrums and Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings, Fields recorded in the Sixties yet, unlike many of his contemporaries from that era, he still has soul and remains on top of his game. Every track sounds like an instant classic.

ECHO AND THE BUNNEYMEN: Meteorites.

AFTER more than three decades, Echo And The Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch has claimed this 11th album is "more edgy" and written "from the soul". The title track has a suitably mellow, expansive sound that eases the album in gently, built upon by the stompy bassline of Holy Moses. McCulloch says he addresses issues from his youth, and the refrain, "Is this a breakdown - I don't think so" on Is This A Breakdown? is an optimistic take on the band's tumultuous history. Well worth its place in the canon.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:May 30, 2014
Words:598
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