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Star ratings: HHHHH a classic; HHHH well worth your money; HHH give it a listen; HH only ardent fans need bother; H forget it.


MANIC STREET PREACHERS This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (Epic): Where the Manic's last album Everything Must Go was permeated with the spirit of their missing guitarist Richey Edwards this follow-up finds them casting off the last vestiges of their angry young punk past and emerging, fully-formed as an arena band to compete with Oasis, U2 and the Verve.

Nothing wrong in that of course, especially when they can come up with such striking "anti-anthems" as If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next, and You Stole The Sun From My Heart, songs that have the requisite big tunes and even bigger arrangeme nts but whose subject matter is of a more introspective cast. Bigger issues are tackled on SYMM (Hillsborough), I'm Not Working (the life of Howard Hughes) and, most movingly of all, Nobody Loved You, an epitaph of sorts for their lost friend.

A fierce Welsh independence asserts itself on Ready For Drowning while another Welshman, Aneurin Bevan, inspired the album title. With those kind of references you realise why the Manics are not like any other rock band. That and the Eastern-flavoured Ts unami , whose Indian textures and colourings are fully integrated into the band's open-hearted Celtic romanticism. They may, as chief songwriter and bassist Nicky Wire admits, be as much a brand as a band these days but the Manics remain unique, still ca pable of breaking your heart with a simple turn of phrase. HHHH

SHERYL CROW The Globe Sessions (A&M): Never the most expressive of singers - her range seems to extend from miserable to anguished and back again - Crow canters through a bunch of songs that mostly still sound like works in progress; fine if you're a wri ter and performer with the intensity of Neil Young who could make Three Blind Mice sound like Apocalypse Now - but an approach designed to highlight Crow's limitations as writer and performer. She even has the front to subtitle one track, Crash and Burn, just that - work in progress - but it's surely no coincidence the most effective track on the LP is a cover version of Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind out-take Mississippi. This scrap from the great man's table is worth any number of Crow's tortured effort s. But when she actually gets round to finishing a song - the folky Riverwide and countryish It Don't Hurt - Crow's a lot more convincing. HHH

EELS Electro-Shock Blues (Geffen): Many great albums (Plastic Ono Band, Nevermind, Blood On The Tracks) have emerged from personal loss and suffering - and some not quite so good ones as well. But few albums created against a background of bereavement, t ragedy and hospital visits could ever have been so downright weird as this. Beautiful Freak was certainly one of the most compulsively odd albums of 1996 but even that was scant preparation for the mixed bag of musical styles and samples that adorn these songs about hospital food, funerals and electro-shock therapy. Disorientating in its sheer strangeness, this is nevertheless a little masterpiece. HHHH

Simon Evans

MICKEY HARTPLANET DRUM Superlingua (Ryko): Mickey Hart, the pulse behind the Grateful Dead for more than 25 years, and his fellow percussion masters who comprise Planet Drum have finally answered their critically-acclaimed and award-winning album Planet Drum.

Once again, the ancient rhythmic traditions of North and South America, Africa and Asia come together to produce an almost pre-historic landscape of sound. The intricate drum patterns and phonetic vocals take the listener back to the dawn of civilisation .

While all the tracks owe a debt to this ancient legacy, Supralingua is more than just a homage to traditional World Music genres. When the age-old rhythms are combined with state-ohe-art technology this album becomes the music of today. The technology in question goes by the name of RAMU - Random Access Musical Universe - and is essentially a computer workstation whose samples form an encyclopaedia of sound.

When RAMU is called into play, alongside the electric bass of Bakithi Kumalo, the standard drum kit of Tower of Power funkmaster David Garibaldi, and the virtuoso talents of Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidaglo and Sikiru Adepoju, the legacy of the past is tr ansformed into a futuristic percussion sound that touches the very essence of our being. My own particular favourite Endless River, featuring the hauntingly seductive vocals of Rebeca Maulen, sends a shiver down my spine every time.


Calvin Palmer


while maintaining an overall musical vision. HHHH

BOOKER ERVIN Booker 'n' Brass (Pacific Jazz): The Texan tenor firebrand who made his name in the volatile company of Charles Mingus chooses tunes with American places in the titles - from originals like East Dallas Special to classics as diverse as Hoagy Carmichael's Baltimore Oriole, WC Handy's St Louis Blues and Leiber/Stoller's Kansas City. The instrumentation is unusual: Ervin's is the only reed, with six or seven brass players, including Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, a rhythm trio which includes a yo ung Kenny Barron on piano. Recorded live in 1967, it provides a marvellous showcase for an often overlooked saxophonist who deserves a prominent place in the jazz pantheon.


Peter Bacon


MOZART Horn Concertos (CLASSIC fM): The packaging of BMG's Classic FM series of releases really is preposterous, with a cardboard sleeve surrounding the CD case proclaiming "the full works" (whatever that means) and detailing the contents ratings on an i nfamous "mood guide".

Apparently Mozart's Horn Concertos qualify for only one quaver on the 'romantic' scale (yet these accounts from soloist Stephen Stirling and the Andrew Watkinson-directed City of London Sinfonia are often inflected with a sweetness subsequent to 'classic al' rigours); five quavers on the 'soothing' scale, with a similar maximum for uplifting' - yet only one for 'exhilarating' (what is the essential difference between those two descriptons?); and a mediocre three for 'joyful'.

Does anyone really go into a record-store armed with such a list of bullet-points and come out with whatever fits the bill? And then do they emerge disappointed after hearing it?

Male bovine ordure aside, these are enjoyable accounts, interestingly presented in reverse order to end with fragments completed by other hands. Stirling's contributions have an effortlessness which masks consummate training, drama and humour abounding. Orchestral playing is warm and alive. HHHH

Christopher Morley
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 19, 1998
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