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Regal Worm
Neither Use Nor Ornament (Quatermass Records)

Regal WormJarrod Gosling follows the exceptional Use & Ornament with, what else, Neither Use Nor Ornament which builds on his previous outing with a more vocal heavy take on his peculiarly skewed world-view wherein tracks entitled ‘Odilon Escapes From The Charcoal Oblivion. But Endeavours To Return And Rescue The Cactus Men’ actually sound like the title! Mellotron’s ooze, flutes twinkle, rhythms career and cannon and, what sounds like the bastard sons of the Swingle Singers, chant, croon and cantillate over the five part opus, and that’s just the opening track! There really is nobody out there pushing prog this far right now.
Ray Harper

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FaltyDL
One Step Beyond: 35th Anniversary Edition (Salvo)

FaltyDL For those of you that understand such things on this release Drew ‘FaltyDL’ Lustman has also collaborated with British artist Chris Shen to explore In The Wild as 'a catalyst for the spatial and technological reproduction of sound and video' Nope, I have no idea either (You can try and figure it out at www.faltydl.com/inthewild). Fortunately you don’t need to understand what is going on to love the resultant noise which lurches and clatters delightfully. Those hoping for a follow up to the dancefloor themed Hardcourage may be disappointed but sod that, this is a brave u-turn that delights and confusticates in equal parts.
Drew Bass

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Blackberry Smoke
Leave A Scar, Live In North Carolina (Earache)

Blackberry Smoke Yeah ok, we’re a bit late with this one, but it’s a grower and it has revisited the office player so often since its release in August we figured it was trying to tell us something. Nothing particularly new or groundbreaking of course (especially if you’re as old as most people here), but Blackberry Smoke take that Allman’s/ Skynyrd, plus a healthy dose of Little Feat template and play the living bejaysus out of it. The songs sound like they have been around forever and the band sound like they know exactly what each other is going to play before it’s played. If you love southern blues rock you’ll love this.
The Oracle

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Various Artists
Northern Soul: The Soundtrack 2xCD+DVD (Harmless)

Northern SoulThe soundtrack to the movie of the same name featuring classic NS tunes from people you probably haven’t ever heard of (alongside a few, like Edwin Starr, Marvin Gaye and Frankie Valli, that you certainly should have), Can’t imagine that die-hard northern soul fans won’t have the majority of this but if you have ever wondered what all the fuss is about then this a terrific primer and an incentive to check out an equally terrific film. Also includes an exclusive DVD with Elaine Constantine being interviewed about the making of the film by actor James Lance who plays top Northern Soul DJ Ray Henderson in the film.
Ruby Palmer

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The Bug
Angels & Devils (Ninja Tune)

The Bug Kevin ‘King Midas Sound,/Techno Animal/The Bug’ Martin’s fourth Bug album splitting his ragga/reggae dub(step) meets grime/hip-hop template (last heard on the excellent London Zoo in 2008) into two distinct light and dark parts here lulling the listener into a false sense of security before weirding you out (thank you Gonjasufi) and then slapping you up-side the head with swathes of industrial racket and some nasty assed dub-hop and if things stall out a little in the ‘who can be more obnoxious’ rap section, everything gets back on track for the last track ‘Dirty’. N.B. Look out for the colossal bug link up with Earth due out soon.
Drew Bass

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Nick Oliveri's Uncontrollable
Leave Me Alone (Schnitzel)

Nick Oliveri's Uncontrollable For those unable to place the name Nick Oliveri has probably been seen naked on more stages than Iggy Pop and certainly has one of the most iconic baldy/beardy looks on planet rock having plied his trade in various Josh Homme fronted outfits including the mighty Queens of The Stone Age and in the delightfully unpleasant Dwarves (whose vocalist Blag Dahlia features here). As you might expect easy listening this ain’t, but the throat shredding, full-throttle, punk-tinged metal ramalama (all played by Nick aside for the guest guitar solos) is actually not without melodic nods to the concept of a chorus.
Ruby Palmer

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Various Artists
12”/80s New Wave and 12”/80s Chilled’ (Commercial Marketing)

12”/80s Two new volumes to add to this ever growing compilation series (cherry picked from the era that spawned the 12” remix) 12”/80s New Wave and 12”/80s Chilled are both spread across 3 x CDs and both come loaded with big names and club classics. Some people may take issue with some of the ‘new wave’ inclusions (the Beat? UB40?, great tracks but hardly new wave) on the whole however both have more than enough high points to make them worthy of a listen, if you have to pick one we’d go for the Chilled, but really at this price either would make a great stocking filler for any ‘80s fan.
Drew Bass

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Rory Gallagher
Irish Tour '74: Box Set (Sony)

Rory GallagherOK, first up whilst this may be a treasure trove of previously unreleased live material, but at least half of it (Dublin and Belfast) can only be reasonably considered of average bootleg quality (sounds like the drums are being hit with a bag of coins in places). But this 40th anniversary expanded deluxe edition release of one of Gallagher’s most celebrated recordings is intended to be the most expansive edition to date, and on that level it succeeds, featuring all three shows an ‘In Session’ set and the Tony Palmer DVD of the tour, and if nothing else the lesser quality recordings reveal Gallagher’s constantly questing guitar genius at work.
The Oracle

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Level 42
Standing In The Light (UMC)

Level 42They may have got their fair share of stick from the 'cooler' elements of the music press back in the day but only a churl would deny that Level 42 had some real jazz funk chops and not a little skill with the odd tune and now three (of their 10) studio albums (Standing In The Light, Staring At The Sun and True Colours), get the remastering and reissue treatment the best of ‘em being this, their first major success in the UK (reaching the Top 10 in 1983) finessing their sound into a more palatable poppy package whilst still keeping in touch with their jazz/funk roots and beginning a run of hits that would continue throughout much of the '80s.
Paul Riley

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Deep Purple
Graz 1975 (earMUSiC)

Deep PurpleRecorded just before Richie Blackmore spat the dummy and buggered off this live set from Purple Mk III - Ritchie Blackmore, David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes, Jon Lord and Ian Paice – recorded at the Liebenauer ice rink in Austria reveals a band on the verge of collapse but still absolutely on fire (due in no small part to core Purps trio Blackmore/Paice & Lord), thundering through tracks from the, then current release, Stormbringer album alongside classics like ‘Smoke On The Water’, ‘Space Truckin’’, ‘Burn’ and ‘Mistreated’, and if Glenn Hughes high pitched yodelling grates somewhat, there is more than enough here to recommend this to fans.
The Oracle

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Pere Ubu
Carnival Of Souls (Fire Records)

Pere UbuPere Ubu have been attempting to wrong foot their followers since double whammy introduction The Modern Dance and Dub Housing (1978). Some of these attempts have led up blind, and occasionally self-defeating, avenues, but this continual quest for new ways to say the same thing is always fascinating and Carnival Of Souls is right up there with their discombo- bulating best marrying crashing proggy post punk with gently lambent campfire lullabies. If you know nothing of Ubu you may find the compilation Terminal Tower a less fractious introduction, for the rest of us file this under ‘yet another remarkable about face.’
Ruby Palmer

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The Bevis Frond
Miasma (Cherry Red)

The Bevis Frond Originally supposed to be entitled Miasmic Sound Soufflé Nick Saloman’s ‘official’ debut solo album began a run of self recorded, self produced and, more often than not, self released albums, his Walthamstow based cottage industry garnering as much love from the faithful as it attracted sneering disdain from much of the UK music press. ‘I wanted a Hendrix/Wipers/Byrds sound but with a distinctly British feel’ Nick declared, and that pretty much sums up what you get, lo-fi certainly, but with no lack of musical chops or indeed song-writing skills (the bonus ‘discarded’ tracks are better than some bands official output).
Ray Harper

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Amp Live
Headphone Concerto (Plug Research)

Amp Live Possibly better known to as the knobs and switches half of Californian Hip-Hoppers Zion I (alongside the rapping chap Baba Zumbi), this is Amp Live’s first solo effort and he’s lobbed everything but the kitchen sink in here, and whilst that occasionally makes for a disjointed listen, it’s a pretty damn impressive CV release as smart and catchy R&B rubs shoulders with twitchy electronica, stripped back hip hop beats do battle with cello’s and choirs, and scratching and samples vie for space with clattery rave and mellow jazz funk (you get the picture), in short there is feckin’ oodles going down here and by and large it’s pretty damn good.
Drew Bass

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Madness
One Step Beyond: 35th Anniversary Edition (Salvo)

MadnessOK, so the chances that you don’t know this album – unless you come from outside this solar system, or have only been alive for a couple of years – are unlikely, and equally the chances that you don’t have it (if you like Madness), are minimal so what’s the wiggly worm on the hook that would entice you to renew your old vinyl (or cassette) version of this moon-stomping Ska monster? Well, other than the digital remastering and rehearsal recordings from 1979 (including two songs that have never appeared anywhere before) there are also promo videos from the album a BBC TV performances, plus a BBC documentary from 2000.
Drew Bass

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Hugh Hopper
Volume One: Memories (Gonzo)

Hugh Hopper Having read about this ten part series (a walloping great new collection of previously unreleased concert and studio recordings compiled by Michael King) some time ago now I have to admit to being not a little excited to hear the results and I’m happy to say the Volume One: Memories – featuring a range of Hopper collaborators cherry picked from the past thirty five odd years – is a genuinely great kick off providing an amuse-bouche for what is to follow. We’ll be looking out for more releases in this series, as indeed should you (also now available is Volume Two Frangloband Live at Triton Club, Paris 2004).
The Oracle

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The Allman Brothers Band
The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings: Box Set (UMC)

The Allman Brothers BandOne of the all time great live recordings get’s the expanded box set treatment, and whilst some of the more recent ‘unreleased recordings’ foisted on the world as lost classics much of the new material included here is genuinely terrific as The Allman’s were ostensibly a fine live jam band which suits this sort of archive digging project perfectly. Expanded into a six-disc box set, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings includes 15 previously unreleased tracks (the original album having been compiled from four sets recorded over a weekend in March 1971), and also includes a complete performance from the following June.
Ray Harper

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Red Snapper
Hyena (Lo Recordings)

Red Snapper Beginning life in the mid ‘90s as a jazzy breakbeat outfit who even dabbled in (whisper it) Trip Hop on occasion Red Snapper really hit their stride on their third album Our Aim Is To Satisfy but then ran out of puff and called it a day in 2002 only to reappear in 2007 with a far more wide ranging palette resulting in this album inspired by the band’s recent soundtrack work for cult '70s Senegalese road movie Touki Bouki expanding on the African influenced themes from the score but adding spooked electronica, warped guitar figures, oodles of warm throbbing bass and even the odd slice of smooth disco.
Drew Bass

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Adam Cohen
We Go Home (Cooking Vinyl)

Adam Cohen Despite the obvious advantages in their lives Julian, Sean, Dhani, Baxter, Nora, Rufus, Martha, Ziggy, Damian and Jakob will all know about the weight of expectations having a famous dad adds to any attempts to tap into the old genetic muse. Adam Cohen's fifth album was, as the title suggests, recorded in the famous little white house on the Greek island of Hydra where he spent much of his childhood and in Montreal where he was born and the results are pretty uniformly terrific. Having first truly tapped into the family muse on 2011’s Like A Man, it seems Cohen has finally now found his own voice.
The Oracle

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Spike
100% Pure Frankie Miller (Livewire/Cargo)

SpikeOn 25 August 1994, Frankie Miller suffered a brain haemorrhage in New York City while writing material for a new band he and Joe Walsh of The Eagles had formed, twenty years later he is still with us and apparently in fine spirits, but sadly the illness robbed us of his fine voice and, not inconsiderable, songwriting skills, so all credit to Quireboys' lead singer Spike for disinterring some cracking long lost, unrecorded, Miller songs (with Millers blessings) and roping in Ronnie Wood, Ian Hunter, the Free rhythm section and many more for this genuinely terrific tribute to a genuinely much missed talent.
Ray Harper

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Underworld
Dubnobnasswithmyheadman (Commercial Marketing)

UnderworldCertainly a contender for album of the year when first released in 1994 (and still one of the most remarkable slices of zeitgeist grabbing dance floor genius full stop), this terrific five disc set includes clonking great non-album dance floor classics like ‘Rez’, ‘Spikee’ and ‘Dog Man Go Woof’ and whilst it’s not entirely exhaustive as several different mixes and non-album b-sides from the same period - like ‘Minniapolis’ and ‘Why Why Why’ - are missing, this is nit picking really as there is are several CD’s worth of unreleased material including a fascinating disc of work-in-progress live rehearsal material from 1993.
Drew Bass

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Earth
Primitive And Deadly (Southern Lord)

Earth Those of you not already au fait with Earth’s lava-flow sludge riffage may well only know the band as that one with that poor sod who lent Kurt Cobain a gun, fans however will already be aware that Earth make the sort of noise you might get if you bunged on a Black Sabbath album, got rid of Ozzy’s bit and then put a brick on the turntable (a turntable is for playing those big old plastic things your parents had young readers – Ed). So what’s new on planet Earth, well vocals for a kick off (from Mark Lanegan and Rabia Shaheen Qazi), and a new found penchant for weaving melody into the colossal sturm und drang. Seismic.
Ruby Palmer

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Steve Hillage
Live at the Rainbow (Gonzo)

Steve HillageRecorded later in the same year that gave us Live Herald and hot on the heels of his two most successful albums – L and Motivation Radio – this set cherry picks the best from his three solo albums and, even though this is a cut down four piece from the line-up on Live Herald, it captures Hillage in full on psychedelic rockin’ form, in fact the more basic line up seems to drive his guitar playing to even more blissed out flights of fantasy, and if his vocals still remain something of an acquired taste, the music reveals an important link between the proggy lunacy of Gong and the techno ambi-bliss of System 7.
Ray Harper

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Small Faces
There Are But Four Small Faces (Charly)

Small Faces The re-mastering, re-packaging and re-releasing of Small Faces material continues apace as the band, who were so poorly served by record companies at the time, finally get the treatment their material deserves and this double disc Mediabook version of the US only version of the UK’s Small Faces album is a belter with an extended stereo version of the original album (including unheard takes of 'Eddie's Dreaming' and 'Show Me The Way') plus a second disc featuring an unreleased mono version of the album intended for American AM radio promotional LPs but never pressed, making this the definitive version of this album.
The Oracle

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Girlschool
The Bronze Years (Lemon)

Girlschool Several bands could lay claim to breaking the ‘all boys’ rock club (we’re plumping for the aptly named Fanny from the early ‘70s), but the bubblegum rock of the Runaways aside the real first ladies of heavy rock have to be Girlschool (and any band who get the thumbs up from Lemmy have to be taken seriously). So this VFM collection of all their output for Bronze Records will be manna from heaven for rock fans the whole shebang collected together in a box which comes with four individual albums in wallets depicting original LP artwork plus bonus tracks and a booklet with detailed liner notes on the bands career with Bronze Records.
Ray Harper

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Tricky
Adrian Thaws (Republic Of Music)

TrickyLike many an artist whose debut calling card is such a game changer (some might argue no Tricky, no dubstep) Adrian ‘Tricky’ Thaws has spent almost 20 years trying to top the brilliant Maxinquaye, however an artist only has the one chance to introduce themselves and from that point on we all know what to expect. So does this heavily hip-hop fuelled outing top his debut? No, it can’t, it does however rank alongside some of his better attempts (Nearly God, Knowle West Boy, Pre-Millennium Tension), once again stirring everything from rock to reggae into his signature claustrophobic dope shrouded fug.
Drew Bass

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J Mascis
Tied to a Star (Sub Pop)

J Mascis Unlike his Dinosaur Jr. band-mate Lou Barlow J Mascis has seldom found the need to unleash his acoustic side, which is a bit sad as even a cursory pick through the Dinosaur Jr. catalogue of fuzzed up sludge rock reveals more than a passing nod to melody. This glaring omission is however now addressed as Tied To A Star is more or less wall to wall acoustic guitars, Neil Young style quavery high pitched vocals and it’s a very lovely thing indeed. If you prefer your Mascis slathered in fuzz and heaps of bombbast then this probably ain’t going to be your cup of tea but I gaurentee the rest of you are in for a treat.
Ruby Palmer

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Kitten Pyramid
Uh-Oh (Kitten Pyramid)

Kitten PyramidFrom alt-indie meets Mariachi (‘Chester’) via marrying industrial chanting with Beatle-esque everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-ism (‘WHALE’) to bucolic psychedelia (‘Red Shoes’) and that’s just the first three tracks! Crimeny! There’s still brass bands, yelled choruses, massed strings, folky strumming, punky blatter and several bouts of outright proggy behaviour. Trying to fit this into a neat little box is like trying to hang onto a hyperactive greased up deaf guy. Suffice to say this is one hell of a lot of good ideas vigorously elbowing each other out of the way and Uh-Oh easily kicks most of this month’s other releases squarely in the balls.
Ray Harper

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Goldie
Masterpiece (Ministry Of Sound)

Goldie A touch dangerous calling your album Masterpiece (not Goldie’s fault mind, that’s down to the Ministry Of Sound), but there’s more than enough classic selections here to satisfy any nitpickers the influence themed first disc featuring a healthy mix of soul (Terry Callier), jazz (Roy Ayers), dance (Soul II Soul) reggae (Junior Murvin) and, erm, rock - Radiohead’s ‘Just’ is a great track, not sure it works here. Disc two features Goldie and his (mainly) junglist peers like Roni Size, A Guy Called Gerald and Krust and the final disc brings us right up to date featuring cutting edge new D’n’B acts on Goldie’s Metalheadz labels.
Drew Bass

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Rob Reed
Sanctuary (Tigermoth Records)

Rob ReedOK, so here’s the thing, having lived with this album for several weeks now I still can’t tell if I like it or not. What I can tell you is that I am fascinated by the concept (which was to create an album in the style of Tubular Bells, including playing everything on it), and occasionally astonished and impressed by the results – as were original Tubular Bells producers Tom Newman (as co-producer) and Simon Heyworth, who mastered the album. The problem is that this is so expertly done, exactly mirroring themes and instrument sounds, it’s impossible to decide if it’s an homage or a pastiche? But If you love Tubular Bells you may well love this.
Ray Harper

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The United States Of America
The Columbia Recordings (Esoteric Recordings)

The United States Of AmericaSome albums pin their colours very firmly to an era and given that The United States Of America were an art-rock band based on the West Coast of the USA and only existed between 1967-68 you have a pretty good idea what you are going to hear. Only it quickly becomes apparent that this is far more than just a minor lost psychedelic album, for starters there’s no guitar player - tracks being driven by keyboards and electronics – and whilst there are some straightforward rockers and ballads TUSOA also scares you witless with discordant skronking, found sounds, treated brass and pseudo Gregorian chanting. Wierdly brilliant.
The Oracle

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Wilko Johnson
The Best Of (Cadiz Music)

Wilko Johnson Sad that it took terminal illness to remind the UK that Wilko Johnson was a national treasure who had been ignominiously shuffled onto the sidelines, still better late than never I guess. Not sure if these re-recordings of his finest moments are for royalty reasons or not but whatever led him to re-record two volumes of classic solo and Dr. Feelgood’s material (collected together here in a single two disc edition) with his excellent rhythm section of Norman Watt-Roy & Dylan Howe, the results are terrific Johnsons slightly tremulous vocals and machine gun guitar have never sounded more alive (perhaps for good reason). Essential.
Ruby Palmer

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Daevid Allen
Bananamoon Obscura 1 & 2 (Floating World)

Daevid AllenRemastered versions of albums 1 and 2 from Allen’s huge, and currently largely unavailable Bananamoon Obscura series (hopefully suggesting there’s more to come), the first being rehearsal recordings from 1977 with Spanish band Euterpe – which may not sound too enticing but is in fact full of songs of pretty reasonable demo quality and is, mostly, great fun, The real gem however is the live Brainville show with Hugh Hopper and Pip Pyle which neatly matches Allen’s lunacy with Hopper and Pyle’s jazzy space-rock chops. Let’s hope that Allen’s current fight with cancer is successful and there’s more psychedelic luna-jazz still to come....
Ray Harper

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Red Planet Orchestra
States Of Space (Paths Of Action)

Red Planet OrchestraThe first time this writer experienced ambient music (and we’re not talking about the pan pipe/didgeridoo drivel that some people assault your ears with here), was on Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting and I have to admit this young Roxy/Crimson fan hated it, nothing seemed to happen and it took ages to do so. Which was kinda missing the point as good ambient music is far more about evincing mood and creating texture than classic song structure, something Vincent Rees and Pete Smith clearly understand as this gently evolving symphonic blend of drones, pulses, washes and strings actually does give you a feeling of floating in space.
The Oracle

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Various Artists
Sounds Of Reality: Boxset (UMC)

Sounds Of RealityIt’s impossible to overestimate just how important the first cut priced Front Line album sampler was to music fans of a certain age. Certainly this rock fan was aware of Bob Marley, and Jimmy Cliff but acts like I Roy, U Roy and The Mighty Diamonds were a complete revelation. The follow up collection introduced even more gems including Prince Far I, Linton Kwesi Johnson (as part of Poet And The Roots), Tapper Zukie and Big Youth! A convert was born, and I’m sure I was not the only one, in fact we reckon this beautifully presented boxset, which collects and expands all three of the samplers and adds a further brace of discs featuring 12” cuts and dubs, is utterly essential listening
Drew Bass

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The Dowling Poole
Bleak Strategies (369 Music)

The Dowling Poole Another PledgeMusic offering put together by Willie Dowling and Jon Poole this one a fine collection of summery, chorus heavy pop tunes – despite what the title may suggest - many of which sound like they could have been created just about any time since the mid-sixties. Nearest reference points would be XTC’s more chart friendly moments or that quintessentially ‘English’ sounding psychedelia that harks back to The Beatles, The Small Faces and the Kinks and whilst The Dowling Poole certainly make no attempt to disguise their influences the results are delivered with a nod to the future as well as an eye to the past.
The Oracle

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Kalbata & Mixmonster
Congo Beat The Drum (Freestyle)

Kalbata & Mixmonster Better known to their respective Mum’s as Ariel Tagar and Uri Wertheim Kalbata & Mixmonster are probably best known for their work in the Israeli dance scene (Wertheim as a member of TM-O funk faves The Apples), this however is a labour of love created in their home studio in Tel Aviv, an analogue dub album in the spirit of the late King Tubby but one heavily influenced by late 70's and early 80's dancehall, and blow us down if they haven’t pretty much nailed it due in no small part to guest vocals from the likes of Jah Thomas, Echo Minott and the sadly recently demised Prince Jazzbo.
Drew Bass

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Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson
Do Tell (Cadiz Music)

Hat Fitz & Cara RobinsonBlues, roots call it what you will, sadly the terms have become a little maligned due to inappropriate use (bog standard 12 bar bands with a paucity of ideas are NOT roots or blues, they’re just dull) Mr Fitz and Ms Robinson however have that elusive Little Feat swagger that you need to lift roots music to another level, and when you add Fitz’s fine Ry Cooder-esque slide playing, Robinsons’ Janis Joplin meets Maggie Bell vocal pyrotechnics and Fitz’s understated Mark Lanegan style growl (and some genuinely bowel loosening blues harp honking) you have a terrifically joyful noise that should please the most jaded palete.
Raft Thong

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Cabaret Voltaire
#7885 (Electropunk to Technopop 1978 - 1985) (Mute)

Cabaret Voltaire Another of those acts that influenced far more people than their record sales might suggest Cabaret Voltaire emerged from the burgeoning Sheffield electronic scene and, alongside other synth terrorists like Throbbing Gristle and the Normal, created bleak, industrial noise (The coruscating 'Nag Nag Nag' still sounds proper scary) that would later evolve to include techno, dub, house and skewed pop. Fans will have all hoovered up the recently re-mastered vinyl release of Red Mecca and box set, #8385 (Collected Works 1983 - 1985) but Cab’s newbies should start here as this collects material from perhaps their finest periods.
Drew Bass

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Marco Minnemann
EEPS (Lazy Bones)

Marco Minnemann Go on admit it, you have no idea who he is do you (aside from a few Steven Wilson fans or readers who picked up the recent excellent Levin Minnemann Rudess album)? Ostensibly a drummer Minnemann is in fact something of a one man band who not only plays loads of things he also plays them well and writes too (bastard). So on EEPS we get the full range of his musical talents from King Crimson/Frank Zappa-esque proggy work outs and percussive atom smashing whirly-gig jazz noise to out and out pop songs (albiet the sort of pop songs Todd Rundgren might do if fronting Devo).
The Oracle

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Michelle Renée
Michelle Renée (Yelloweed Records)

Michelle RenéeThis languished in the office review pile for some time due to, what I’m sure you will all agree is a pretty dreadful cover. However, as with many a book cover, you shouldn’t judge Michelle’s music on the soft focus pouty barely dressed look that first greets you. An ex-SOS Band chanteuse Renée has a genuinely fine set of soul pipes (and we’re not talking about all that Pop Idol faux soul yodelling guff), and if occasionally she appears to be trying to hit a few too many demographics there’s no doubting the genuine quality of tracks like ‘Heaven’, ‘Gypsy Girl’ and her beautiful cover of ‘Ordinary People’.
Jenny Hoon

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Screaming Eagles
From The Flames (Off Yer Rocka)

Screaming Eagles Irish rockers the Screaming Eagles have been steadfastly making in-roads of late both live and in the papers, but why should you, dear reader, add yet another rock outfit to your, already enormous, collection? Two words AC/DC (really! Two words? - Ed). Actually there’s more to them than that but if you like your rock really old skool and chunky and see no reason to hare about the place playing far too fast and scaring the animals then the Eagles will be just your cuppa (check out ‘Rock N Roll Soul’ here), stomping, soulful, bluesy and muscular, sorry but you’re gonna have to add to that collection after all...
Ray Harper

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Landmarq
Origins - A Landmarq Anthology: 1991-2014 (Synergy)

Landmarq Older prog fans, like several of the older lags up here at TM Towers, will often insist that the initial wave of prog (Yes, Crimson, Floyd, VDGG etc.) will never be bettered, younger prog fans will point to Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater , Spocks Beard and Landmarq and say Ha! You’re old, bugger off, and they will be right. Approaching their 25th anniversary Landmarq release their first ever anthology featuring re-mastered versions of some of their best works split into two discs one featuring vocalists Damian Wilson (1991-1995) and one Tracy Hitchings (1998-present), there’s even a brand new track for long term followers.
Ray Harper

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Various Artists
Front Line Presents Dub (UMC)

Front Line Presents DubLordy we are being spoiled recently with the avalanche of brilliant old reggae re-releases flooding the market, and it doesn’t look set to slow down as this double disc collection from the vaults of Virgin Records Front Line imprint (Originally launched in 1978) is positively loaded with gems. Sadly the label would close its doors in 1979 but what it released whilst in business was exceptional as the forty tracks here prove. In fact it was a toss-up between this and the equally fine Front Line Presents Roots as to which made the review pile, we suggest you get both (and look out for the upcoming Sounds Of Reality boxset).
Drew Bass

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Bob Mould
Beauty & Ruin (Merge)

Bob Mould Expectations at TM towers were high as 2012’s Silver Age was a real office favourite (and one of our albums of that particular year), and this compact 36 minutes doesn’t disappoint from the high speed clatter of 'Little Glass Pill' and 'Kid With The Crooked Face' to the insanely catchy 'I don’t Know You Anymore' Mould proves he is still in touch with both his ear for a chorus and his desire to blatter the listener into a nearby wall. Like that other Yank outsider Black Francis Mould just keeps on making great music which not enough people hear whilst people influenced by him make shed loads of cash with inferior knock–offs.
Ruby Palmer

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The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
Zim Zam Zim (Bronzerat)

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown Say the name Arthur Brown to most music fans and you will pretty much always get the same response. Yup, ‘Fire’, a massive hit (normally accompanied by Brown with a blazing bonce), that pretty much eclipsed anything that came after (despite several fine Kingdom Come albums). Fast forward to a 73 year old Brown and Zim Zam Zim his first album in ten years funded by the PledgeMusic site and blow us down if it’s not a real belter sounding like an unholy clanking and wheezing lo-fi amalgam of Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and Screaming Jay Hawkins. Brown hasn’t sound this energised in eons, buy this, really, you’ll love it.
Ray Harper

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Loudon Wainwright III
Haven't Got the Blues… Yet (Proper)

Loudon Wainwright III Never one to resist the opportunity to poke fun (at others or indeed himself), Wainwright continues in the gently, and occasionally not so gently, mocking vein we have all come to love (or in some cases hate), with yet another set of neatly observed vignettes on his 26th album (following his self professed ‘death n' decay opus’ Older Than My Old Man Now from 2012), including thoughts on aging ‘Brand New Dance’, break ups ‘Looking at the Calendar’, lost love ‘I Knew Your Mother’, gun crime ‘I’ll be Killing You This Xmas’ and, of course, depression on the title track and ‘Depression Blues’ no great leaps here but hey, if it ain’t broke...
Raft Thong

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The Residents
Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? (Wienerworld/Cryptic)

The ResidentsAs with many things in Resident-land the original idea for Whatever Happened to Vileness Fats? (mooted as a 14 hour video epic), was rather more grandiose than budget, and probably common sense, allowed and despite regularly revisiting the project between 1972 and 1975 Fats hit a wall. Many years later the reams of footage were dramatically edited down and the tunes created for the more compact results are found herein – a delightfully queasy mixture of not quite melodic, not quite atonal ambience. Now comes paired with the full soundtrack created for the Bruce R. Cook film The Census Taker.
Jenny Hoon

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Richard Thompson
Acoustic Classics (Beeswing Records)

Richard ThompsonOdd one this as it’s hard to imagine who might want it. Don’t get me wrong, everything on here is superb, every track a coconut so to speak, and whilst they are re-recorded 'oldies but goldies' Thompson attacks them with admirable gusto – a couple might even, just, pip the originals - but long termers will already have these (several times in some cases if you have the BBC boxset). Still if you have yet to sample the delights of Mr T this is a great place to start as every track here contains swathes of guitar heaven and slices of lyrical genius ('Beeswing' would get my vote for one of the finest songs ever written).
The Oracle

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Dub Collosus
Addis To Omega (Echomaster)

Dub Collosus The fourth album from Dub Colossus (the brainchild of ex Transglobal Underground chappie Nick Page, aka Count Dubulah), originally melding reggae, Ethiopian Azmari, Jazz and of course dub when first heard on the genuinely groundbreaking A Town Called Addis (2008). Things have since moved on with even more influences thrown into the musical gumbo - Dubulah is calling it Dubadelica – veering wildly from the Ska poetry of 'Mi Dad' to the Special’s flavoured spooked Latin-tinged jazz dub of 'Tale Of 2 Cities'. At fifteen tracks it’s possibly a mite too long but really complaining about such a plethora of ideas seems pretty churlish.
Drew Bass

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Neil Young
A Letter Home (Warners)

Neil Young Given that Young is currently espousing the sonic capabilities of the Pono it’s perhaps a surprise (although not to long term Young watchers), that his latest album, a collection of covers, was recorded with Jack White in a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth - at Third Man's Nashville headquarters - which boast the sonic capabilities of a pillow case in a tumble dryer. But if you can get past the old 78 scratchy-ness there is much to love here as Young essays Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle of Death’, Willy Nelson’s ‘Crazy’, Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason To Believe’ Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Hometown’ and more with a big grin on his face.
Ray Harper

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System 7
Out (A Wave)

System 7 Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy, follow up last year’s link up with Japanese post-rockers Rovo on Phoenix Rising with a double disc collection of remixes and collaborations including the clonking great twenty minute plus Plastikman deconstruction of 1995’s ‘AlphaWave’ (originally from Point 3 Fire and Water), Carl Craig’s deep dark and delightful eleven minute plus romp through ‘PositiveNoise’ (Up, 2011) and Doc Scott’s skittering drum and bass clatter through 1996’s Power Of Seven highlight ‘Interstate’, three highlights amongst a slew of cracking re-workings featuring the likes of Laurent Garnier and A Guy Called Gerald.
Drew Bass

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ZZ Top
The Very Baddest Of ZZ Top (Rhino)

ZZ TopNot the only ZZ Top best of… out there (see also 2004’s Rancho Texicano), However this double disc set – there is also a single disc version - is certainly the best stab at a career spanning overview currently available bringing together, as it does, material from all three of their previous labels. Most will be cognisant with the slew of MTV friendly material lifted from their world straddling eighth album Eliminator but equally worthy of a listen are the innuendo laden harder edged blues rockers from their early days (like 'Tush', 'La Grange' and 'Cheap Sunglasses') so if you don’t own any ZZ Top then this is definitely the place to start.
Ray Harper

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Jah Wobble Presents PJ Higgins
Inspiration (Sonar Kollektiv)

Jah Wobble Presents PJ HigginsEver the musical adventurer (just as likely to be found working with mainstream artists like Pater Gabriel as more left field musicians like Holger Czukay and Bill Laswell), the main thing we have come to expect from Wobble is seismic undulating bass throb, whether it is underpinning post-punk titans PiL, or weaving in and out of sounds from Africa, China or Japan, Wobble is synonymous with huge slabs of dubby bass groove, and this link up with Dub Collossus vocalist PJ Higgins is no different although possibly the most accessible thing he has put his name to in years (due in no small part to Higgins deep, dark and delightful vocals).
Drew Bass

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Man
Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day (Esoteric)

Man If, like some of the crusty old buggers up here at TM Towers, you recall dragging your desert boots and RAF greatcoat around, sadly now mostly defunct, tatty old music venues to see bands like Stray, Blodwyn Pig and Hawkwind then Man will doubtless stir up a few happy memories and this particular line-up (minus Deke Leonard and Martin Ace) is a fave with many fans as they stretched things out instrumentally sounding not unlike like a Welsh Grateful Dead (evidenced nicely on the two bonus instrumental tracks). Altogether now ‘I like to eat bananas, 'cos they got no bones, I like marijuana 'cos it gets me stoned’.
Ray Harper

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The Stranglers
About Time, Written In Red & Coup De Grace (Eagle Classics)

The Stranglers There’s a school of thought that insists ‘the Stranglers ended when Hugh Cornwell left’, a school of thought that will get you twatted by the legions of Strangler fans who have stayed with the lads up until the present day and these three mid to late ‘90s efforts show that whilst they may no longer have been regular visitors to the singles charts they were still on personal terms with the notion of a catchy tune (‘Lies and Deception’, and ‘Golden Boy’ both stand out), and latter fans will find this three album set excellent VFM. Look out for others in the Eagle three-fer series including Fairport Convention and John Mayall.
Ray Harper

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Egg
The Civil Surface (Esoteric)

EggNever as high profile as their prog rock peers Egg were nevertheless an important band rising phoenix like from the defunct flames of Uriel (with Steve Hillage) Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks final studio album was actually released after they had broken up (Stewart having moved onto Hatfield and The North) but re-united in order to record this, experimental, collection careering through increasingly wrong footing time, and key, changes and veering from jazz to prog and proto-ambient glitch. Certainly not the most accessible Egg album (that would be the eponymously titled debut), this is nonetheless probably their finest.
The Oracle

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Twisted Sister
You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll, Come Out And Play & Love Is For Suckers (Armoury Classics)

Twisted SisterBilled as three ‘classics’ this triple set is actually two good albums and one so-so – indeed if Eagle Rocks Armoury, erm, arm had just replaced the lacklustre (and final before the band split) Love Is For Suckers with monster breakthrough smasheroony Stay Hungry this would have genuinely been the very, very best of Dee Snider and his slap bedecked chums. That said, and given the extra tracks and the budget price, you really can’t complain about this VFM package which sports a nice little booklet and is chock full of oodles of the sort of glam/anthem/hair metal ramalama Twisted Sister did so well back in the day.
Ray Harper

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Pixies
Indie Cindy (Pixiesmusic)

Pixies On a bit of a hiding to nothing really. How could they possibly hope to live up to the almost mythic status of their short but explosive original outing which, (much like the Velvet Underground), influenced far more people than their record sales would indicate. But bugger me if they don’t give it a bloody good run with opening cut ‘What Goes Boom’ signalling their intent to carry on where they left off on 1991’s Trompe Le Monde and if the throat shredding ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’ is never going to be as alarming as Doolittle’s ‘Tame’ it is nonetheless great to hear Frank ‘Black’ Francis still reaching for notes you really, really shouldn’t aim for.
Ruby Palmer

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Driving Mrs Satan
Popscotch (Agualoca Records)

Driving Mrs Satan Not a new idea, (both Hayseed Dixie and Dread Zeppelin got a lot of mileage reinventing rock songs in a dramatically different stylee), the difference here being Driving Mrs Satan are not delivering these songs with a wry smile and a knowing wink, but in a genuinely enjoyable light-handed, jazzy acoustic-pop fashion – like Cat Powers terrific version of ‘Satisfaction’ no attempt is made to adhere to the original – and Claudia Sorvillo’s beautifully ethereal vocals take some of the more, erm, ‘metal’ lyrics to a whole new level. Needless to say several metal fans have taken exception, but these gentle reinterpretations really are worth a listen.
Ruby Palmer

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Funkadelic
One Nation Under A Groove (Charly)

FunkadelicFunkadelic/Parliament/George Clinton fans will debate until the cows come home which album is the huge great undulating P-Funk collectives high water mark but a quick straw poll in the office came down heavily in favour of this little beauty, their most commericially succesful, from 1978 which now comes complete with the original vinyl albums bonus EP and dressed up in a very natty hard back mediabook. ‘Groovealliance’, ‘Cholly’, ‘Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock’ and of course the monster groove of the title track are all stone cold classics so if you have yet to dip your toes in the funk then this right here is the place to start.
Drew Bass

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Yes
The Yes Album (DGM/Panegyric) CD+Blu-ray

Yes If Close To The Edge is their masterpiece, then this album was the first to really nail their remarkable new colours to the mast. Longer songs are the order of the day and new guitarist Steve Howe (replacing Peter Banks) brings a whole other level of sonic sophistication – like on the flanged guitar sound on the 'Würm' section of 'Starship Trooper'. Beautifully presented in a mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve with booklet featuring rare photos and archive material, the album has been mixed for 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo from the original studio masters by Steven Wilson. Now we can’t wait to hear what they are going to do with Fragile.
The Oracle

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Curtis Mayfield
Super Fly (Charly)

Curtis MayfieldAnother hard back mediabook release from Charly, the 1972 soundtrack to the movie Super Fly (now with a second disc of alternate takes, demos, radio spots, and interview with Mayfield). Sadly no longer with us since 1999 - his final decade tragically marred by paralysis after a lighting rig accident – Mayfield’s gorgeous honeyed vocals and hard hitting socially conscious lyrics ensured this became far more than just another soundtrack (alongside Isaac Hayes' Shaft), and became the precursor to all that dark wah-wah and brass driven soul that would become ubiquitous in ‘70s TV and film soundtracks, this was the first and is still the best.
Drew Bass

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Curved Air
North Star (Curved Air Records)

Curved Air Yes you read right, it’s a Curved Air album and no it’s not a re-release or a best of, it’s a genuinely new album (well, mainly, but more of that later), their first ‘proper’ new album since 1976’s Airborne and with original members Sonja Kristina, Florian Pilkington-Miksa alongside very early adopter (joining in 1972) Kirby Gregory. As seems to be the fashion these days a few older tracks are given a buffing up and The Police, Beatles and, erm, Snow Patrol are covered but it’s the seven new tracks that really hit the mark the old proggy mix of Kristina’s vocals and the trademark violin still weaving it’s seductive spell.
Ray Harper

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XTC
Skylarking: Corrected Polarity Edition (DGM/Panegyric)

XTCWhat do you get when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Well in this case what you get is possibly XTC's finest album created when Todd Rundgren's irresistible force thudded up against Andy Partridge's immovable object. Remastered from the original stereo masters but now with corrected polarity – a mistake which probably occurred during the original tape transfer - and finally dressed in the originally cancelled, now finally uncensored, sleeve art (featuring flower bedecked lady parts), this 1986 masterpiece featuring, amongst others, the mighty ‘Dear God’ is finally released exactly as it should have been.
Ray Harper

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Guided by Voices
Cool Planet (Fire Records)

Guided by Voices As you might expect from a Guided By Voices album (any GBV album in fact), Cool Planet is awash with slightly rough production values – although nothing like their earliest lowest of lo-fi efforts – and lots of very short songs (18 this time around) but, given their prolific output (22 official studio albums, many more unofficial), boasting far more ideas than most bands with half their output can muster. Yes there are a few half-formed songs, it’s hard to think of a GBV album that hasn’t got a smattering, but on the whole this clatters along like a head on collision between early REM and prime time Sebadoh.
Ruby Palmer

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Linton Kwesi Johnson
Reality Poems (Spectrum Audio)

Linton Kwesi Johnson It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Linton Kwesi Johnson, and his producer Dennis Bovell, to the UK reggae scene (not to mention rap music), not a huge unit shifter or indeed, with his stern countenance and porkpie hat, a natural ‘pop’ star but the Jamaican born dub poet’s short run of albums in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s remain amongst the best UK based reggae albums ever released (no really, they are that good). Collecting choice cuts from this run of albums Reality Poems marries dubs to original cuts and if you only buy one reggae album this year you should really make it this one.
Drew Bass

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Ian Anderson
Homo Erraticus (Calliandra/Kscope)

Ian AndersonThe sixth solo album from Jethro Tull main-man Ian Anderson and the one most likely to excite JT fans as, in all but name, this sounds as Tull-esque as any of that redoubtable bands back catalogue. Yet another sequel to highpoint Thick As A Brick (TAAB2 being released in 2012), and once again featuring the florid lyrical input of Anderson’s alter-ego Gerald Bostock Homo Erraticus musically ranges from prog to folk, rock and beyond, and if Anderson’s voice no longer has the depth it used to have, the songs are expertly pitched to ensure his lighter timbre is expertly cushioned making this the best thing Anderson has put his name to in ages.
Ray Harper

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Rodrigo Y Gabriela
9 Dead Alive (Rubyworks/Because)

Rodrigo Y Gabriela Following their successful collaboration with Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A. on Area 52 (big bold re-workings of their previous acoustic output), Rod and Gab return to the flamenco flavoured/hard rock influenced acoustic guitar duets they are best known for and their first album of new material in years is no disappointment, each track dedicated to a historical figure - Spanish guitar maker Antonio de Torres Jurado and writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky to name two – and if the influence isn’t necessarily obvious to anyone but themselves they have nonetheless inspired another set of tempestuous, beautiful and technically brilliant tunes.
Ruby Palmer

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Wilson Pickett
Live In Japan (Retroworld)

Wilson Pickett Having met a German tour manager who discovered that Wilson Pickett was not nicknamed 'Wicked’ for nothing (obnoxious being about the best thing he had to say about the soul legend), it’s perhaps not surprising that his career has been something of a rollercoaster ride, but regardless of his volatile personal life Wilson Pickett could sing. Boy could he sing, having numerous US R&B hits including 'In The Midnight Hour’ and 'Mustang Sally' (both here) and this show, recorded in 1973 at Nakano's Sun Plazza, captures the man at the top of his game including a spirited romp through Free’s ‘Fire And Water’ and Creedence’s ‘Proud Mary’.
The Oracle

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Little Feat
Live In Holland 1976: CD+DVD (Eagle Vision)

Little FeatLittle Feat fans, if they haven’t stumped up for a shoddy bootleg, may well have seen choice bits of this on You Tube but the concert itself (recorded at the Dutch festival Pinkpop on 7 June 1976) has never been officially released which might lead you to believe it’s pants right? Nope, not only is it not pants it’s actually a pant-wettingly good show featuring the original line-up with Lowell George and liberally sprinkled with all time classics like ‘Rock And Roll Doctor’, ‘Feats Don t Fail Me Now’, ‘Skin It Back’ and ‘Fat Man In A Bathtub’. Essential listening (and viewing) for those keen to trace the roots of Americana.
Ray Harper

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Circa Zero
Circus Hero (429 Records)

Circa ZeroForming new band, Circa Zero, with Rob Giles from LA indie rockers The Rescues (originally a trio, drummer Emmanuelle Capalette having since moved on), it’s often assumed guitar slinger Andy Summers' post Police output has been scarce however this is not so as there are well over twenty albums featuring Summers signature sound, however this is perhaps the first to unashamedly wear it’s commercial aspirations on its sleeve and whilst tracks like ‘Gamma Ray’ would sit happily on any Police album what is mostly called to mind are the better moments of ‘80s outfits like The Cars, The Tubes and even shades of Todd Rundgren.
The Oracle

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Magnum
Escape From The Shadow Garden (SPV/Steamhammer)

Magnum Described variously as hard rock, melodic rock, progressive rock and plain old AOR Magnum have dipped their toes in all of these genres over their eighteen album career and, whilst they haven’t really bothered the mainstream since 1988’s Wings Of Heaven they have hit something of a purple patch since their reformation in 2002 with both The Visitation (2011) and On The 13th Day (2012) proving hugely popular with both fans and newcomers alike, culminating in this, possibly their best work in decades. If you like your rock muscular but accessible with a neat line in melodic hooks then do yourself a favour and check this out.
Ray Harper

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Grace Jones
Nightclubbing: Deluxe Edition (Island/Universal)

Grace Jones If you remember Grace Jones at all it may well be the nutjob who set about chat show host Russell Harty for talking to another guest or indeed the worst Bond villain sidekick of all time, but the statuesque Jamaican’s Chris Blackwell helmed follow up to Warm Leatherette (which was her first foray into a new-wave/reggae direction featuring in demand rhythm section Sly and Robbie), saw all the elements fall perfectly into place – helped no end by her striking, angular androgynous image. The deluxe remastered edition includes 12” mixes and rarities including two newly discovered tracks and comes in numerous formats including vinyl.
Drew Bass

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Carl Palmer
Do You Wanna Play, Carl? (Wienerworld)

Carl PalmerNot the easiest thing in the world to do, a drummers anthology could be a pretty one dimensional beast, but this collection, originally released in 2001 has a pretty good stab at it featuring contributions from all of Palmers outfits (Crazy World of Arthur Brown aside) including ELP, The Craig, The Chants, Atomic Rooster, Mike Oldfield, Asia and 3. Of particular interest to drum fans will be the whopping 'Concerto for Percussion' by Joseph Horovitz and a live performance with the Buddy Rich Orchestra - an acknowledgment of Palmer's debt to the legendary jazz drummer (whom he got to know in the later years of his life) - playing ‘Shawnee’.
The Oracle

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Automat
Automat (Bureau B)

AutomatNot to be confused with the Italian electronic duo of the same name who also released an album called Automat in 1978, Automat are ex-Einstürzende Neubauten guitarist Jochen Arbeit, Drummer Achim Färber and bass player Zeitblom, who has worked with artists as varied as Pole, John Zorn (plus Arbeit and Färber once before in Machine), and it’s Zeitblom’s deep undulating bass throb (a kind of Kosmiche Jah Wobble rumble) and Färber’s motorik swing that drive things along here. Guest vocalists Lydia Lunch, Genesis P-Orridge and Blixa Bargeld add some typically obtuse verbiage but it’s the instrumental tracks that really hit the spot.
Paul Riley

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Nomeansno
Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie (Wrong)

NomeansnoCanadian post-punkers Nomeansno have been making albums since 1979 and are thought by some to be the forefathers of Math Rock (whatever the hell that is). Ploughing a very distinctive furrow (something akin to a more musically proficient Dead Kennedys and a less irritating Primus), welding, often convoluted and jazzy, bumper-car rythmes with fiercely intelligent, if often rather warped, lyrical content, Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie was their eighth album (originally released in 1988), and whilst it may not scale the giddy heights of career highpoint Wrong it is nonetheless a remarkable, if occasionally bonkers, effort.
The Oracle

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The Wisdoom
Hypothalamus (Heavy Psych Sounds Records)

The Wisdoom Doom/sludge/heavy psych outfit based in Italy (formed at the end of 2010), unleash debut album Hypothalamus – a portion of the brain that controls the nervous system: science ed – which, for those of you not currently ‘down’ with current metal argot sounds not unlike a glacier abrading it’s way past any immovable object it encounters (older rockers will hear Black Sabbath in here, slightly younger Killdozer younger still some of the more weighty Smashing Pumpkins material), but whilst things seldom accelerate past a shambling walking pace over the four tracks there is something enjoyably hypnotic about The Wisdoom.
Ray Harper

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Robin Trower
Compendium 1987 - 2013 (Repertoire)

Robin Trower Thirty-five tracks (some pretty hard to get hold of) gathered from a range of recordings released between 1987-2013, Compendium... proves to be just that, a tremendously impressive cherry picked run-down of the not inconsiderable chops of one of the UK’s truly under-sung blues guitar hero’s. Running from his first studio album after leaving Chrysalis Records (‘87s Passion) right up the recent Roots And Branches, if you have missed out on Trower’s career since the heady days Of Bridge Of Sighs then this really is a terrific place to dive back in. Also includes extensive liner notes written by Michael Heatley
Ray Harper

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Small Faces
Here Comes The Nice: Box Set (Immediate/Sanctuary)

Small FacesWhilst the ‘60s were littered with band’s whose fortunes were poorly (or indeed criminally), mishandled the Small Faces career is the most genuinely heartbreaking as the quality of the music should have seen them not just up with the bigger names of that era but ahead of most, and their output continued to be mishandled until now. At last, this massive box set finally set’s to rights not only the bands legacy but also the actual sounds created. Beautifully presented, meticulously researched and annotated this is the only Small Faces recording you will ever need (those with shallower pockets should plump for the cut-down Greatest Hits double disc set).
Ray Harper

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Barry White
Can’t Get Enough (Audio Fidelity)

Barry White OK, so perhaps I am a bit of a luddite (although I do have an MP3 player, great for the train), but I still find it hard to beat sitting down with a foot square piece of cardboard (preferably, as in this case, gatefold) and poring over the details found therein whilst waiting for the gentle hiss and crackle of my knackered old needle to find the first track on a lovely lump of vinyl, and you’re unlikely to find a lovelier lump of vinyl than this classic 1974 album featuring Big Baz classics ‘You're The First, The Last, My Everything’ and ‘Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe’, all on 180g limited edition Virgin Vinyl.
The Oracle

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Rockpile
Live at Rockpalast: CD & DVD (Repertoire Records)

Rockpile Another band whose influence stretched beyond their brief existence, Rockpile (Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams) only held it together for a few short years and only actually released one album (Seconds Of Pleasure) under the Rockpile moniker - although their work can also be heard on both Lowe and Edmunds solo projects. So this live set from January 1980 recorded for the legendary live German Rockpalast television show is a particularly welcome addition including both Edmunds and Lowe originals alongside Mickey Jupp, Elvis Costello and Chuck Berry covers.
Ray Harper

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Prince Fatty Vs Mungo’s Hi Fi
Prince Fatty Vs Mungo’s Hi Fi (Mr Bongo)

Prince Fatty Vs Mungo’s Hi Fi Simple enough idea get Mungo’s Hi-Fi Soundsystem to remix five Mike ‘Prince Fatty’ Pelanconi tracks and then let Fatty return the compliment, the results? Pretty damn good actually as Mungo’s dancehall style get’s a thorough Fatty dubbing and Fatty’s rootsy dub-centric cuts get a more digital Mungo dancehall makeover (and it’s always a joy to hear Fatty regular Holly Cooke’s dulcet tones even when they are being chopped up). Great to hear that quality reggae is not only still alive but thriving in the UK. If you enjoy this then head straight for Holly Cook’s Fatty produced album, his own Survival Of The Fattest and Mungo’s Forward Ever.
Drew Bass

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Sunn O))) and Ulver
Terrestrials (Southern Lord)

Sunn O))) and Ulver If, for you, the words ‘experimental’ and ‘music’ are words that best remain mutually exclusive then chances are Sunn O))) and Ulver’s three collaborative live in the studio improvisations, will either sorely try your patience or send you fleeing in abject terror. However for those of us that are a bit partial to layers of guitar drone, dark electronic ambience and shades of Musique concrète then there is much to clutch warmly to your breast, the final track in particular (‘Eternal Return’) running the gamut from spooked spaghetti western washes and undulating electronica to ethereal vocals and chilly melancholic classicism.
The Oracle

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Derek Sherinian
Mythology (Armoury Records)

Derek SherinianNot a name particularly well known outside Dream Theatre or Black Country Communion fans Derek Sherinian is nonetheless a much in demand studio and live keyboard whizz who has played with everyone from Alice Cooper to Al Di Meola and Allan Holdsworth and that’s just the ‘A’s. Now all five of his solo albums (from 2001 to 2009) have been re-released with new liner notes by Sherinian featuring a gobsmacking line up of players - especially guitarists - and frankly you can’t go far wrong with any of ‘em but we’re plumping for this which runs the gamut from gorgeous Latin grooves to walloping great prog-metal workouts.
The Oracle

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Hazel O’Connor
Here She Comes (Sfe/Cherry Red)

Hazel O’Connor Another in the series of jazzy blues/cabaret albums O’Connor has been releasing with jazz saxophonist Clare Hirst (The Belle Stars, Communards) and pianist Sarah Fisher (Eurythmics) which mix new material with cherry picked old classics - in this case Lou Reed’s 'Perfect Day', 'Good Morning Heartache' (popularised by Billie Holiday) and 'Ne Me Quitte Pas' by Jacques Brel. More suited to small smoky (if you could still smoke), subterranean cellars than large concert halls and highly unlikely to scales the sales heights of Breaking Glass this is nonetheless a classy grown up album which still finds O’Connor in fine voice.
Paul Riley

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The Ruts
Live At Deeply Vale (Ozit/Dandelion)

The Ruts Recorded in 1978 this live set from the Deeply Vale festival is less than pristine audio quality (although let’s be honest here and all agree that a Rut’s live show in the late ‘70’s would be a pretty rough and ready thing at the best of times), however this is nonetheless a terrificly visceral set with boisterous clatters through soon to be hits ‘In A Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and early dub/punk hybrid ‘Jah War’. Sadly the flame that burned so brightly was destined to burn out far too quickly which makes aural documents like these all the more important (available on limited edition 180g wonderfully lurid coloured vinyl).
The Oracle

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Ozric Tentacles
Vitamin Enhanced Boxset (Snapper)

Ozric Tentacles Chances are - if you are of a certain age - you will have some treasured cassette only releases squirreled away somewhere (woe betide anyone who messes with my Banco De Gaia and Back To The Planet ‘sette’s), so this collection of Ozric Tentacles’ cassette albums, spanning ’84 to ’89 which received a limited edition release in collected form in 1994 will be manna from heaven for the poor buggers that failed to bag one of the original 5000 boxes. But there is much here that will appeal to any fan of dubby ambient psychedelic space rock especially as all six albums have been expertly remastered and sound better than ever.
Drew Bass

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Status Quo
Piledriver: Deluxe Edition (Commercial Marketing)

Status QuoHaving made efforts to move away from their psychedelic past on both Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon and Dog Of Two Head (their new direction first heard on ‘Down The Dustpipe’ in 1970), it was only on 1972’s Piledriver that the band really got hit the ground running and fully realised the heads down boogie rock sound with which they became synonymous and this expanded 2-CD Deluxe Edition version includes a bonus disc of live performances, In Concert and Peel sessions, extensive liner notes by rock writer Dave Ling and a host of rare photos provided by former tour manager and ‘fifth member’ of the band Bob Young.
Ray Harper

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Peter Hammill and Gary Lucas
Other World (Esoteric Antenna)

Peter Hammill and Gary LucasSo what would you get if you crossed The Magic Band and Van Der Graaf Generator? Well, oddly enough, absolutely nothing like this. What you get instead is something really rather beautiful, ambient in the best sense, subtle and immersive but, unsurprisingly with the two participants in question, ever so slightly wonky not unlike post-rock without the towering crescendo’s but with flamenco, folk, blues and jazz flourishes. Awash with guitar effects and Hammill’s delightfully quavery vocals this is pretty much unclassifiable, so actually exactly what you might expect if you crossed The Magic Band and Van Der Graaf Generator then.
The Oracle

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Def Leppard
Slang: Deluxe Edition (Frontiers)

Def LeppardHaving lost their way on previous outing Adrenalize (likely not unrelated to the death of guitarist Steve Clark), The Lep’s decided the formula they’d created with producer Mutt Lange on their two massive selling US breakthrough albums Pyromania and Hysteria had become a little tired so, deciding against another ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ wall of sound outing, they slimmed right back and even experimented with (whisper it), grunge and funk! It doesn’t all work but the enthusiasm was clearly back and this expanded double disc version adds works in progress, b-sides and unreleased tracks and has actually aged pretty well.
Ray Harper

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Peter Murphy
Should the World Fail to Fall Apart: Deluxe Edition (Cherry Red)

Peter Murphy Having been the focal point of ‘love ‘em or hate ‘em’ Goth rockers Bauhaus Peter Murphy had some reinventing to do when the band split in 1983 initially plumping for a link up with Mick Karn in the short lived (and underrated) Dali’s Car before embarking on his solo career in earnest and moving avowedly away from his ‘goth’ past with this album (a guest slot from Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash on ‘The Answer Is Clear’ aside), although his penchant for a cover version remains with enjoyable romps through Pere Ubu’s ‘Final Solution’ and Magazine’s ‘The Light Pours Out of Me’, now comes with a further disc of remixes and B-sides.
Ruby Palmer

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Banco De Gaia
Maya:20th Anniversary Edition (Disco Gecko)

Banco De Gaia Never perhaps as feted as some other names to come out of the acid house/rave scene in the early ‘90s (like Orbital or The Orb) Banco De Gaia was nonetheless just as groundbreaking and important an act, melding Arabic and Middle Eastern samples with bass heavy trance-like rhythms that became huge live favourites at clubs and festivals alike. Ask most people to name a Banco De Gaia album and ninety percent will likely say Last Train To Lhasa but this is where (after several early tape only releases), Toby Marks really hit his stride, and this three disc expanded limited edition makes a once great album pretty much unmissable.
Drew Bass

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Gene
Olympian: Deluxe Edition (Demon)

Gene Never sure if a recommendation by Morrissey is actually a good thing or not but to be fair Gene were more than adept at derailing their own career without any help from others, which is sad as they were actually a great band with some fine ideas and whilst Suede and others hogged the Britpop limelight Gene simply carried on making fine, critically acclaimed, records until they quietly called it a day in 2004. Pretty much their entire output has been buffed up and expanded (much to their fans delight), but if you are a Gene virgin then we suggest you begin with this, their genuinely excellent debut.
Ruby Palmer

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Bram Stoker
Cold Reading (Sunn Creative)

Bram StokerMaking the Stone Roses look positively fecund this is Bram Stoker’s first new recording since Heavy Rock Spectacular (Windmill Records) released in 1972. Quite why it has taken so long to follow up is unknown, but there’s little doubt that they were there at the birth of prog-rock so this is no ‘Johnny-come-lately’ outfit making the most of the new interest in all things prog. That said this is from the decidedly more melodic/ symphonic keyboard led end of the proggy scale (think Alan Parsons or Camel) but, probably because they were there at the get-go, it also sounds incredibly authentic, like the 1974 follow up that never was.
The Oracle

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Howe Gelb
Little Sand Box (Fire)

Howe Gelb Best known as the husky laconic rasp fronting the prolific Giant Sand (in excess of twenty five albums since 1985) – indeed it would be it his record labels decision that it was too soon for another Giant Sand album in 1991 that led to the beginning of his solo career – Howe Gelbs solo output is no less impressive (six studio albums and one live), all of which are collected, and expanded, here in this beautiful little box, along with a selection of unreleased piano pieces, and whilst everything here has much to commend it 2006's ' Gospel driven Sno Angel Like You and 2011’s Flamenco driven Alegrías are particularly fine.
Ruby Palmer

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David Rodigan
Masterpiece (Ministry Of Sound)

David Rodigan David Rodigan may have been brought up in leafy Oxfordshire but since seeing Millie Small perform her 1964 hit 'My Boy Lollipop' on Ready Steady Go! he has been a passionate advocate of all things reggae, hosting the Roots Rockers show on Capital Radio for 11 years before transferring to Kiss for a further 22 years. So what Rodigan doesn’t know about reggae isn’t really worth knowing and, apart from some Kinks, Yardbirds, Small Faces and early soul tunes this is pretty much choc-full of choice reggae cuts from every era (including many lesser known cuts), and is thus a cracking reggae history lesson.
Drew Bass

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Percy Jones
Cape Catastrophe (Gonzo)

Percy JonesFretless bass got something of a reputation during the ‘80s from which, despite honourable mentions to Mick Karn (surely a Jones fan?), it has still to fully recover. But lest we forget innovators like Jaco Pastorius and Percy Jones originally did things without frets that, even today, sound mind boggling. Perhaps better known for his work with Brand X and Brian Eno, Jones solo output is not huge (just this and Propeller Music in fact), but it is remarkable and this solo effort recorded in 1988 and 1989 using an array of early synths to lay down tracks and then accompany live on his five-string bass is gob-smackingly astounding.
Paul Riley

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Heart
Jupiters Darling/Red Velvet Car (Eagle Classics)

HeartPart of a new batch of twofers from Eagle/Armoury Classics (also currently available in the series are double disc sets from Jethro Tull, Alice Cooper, Peter Green and Ted Nugent), these two albums hail from the latter part of Hearts career – after a dalliance with folk music - when the gals reformed the band with a new line-up (in 2002) and promptly rediscovered the melodic hard rock template that served them so well in the late 70s and early 80s. Jupiters Darling (2004), despite poor sales due to label problems, setting out their stall and Red Velvet Car (2010) driving them straight back up the charts.
Ray Harper

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Lee Bannon
Alternate/Endings (Ninja Tune)

Lee Bannon In the same way that, despite a few notable exceptions, the UK doesn’t really successfully do rap/hip-hop, the US, again with the odd exception, never fully came to grips with jungle/drum and bass. Obviously with any number of demi-genres and Atlantic hopping, that distinction becomes more blurred by the day and so it’s probably no surprise to find that one of the better breakbeat moments of the year thus far comes courtesy of Sacramento raised hip-hop producer Lee Bannon, albeit breakbeat swathed in the grimy dubstep vibe which skitters neatly into the current Congo Natty led re-birth of Jungle.
Drew Bass

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Mogwai
Rave Tapes (Rock Action)

Mogwai We all know the blueprint here (just don’t mention the ‘p-rock’ label), basically quiet bit, loud bit, minimum of vocals, bobs yer aunties husband. Thing is whilst some (post-r) bands seem happy to tread water Mogwai have continued to take this basic template on all manner of journey’s culminating last year in the terrific soundtrack to Les Revenants for the French television program of the same name, an unsettling but rather beautiful noise that seems to be the kicking off point for Rave Tapes which, whilst managing the barest of nods to the original blueprint, takes the outworn concept of ‘mood’ music onto a whole other plane of existence.
Ruby Palmer

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Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Wig Out At Jagbags (Domino)

Stephen Malkmus And The JicksNope, we’ve no idea what the hell it means either but to these ears Malk and Co. are sounding more and more like the Kinks as they mature – lo-fi indie flourishes aside - which is no bad thing really (and given Malkmus’s penchant for old school Brit-rock not a huge surprise either), The Jicks are less given to meandering than on their early albums and their boss is now reaching for more age related bon mot’s, but fear not this is not evidence of a band running out of puff as wonky time-signatures, reggae interludes and trombone solos still poke their heads up like surprised rabbits on a motorway.
The Oracle

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Various Artists
The Rough Guide To Flamenco (World Music Network)

The Rough Guide To FlamencoWhilst Flamenco traditionalist will probably steadfastly maintain that a CD showcasing ‘the latest developments in Flamenco’ is an audio oxymoron (as Flamenco has very structured rules that are not to be taken lightly), the fact is that for music to survive it must evolve, and evolve it most certainly has if these are the results. Of course the basics - bravura guitar playing and tricky ‘Compás’ rhythms – still remain the basic building blocks but the more jazzy leanings of ‘nuevo flamenco’ acts like Al Toque Flamenco (who have a whole second disc to themselves) show the music is both in touch with its own past whilst heading off into the sunset.
Paul Riley

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Poemss
Poemss (Planet Mu)

Poemss It probably won’t help to know that this is the brainchild of Aaron Funk and Joanne Pollock as, if you have the vaguest idea who Aaron Funk is, then you will doubtless be expecting the sort of brain scrabbling and bowel loosening hardcore breakbeat blatter that his Venetian Snares day job delivers. Well this ain’t that. This is something altogether ‘other’, whimsical, gentle, and ever so slightly queasy like a marriage between late ‘70s UK synthpop and a David Lynch film. If you want scattershot synapse frazzling clatter look elsewhere, if however you fancy something as creepy as it is lovely then look no further.
Drew Bass

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William Shatner
Ponder The Mystery (Cleopatra Records)

William ShatnerTaking the blueprint first explored on Has Been where a slew of famous musicians underpin Shatner’s bizarre bumper car delivery prose-poems and continued on his cover versions album Seeking Major Tom, Ponder The Mystery (helmed by ex Yes chappie Billy Sherwwod) takes the king of ham acting and alarming pauses to perhaps his spiritual home ‘prog rock’, albeit rather glossy prog rock, but you can’t argue with guests like Al Di Meola, Steve Vai, Rick Wakeman, Edgar Froese, George Duke and Robby Krieger. How seriously you take this is down to your feelings for the eccentric star, but this listener smiled happily throughout.
The Oracle

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Paul Rodgers
The Royal Sessions (429 Records)

Paul Rodgers Generally the sort of album that singers of a certain age resort to when they’re running short on original ideas – and, more often than not, results in pretty run-of-the-mill versions of old classics. Where this album differs is firstly in that Paul Rodgers is possibly the most underrated of the class of ’70 blue’s rock vocalists and can do real justice to songs like ‘Walk On By’, ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’ and ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and secondly the backing (recorded at Memphis Royal Studios) is supplied by many of the musicians who played on the original recordings and is consequently a joy from beginning to end.
Ray Harper

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Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything (Constellation)

Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial OrchestraAlso known as (amongst other things) Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tr-La-La Band – one assumes the Tra-La-La band were not available this time around – SMZ are in fact based around the central core of Thierry Amar, Efrim Menuck and Sophie Tudeau of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the major difference in approach being the use of vocals (something GY!BE seldom utilize outside of samples), the whopping great walls of noise GY!BE often trade in are however present and correct, only here the post-rock sturm und drang is leavened by moments of gentle beauty and considered subtlety. Without doubt their finest outing thus far.
The Oracle

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****************************************************************** Mick Farren & Andy Colquhoun
Black Vinyl Dress (Gonzo)

Mick Farren & Andy Colquhoun Michael Anthony 'Mick' Farren, writer, journo, poet, counter-culture rabble rouser, ‘proto’ punk and serial collaborator with, amongst others, Lemmy, Chrissie Hynde, Hawkwind, Wayne Kramer and, on this his final outing, ex-Deviant and Pink Fairy Andy Colquhoun. Sadly no longer with us since collapsing onstage during a Deviants performance in July of 2013 Farren, never a fan of his own voice, elects to narrate songs here, his delivery a cross between John Cooper Clarke, Alan Rickman and William Burroughs as Colquhoun ensures there is more than enough sonic variety to keep the results more than just a glorified poetry reading.
Ray Harper

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Mark Lanegan
Has God Seen My Shadow: An Anthology 1989-2011 (Light in the Attic)

Mark LaneganFormer front-man for the Screaming Trees, one half of the Gutter Twins, fully paid up member of the Queens Of The Stone Age extended family, collaborator with Isobel Campbell and possessor of one of those gravel and honey baritone growls most singers would sell their old mum’s for, Mark Lanegan has quietly but steadily built a genuinely fine body of work which, if you have missed it (and many have), you can catch up with right here as the first CD acts as a neat summation of his solo career to date and for those of you already au courant a second CD contains a dozen unreleased tracks, some interesting sketches, some real gems.
Ruby Palmer

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Max Richter
Memoryhouse: Deluxe Vinyl Reissue (Fatcat/130701 Records)

Max Richter Equally at home working with Future Sound Of London and Roni Size as stood waving a stick in front of an orchestra (in this case the BBC Philharmonic), Max Richter’s debut Memoryhouse - shades of Nyman and Glass with an added frisson of atmospheric electronica and goose-bump inducing post rock dynamics - was first released on the BBC's Late Junction label back in 2002 but subsequently spent many years out of print, something happily addressed by Fatcat Records, and for real collectors this deluxe DMM limited edition (1000 copies), 180gm coloured, double-vinyl, gatefold sleeve version will be manna from heaven.
Johan Wakely

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Rovo & System 7
Phoenix Rising (G Wave)

Rovo & System 7Many a psychedelic rock fan parted ways with Steve Hillage when he began to experiment with techno and ambient electronica (preferring the psych rock solo work to the rebooted Hillage and Miquette Giraudy helmed System 7). Well fret no more rock fans as, whilst not exactly turning his back on the dance scene Hillage’s latest outing, with psychedelic Japanese trance rockers Rovo, is a hefty nod towards his days of yore – hell they even cover the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s ‘Meeting Of The Spirits’ – and should appeal to both Hillage solo and even some Gong fans as well as the more open minded System 7 head.
Drew Bass

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Deep Purple
Now What?! Gold Edition (EARmusic)

Deep PurpleWidely reckoned to be the best thing to appear under the Deep Purple banner since Perfect Strangers, Now What?! Gold Edition adds a few extra tracks and a whole extra live album mixing up DP classics with new material in a natty Made In Japan referencing gold cover. Ok Mr Blackmore is no longer on board but Steve Morse is no lightweight fret mangler and Don Airey ensures that the whole album is positively dripping in Jon Lord style keyboard flourishes – in fact ‘Uncommon Man’ and ‘Above and Beyond’ are both dedicated to Lord – and Gillan, Glover and Paice remain as sprightly as men a third their age.
Ray Harper

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Throwing Muses
Purgatory/Paradise (The Friday Project)

Throwing Muses Not the first Book/CD release from the redoubtable Kristin Hersh (the driving force behind Throwing Muses), that would have been 2010’s excellent Crooked – she’s also been busy writing her immensely readable memoirs (more here) and working with her more ‘in yer face’ outfit, the blistering 50 Foot Wave - but this is the first release under the Throwing Muses banner for ten years and there’s obviously been a huge backlog of muses fermenting as this album boasts 32 tracks with, remarkably enough, not an ounce of fat to be found plus, since the demise of vinyl, how cool is it to have a beautiful collection of writing, lyrics and pictures to pore over when listening to music again?
Ruby Palmer

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Michael Nyman
Classic Album Collection (Universal)

Michael Nyman Bit of a misnomer this really as the title suggests this might be some of Nymans concerto’s or opera’s whereas in fact it is a collection of his better known soundtrack albums including three for Peter Greenaway (The Draughtsman’s Contract, Drowning By Numbers and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover), his best selling work on Jane Campion’s The Piano and, the most recent (and apparently his own favourite), the soundtrack to Michael Winterbottom’s Wonderland, all of which are terrific in their own way and, at this price, are a cost effective way to dip into Nyman’s own brand of Reich/Riley-esque repetitive, modular, minimalism.
Johan Wakely

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Various Artists
Rainy City Punks: Manchester Punk And Post Punk Independent Singles (Ozit Dandelion/Rabid)

Rainy City PunksMore lovely heavyweight 180 gram vinyl (this one a natty shade of blue) from Chris Hewitt’s Ozit imprint, this time around collating tracks from the archives of northern indie labels Rabid, Absurd and Razz and apparently this is just the the first in a series of Manchester punk and post punk albums planned for release under the re-launched Rabid Records imprint (via Ozit Dandelion). Including prime slices of punky clatter from Slaughter and The Dogs, The Nosebleeds, Ed Banger, Jilted John, the mighty John Cooper Clarke and the late lamented Chris ‘Frank Sidebottom’ Sievey amongst others. Really what's not to like?
Ray Harper

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Regal Worm
Use And Ornament (Quatermass Records)

Regal WormAdd the peculiarly British jazzy squonking of early Soft Machine or Henry Cow to the bumper car instrumental convolutions of mid period Mothers Of Invention then layer on some late 60s psychedelia and some lugubrious Caravan style humour and you have a useful signpost to Use And Ornament, Jarrod ‘Henry Fool/I Monster’ Gosling’s paean to Prog, the marginally sub thirty minute '6:17 PM The Aunt Turns Into An Ant' being the albums crowning glory careering around like Genesis’s ‘Suppers Ready’ with a bug up its arse. If you feel prog went downhill after Hatfield and The North packed it in (in 1975) you will love this, I know I do.
Ray Harper

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Robert Coyne with Jaki Liebezeit
The Obscure Department (Meyer Records)

Robert Coyne with Jaki LiebezeitSo what do you get if you pair possibly the greatest Krautrock drummer of all time with the offspring of a famously eccentric singer/songwriter (who oddly enough died in Nuremburg in Germany in 2004). Well not what you might imagine, especially as things being hit with sticks here are in very scarce supply. Those of you who already own Coyne’s Woodland Conspiracy may have an idea what to expect as this album takes the sparse mini-songs of that album instrumentally a stage further, although to be honest you do feel like Liebezeit is a touch wasted. Nonetheless this is a very intimate, and rather lovely album.
Ruby Palmer

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Blind Willie Johnson
The Rough Guide To Blues Legends (World Music Network)

Blind Willie JohnsonAnother from the increasingly excellent World Music Network (see about subscribing and building your music collection here), and in truth we could just as easily have picked anyone from their ‘Jazz And Blues Legends’ series (recent Jimmie Rodgers and Blind Lemon Jefferson collections are equally fine) , but this collection of earthy bottleneck and gospel from the 1920’s is a revelation as Johnson adapts hymns and biblical passages into languid but electrifying blues gems. Johnson’s recording of ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground’ was included on the Voyager space probe so ET could well be listing to this right now.
Raft Thong

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Steve Jansen
Slope: Deluxe Edition (Burning Shed)

Steve Jansen Better known to many of you as the brother of David Sylvian and joint founder member of Japan drummer Steve Jansen hasn’t had the most prolific of solo careers (although he has worked extensively as a session musician and can be found on underrated classics like Snow Born Sorrow by Nine Horses or the equally fine 'Japan in everything but name' Rain Tree Crow. However what he has released has pretty much all been well worth hearing especially this debut album which features guest slots from David Sylvian, Tim Elsenburg (Sweet Billy Pilgrim), Joan Wasser (Joan As Policewoman), Thomas Feiner, Anja Garbarek, Nina Kinert, and Theo Travis and now includes remixes, live recordings and instrumental soundtracks.
The Oracle

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Jason Isbell
Southeastern (Southeastern Records)

Jason Isbell Not a major name on this side of the great pond but singer-songwriter Jason Isbell (probably best known to listeners here as a member of southern men the Drive By Truckers), is a lyricist of no little skill and on this, his fourth solo outing, he gets even more stripped back, down and dirty dealing with subjects from cancer to sexual abuse all coming under Isbell’s gimlet gaze plus references to his own, recently rehabbed out, alcoholism, all of which sounds a bit bloody dour but worry not, Isbell’s masterful wordsmithery is a positive delight and when the DBT-esque ‘Super 8’ poled up this listener was completely sold.
The Oracle

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Tim Bowness
California, Norfolk: Deluxe Edition (Burning Shed)

Tim Bowness Originally released back in the mists of time (oh alright it was 2002), California, Norfolk was the debut album from No-Man and Henry Fool’s Tim Bowness and Eno collaborator Peter Chilvers and it was Burning Shed’s first ever official CD release which sold out pretty quickly and has been unavailable more or less ever since. Described variously as Ballad Electronica or 21st Century Ambient Folk California, Norfolk is actually just good songwriting backed with lush arrangements and this reissue features the original album plus alternate versions, unreleased material earmarked for a follow-up album, and an EP''s worth of live performances and the double CD set is presented in a deluxe dvd-sized digibook.
Ruby Palmer

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Linda Thompson
Won’t Be Long Now (Topic Records)

Linda Thompson Her first album in six years, and Linda Thompson had a reputation to live up to that may well have artistically crippled some, but despite the weight of expectation she gathers her family around her (clearly no problems sharing the spotlight here), with Teddy, Kami, Muna and, remarkably enough, Richard all lending a hand alongside folk stalwarts like Liza Carthy and Susan McKeown (on the roistering ‘Mr Tams’) Dave Swarbrick (‘Father Son Ballad’) and Martin Carthy (‘Nursery Rhyme of Innocence' and 'Experience’), and still manages to make this album completely her own, one of the best she has put her name to in fact.
Raft Thong

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The Pineapple Thief
Tightly Unwound (Kscope)

The Pineapple Thief Pineapple Thief, on occasion Bruce Soord in all but name, have been beavering away for almost fifteen years now and along the way have amassed a slew of cracking albums (the most recent being last year’s highly regarded All The Wars), including this one from 2008 (which incidentally was Kscope's first release) now given a deluxe buffing up, and including a bonus disc with tracks from their brace of 2009 Dawn Raids EPs plus an acoustic version of 'Shoot First', all of which make this the perfect time to find out more about the Pineapple Thief story. In fact if you have a love for post-rock style proggery, you really should dive in.
Ray Harper

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Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel
Birmingham - Live With Orchestra & Choir (Comeuppance)

Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel Steve Harley has always been a spiky chap, shedding band-mates like sloughed skin and never backwards in coming forwards, perhaps that’s why his career has been such a rollercoaster. But one thing beyond dispute is that The Human Menagerie and The Psychomodo albums are both one hundred percent classic slices of glam/art rock genius so this show, recorded and filmed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall with Orchestra and Choir performing both albums in their entirety promised to be something very special, and it really doesn’t disappoint. If you loved these albums, and you should, then buy this now (and it’s also available on DVD).
Ray Harper

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Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!!
Todo Roto (Slovenly Recordings)

Wau Y Los Arrrrghs!!!Hailing from Spain Wau Y Los Arrrghs!!! (and yes that does translate as Wau and the Arrrghs!!!, the singer of course is called Jaunito Wau), unleash their third album (translates as All Broken) and is as demented as you might imagine with shouty vocals, cheap wavery vox keyboards, Dick Dale style guitar and all run through a Cramps meets Rocket From The Crypt mangle, sounds pretty good huh? Of course it does. No idea what they are singing about (we could Google it but it’s more fun not knowing), we’ve been doing the hully gully on pretend surfboards to this for weeks, altogether now ‘No Puedo Entender’.
El Oráculo

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The Grid
Electric Head (SFA/Cherry Red)

The GridReckoned by one Amazon reviewer to be the best album ‘ever’, Blimey! It’s not (that would be The Best Of Lieutenant Pigeon), Electric Head is however a damn fine album, one of the first full length ambient house/techno releases (beating both Orbital and The Orb to the record plant) which at the time sounded groundbreaking and still stands up well almost 25 years later. Unavailable for a while now this will be snapped up by fans with knackered cassette versions, especially as it features a second disc of remixes and rarities. If you don’t have this and fondly remember dancing all night in the early ‘90s you can remedy that now.
Drew Bass

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idmonster
Be More Like Water (Knitted Cat)

idmonster The solo project of composer and Butterfly Child guitarist, the fantastically named, Pendle Poucher, Be More Like Water is likely to get lots of ‘soundtrack music for a film that hasn’t been made yet’ type reviews as this is a collection of ten hugely atmospheric tracks from chugging Kosmiche to dark ambient fusing electronics, acoustics, field recordings and various battered instruments. Of course I’m buggered now and can’t say the ‘soundtrack…’ thing, so I’m suggesting you get hold of an Oliver Postgate film - Noggin The Nog should work – mute the sound, bung this on and watch Olaf the Lofty and Graculus get weird.
Ruby Palmer

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Motörhead
Aftershock (UDR)

MotörheadThere’s little in life as reliable as a new Motörhead album. You know what to expect and, regular as clockwork, Lemmy and Co. deliver. Twenty one (studio), albums in and the thunderous ‘head racket continues unabated, and I do mean unabated as whilst most rock and roll acts mellow with age Motörhead only know how to do ‘nutting a brick wall, balls out, gonzo metal’ and Aftershock is brim full of just that. Lemmy may be 68 this year (and currently recovering from being a bit poorly), but he’s gonna be making albums this hi-octane until the day he keels over, here’s hoping there’s a good few still to come.
Ray Harper

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Oli Brown
Songs From The Road (Ruf Records).

Oli Brown Culled from three superb studio albums, this has Oli in front of his hometown crowd which really brings out his best and believe me he is one of the best. 'Speechless' and 'Next Girl' personify raw power but it is 'Love Is Taking It’s Toll' where the trio flower. Pulsing bass, crashing cymbals and Oli’s lightning fingers providing a highlight. Lengthy solos are provided on 'Mr Wilson' and 'Manic Bloom' but it’s not all power as the strolling 'Devil In Me' and 'Stone Cold' show but his whipping, ripping guitar is never too far away. Credentials confirmed as a live act with 'Thinking About Her' and 'You Can Only Blame Yourself'.
David Blue

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Satelliti
Transister (Cuckundoo)

SatellitiWhat we know about Italian duo Satelliti could fit on the back of a stamp with room to spare (actually the word Italian would be about it), although further research reveals that they are keyboard chap Andrea Dalle Luche and drum chap Andrea Polato. So far so peculiar line-up, however the eight sequencer and drum driven instrumental tracks found herein are intriguing enough to make you re-hit play pretty much as soon as the original forty odd minute’s are up as the hypnotic Kosmiche jazz sorta just keeps nagging away in the back of your noggin, the ten minute plus ‘Bright Tunnel’ in particular suggesting Can, and Faust in full flow.
Drew Bass

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Steven Wilson
Drive Home [CD+DVD] (Kscope)

Steven Wilson So what’s this all about then? Given that we’ve already have the terrific Raven That Refused To Singthis year (more here), well Drive Home is a double disc CD + DVD set featuring the new video for 'Drive Home' and the video for 'The Raven That Refused To Sing', four incendiary clatters through tracks recorded live in Frankfurt during the recent tour plus two previously unreleased tracks (the ELP-esque ‘The Birthday Party’ and an orchestral version of 'The Raven That Refused To Sing'). So not a new album proper then but a fine companion piece to the Raven… that fans will definitely want to add.
Ray Harper

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Dana Fuchs
Bliss Avenue (Ruf Records)

Dana FuchsThis is Fuchs’ third album and follows 2011’s Love To Beg. Opening with the eponymous title track, a rough and ready blues rocker with Janis Joplin style vocal, she rips through 12 original songs and she’s not a one trick pony changing style with ease; there’s country ('Rodents In The Attic', 'Daddy’s Little Girl', 'Nothin’ On My Mind'), rock ('Vagabond Wind', 'How Did Things Get This Way') and blues ('Handful Too Many'), but despite her songs rarely sticking strictly to one genre, one constant is her gravelly voice and this is used to best effect on 'Livin’ On A Sunday', 'How Did Things Get This Way' and 'Baby Love The Life'.
David Blue

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Levin Minnemann Rudess
Levin Minnemann Rudess (Lazy Bones)

Levin Minnemann RudessAlways keen to hear a new Tony Levin release but this latest project with his old Liquid Tension Experiment band mate Jordan Rudess and multi-instrumentalist drummer (yes, you read that right, Marco Minnemann is a multi-instrumentalist drummer, they’re not all the butt of The Vicar jokes you know), has got class stamped all over it. After the more improvisational nature of Levin’s terrific last album with David Torn and Alan White (more here), you might be forgiven for assuming this would be a collection of grandstanding ‘chops’ but not a bit of it, this is as structured and gargantuan as prime time King Crimson and Mothers Of Invention.
The Oracle

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The Orb
History Of The Future: Box Set (Commercial Marketing)

The Orb Also available in a two disc version but we suggest you head straight for the box set with disc one containing all the singles from 1990 to 2001 disc two crammed with rare and unreleased mixes, disc three unreleased live songs from 1993/94, a DVD featuring promo and live videos – including the infamous ‘game of chess’ TOTP’s (non) performance of ‘Blue Room’ - and all bundled up with a nicely illustrated, forty plus page, booklet (including a new essay by Kris Needs). Long term fans will doubtless head straight for disc two's remixes, but for any Orb newbies this is a terrific starting point to begin your voyage.
Drew Bass

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Martin Barre
Away With Words (Edifying Records)

Martin Barre Given that Martin Barre and long time foil Ian Anderson are currently estranged (which surely won’t remain the case for ever), and MB is not currently undergoing trial by Tull tours he clearly has a little free time on his hands, free time that he has filled most efficaciously by re-arranging some lesser known Tull songs like 'Deadbeat to an old Greaser', 'Protect and Survive' and ‘Pussy Willow’ in a, mainly, acoustic style complete with classical/flamenco flourishes and folkie arrangements which, in the main, works beautifully and ends with a flourish with new track ‘Sundown’ which builds to a most satisfying climax.
Ray Harper

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Gentleman’s Dub Club
FOURtyFOUR (Ranking Records)

Gentleman’s Dub ClubApparently something a bit special live (there are several million of them in the band) the Gentleman’s Dub Club’s might have struggled to transfer that energy to tape, fortunately that isn’t the case as they run the gamut of reggae from ska, and lovers rock to dub and digital they may be white boys but, like the Specials and Madness, they ‘get it’ and they aren’t shy of letting more current influences like grime and dubstep (even techno) get a look in, and if that all sounds like they’re trying to cover too many bases don’t panic, the overall vibe is definitely reggae, and it all holds together very well indeed.
Drew Bass

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Yes
Close To The Edge: CD+Bluray (DGM/Panegyric)

YesIt’s often forgotten this was the fifth Yes album (if only the second to feature the ‘classic’ line-up of Anderson, Howe, Bruford, Wakeman and Squire), and although there were definite hints of what was to come on 1971’s The Yes Album, and almost the finished article on Fragile (also '71), Close To The Edge was the complete package, probably the most fully realised progressive rock album ever, three tracks, just over thirty seven minutes and not one duff second. Presented in a mini vinyl replica gatefold card sleeve with extra tracks and mixed for 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo by Steven Wilson this is now the definitive version.
Ray Harper

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Adrian Utley's Guitar Orchestra
In C (Invada)

Adrian Utley's Guitar Orchestra The brainchild of Portishead's Adrian Utley who, building on the ‘guitar orchestra’ ideas of composers like Rhys Chatham roped in twenty four musicians from Bristol (nineteen other guitarists including John Parish and Jim Barr plus four organs and a bass clarinet) to interpret Terry Riley's minimalist classic In C - originally written in 1964 and simply requiring that fifty-three musical phrases in the key of C are played by the musicians but with no specific duration - and, on the whole, this works really well as a sort of cyclical post rock, occasionally meandering, occasionally swirling into peaks as the music seeks out and then finds its own path.
Johan Wakely

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Banco De Gaia
Ollopa: Apollo remixed (Disco Gecko Recordings)

Banco De GaiaSo, the remix album, a genuinely new take on an existing idea or a hastily compiled grab-bag of money spinners? Certainly both have been true over the years but, as long time admirers of Mr Marks, we’re happy to relate that this collection is certainly from the former camp and serves as an indispensible companion piece to the recently released new album Apollo. In fact this remix album was not even on the cards until the flood of mixes from the likes of System 7, Eat Static and Gaudi, convinced Toby that not only was a remix album possible but also could be neatly compiled into a conceptual arc of its very own.
Drew Bass

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The Band
Live at the Academy of Music 1971(Commercial Marketing)

The BandWhether you purchase the two or five disc version of this reissue of The Band's 1972 live album Rock Of Ages, will depend very much on just how deeply you wish to delve into the minutia of their four night residency (and, with a 5.1 surround sound mix on DVD, how much of an audiophile you are). To these ears the new Bob Clearmountain mix is superior to the 2001 re-mastered release in pretty much every way, and of course the five disc version includes unreleased versions of songs from across the four night run. If however you are unaware of the Bands music do yourselves a favour and get the double-disc set.
Ray Harper

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