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Public Service Broadcasting
The Race For Space (Test Card Recordings)

Public Service BroadcastingTM-O readers will doubtless already be aware that Inform Educate Entertain was one of our albums of 2013, so it was with no little eagerness that we anticipated the arrival of The Race For Space which tells the story of the American & Soviet space race from 1957 1972 using the same mix of guitars, electronica, live drums and, mainly spoken word, samples that made IEE so thrilling, but this time, if anything, they nail the atmospherics even more so, especially on the ramping up of tension as Apollo 8 loses contact on ‘The Other Side’ of the moon or the goosebump motorik peaks of the 1969 moon landing on ‘Go’.
The Oracle

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Andreas Ottensamer
Brahms, The Hungarian Connection (Mercury Classics/Deutsche Grammophon)

Andreas OttensamerHailing from a musical family (brother Daniel and dad Ernst are both noted clarinettists) Ottensamer is also one of the current crop of classical ‘hunks’ - see also David Garrett, Erwin Schrott, Charlie Siem and Milos Karadaglic - whose second album brings a lightness of touch and liveliness to the usually more sombre nature of Brahms. The real finds here however are the traditional Hungarian dances featuring accordion, double bass, strings and cimbalom which build haunting themes into high speed Klezmer type dervishes (whilst skilfully weaving 'Brahms Lullaby' into the proceedings). Excellently played with suburb support throughout.
Johan Wakely

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Chris Bell
I Am The Cosmos (Rhino))

Chris BellOne of the less feted members of the 27 club (Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix, Cobain ect.), Chris Bell was however no less talented, and his early car related death robbed the world of a fine songwriter. Having failed to find success in the equally underrated Big Star Bell then struggled to get this solo album released, recording it over a period of two to three years in the mid '70s, it only actually saw the light of day fourteen years after his death. This digitally remastered and expanded two CD edition of the album includes alternate versions and additional tracks, and three songs by Bell's pre-Big Star groups, Icewater and Rock City.
The Oracle

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Kruder & Dorfmeister
The K&D Sessions (!K7 Records)

Kruder & Dorfmeister Poo-pooed by 'proper' musicians as chaps like Kruder & Dorfmeister are in fact re-workers and re-imaginers of pre-existing material which they have seamlessly woven into something altogether wonderful here. Not perhaps as high profile a mix album as the Coldcut Journeys By DJ masterpiece The K&D Sessions is nonetheless an essential album stitching their remixed versions of tracks by the likes of Roni Size, Lamb, David Holmes, Bomb the Bass, and Depeche Mode into a blissful, chilled, down-tempo mix. Sadly the recently released vinyl version of this is proving hard to track down so why not check out the download version.
Drew Bass

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Frank Black And The Catholics
The Complete Recordings: Boxset (Cooking Vinyl)

Frank Black And The CatholicsWhat is says on the tin 7xCD boxset featuring all of the band’s studio albums plus a bonus disc (True Blue) of demos from the Black Letter Days album sessions. All albums have been re-mastered and run to well over a hundred songs. In true Frank Black contrary style however the boxset runs in alphabetical rather than album order which he insists was to 'get away from the preciousness of LPs we put out and its more about the body of work [and] the good times that we had’, but regardless of this quirk what this set reveals is how much genuinely excellent material Black has released outside of the Pixies.
Ruby Palmer

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Howard Jones
Engage (D-Tox)

Howard JonesNever a big hit with the critics, despite three huge selling albums in the mid to late ‘80s, Jones has retained a large and loyal enough fan-base to ensure that he can continue doing what he loves to do best, which is release an album every three or four years, the latest of which comes bedecked in all manner of foo-farah including apps to use at the live shows and a live DVD, but what really matters here is, is the music any good? Actually yes, from the Steve Reich-esque ‘5 Pianos’ to the walloping great techno/trance thumper ‘The Human Touch’ Engage proves Jones still has an ear for a great song.
Drew Bass

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Mothers Finest
Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts

Mothers Finest Still boasting four members of the classic line-up (and one long term touring member), Mothers Finest have been a bona fide funk-rock band since long before the term existed, and given that rock music is more or less built on the bones of rhythm, blues and soul quite why this pioneering outfit never scaled the heights of later outfits like Living Colour and the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a complete mystery – especially since they have been at this music lark, with only a brief hiatus between 1983 and 1989 since 1970. Perhaps, forty-five years after they first kicked off, now is their time, it is surely about time.
Ray Harper

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Status Quo
Aquostic! Live At The Roundhouse (earMUSIC)

Status QuoNow here’s something that shouldn’t have worked, Status Quo acoustic! How the hell is heads down 12 bar rock’n’roll ever going to work on acoustic guitars? Well how about if you add a distinctly folky/Irish feel (complete with strings, squeezeboxes and female backing vocals), but even these welcome additions only work if there is a decent tune to hang all this finery upon and Status Quo have written some bloody great tunes. Stripped of their original boogie roots these songs are actually ripe for reinvention and pretty much everything here is a delight from the string drenched ‘… Matchstick Men’ to the accordion fuelled ‘Paper Plane’t.
Raft Thong

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Gov’t Mule
Dub Side Of The Mule (Provogue)

Gov’t MuleIf there’s one thing that’s pretty much a rule of thumb, it’s white rock bands should never, never, ever play reggae (honourable mentions to the Police, Clash and the Rolling Stones), getting around this rule however is possible if you involve a genuine reggae legend something the Mule clearly understood when they enlisted the help of Toots Hibbert for this live set recorded on news year eve 2006 adding a healthy dollop of ‘big-band rock’n’soul review’ styling’s to the good-time ska vibes and bugger me if it doesn’t work! Buy the boxset and you can add another two discs (one featuring Gregg Allman and friends).
The Oracle

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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL Townes Van Zandt
The Nashville Sessions: Deluxe Edition (Charly)

Townes Van Zandt In 1972 Van Zandt recorded tracks for Seven Come Eleven, but due to a dispute between his manager Kevin Eggers and producer Jack Clement the master tapes were erased but not before Eggers sneaked into the studio and recorded rough mixes which would later surface on The Nashville Sessions. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Van Zandt's turbulent career (and launch of a major catalogue reissue programme), Charly has re-mastered the album, this particular copy on limited edition 180g heavyweight vinyl, and whilst it's undeerstandably not as polished as his other albums, it's a bluegrass flavoured delight throughout.
Ray Harper

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The Orb
The History Of The Future Part 2 (Malicious Damage/Studio C)

The Orb Most of you will be au-fait with earlier material (‘Blue Room’, ‘… Fluffy Clouds, ‘A Huge…’ etc neatly summated on History Of The Future Vol 1) but far less of us took a trip down the road less travelled during the noughties from where the vast majority of this material comes which was a pity as the questing, experimental and wry humour of early Orb remained intact and, if anything, boundaries were nudged even further out there from the more minimal Thomas Fehlmann collaborations to the full on bonkers Youth/Steve Hillage link ups. Includes several unavailable/vinyl only (and unseen on the DVD disc) nuggets.
Drew Bass

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The Unthanks
Mount The Air (Rabble Rouser)

The Unthanks Never an archetypal folk outfit, these rootsy Geordies have never fought shy of recording unexpected material (including Tom Waits and King Crimson), and after three CD’s of ‘diversions’ – amongst them live recordings of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons material and an album with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band – they return to their own (and some traditional) songs once again pushing the boundaries with nods towards Miles Davies, instrumental interludes, simple drone backings, ten minute plus tracks and even a brief waltz with some trip hop, all topped off with those utterly gorgeous warm northern vowels.
Raft Thong

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Sleater Kinney
No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Sleater Kinney We’re a bit late with this one but sod it. No Cities To Love Their first new material for a decade (since the excellent Dave Fridmann Produced The Woods in fact) and it clatters out of the block at a blistering pace all elbows, guitars, motorik drums and those fantastically angular vocals that sound like a holy amalgam of Siouxsie Sioux, Kristin Hersh and Poly Styrene. Lord alone knows what they’re been up to for the last ten years but they have genuinely never sounded better. If you don’t know Sleater Kinney then be prepared to shell out for an extensive back catalogue ‘cos this is gonna blow yer socks off.
Ruby Palmer

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System 7/Mirror System
'N+X' (A-Wave)

System 7/Mirror SystemWe don’t generally review EP’s at TM-O but as this easily slips past the 40 minute mark and it’s not seven mixes of the same track we felt it could comfortably pass as a, erm, small album. So what we have here is ostensibly a taster for the release of a simultaneous new System 7 album titled X-Port and a chilled version titled N-Port by their ambient alter-ego outfit Mirror System due in Autumn and, from the full on dance-floor groove of 'Chic Psychedelic' and ‘5 Beat’ to the beautiful lush enveloping grooves of 'Blue Ocean', if this is an example of what we can expect then the intervening months can’t pass quickly enough.
Drew Bass

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Poco
The Forgotten Trail (Retroworld)

Poco One of the better things about the constant repackaging of old rock acts is that you occasionally get sent something that reminds you about a band you had all but forgotten. Case in point, Poco a California country rock outfit formed by Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Rusty Young (who is still with Poco today) from the tattered remains of Buffalo Springfield in 1968 and as such were right at the pointy end of the West Coast country rock scene. Gathering together material from their first seven albums ranging from the country psychedelia of the Byrds/Burritos to the mainstream country rock of the Eagles.
Ray Harper

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Bjork
Vulnicura (one Little Indian)

BjorkMatthew Barney may well be rueing the day that he took up with Ms Guðmundsdóttir as she has chosen to document their break up in startlingly graphic detail on this recording - the clue that this is deep stuff hinted at by what appears to be a gaping wound/vagina in her chest on the cover. Anyone hoping for the life-affirming beat driven rush of yore however will be disappointed as much of Vulnicura is a lush string driven thing and in the main it's bloody gloomy with only the final third offering up any respite as fractured beats and unsettling time signatures wind up the most downbeat set of her career.
The Oracle

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Vessels
Dilate (Bias Records)

VesselsThey’ve heavily hinted at it in the past but Vessels have now fully embraced their inner glow sticks and headed off to Ibiza. OK, perhaps that is overstating the case somewhat as the chaps have always leaned more towards Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream than Danny Tenaglia but make no mistake guitars do not feature heavily on Dilate (hell there’s even some clubby female vocals, eek!), but fear not, fans of musical sturm und drang will find plenty to love here as the post-rock dynamics are all still present and correct, it’s just they are now mainly driven by keyboards and percussion and the results are no less thrilling.
Drew Bass

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Gov’t Mule
Sco-Mule (Provogue)

Gov’t MuleIf you don’t know Gov’t Mule explaining what they do is kinda like trying to pin jelly to a cork board. Formed by Allman Brothers Warren Haynes and Allen Woody (with drummer Matt Abts) as something to do when the Allman’s weren’t working their roots are, naturally enough, southern blues rock but they seem to be just as happy re-inventing Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Mule) as jamming with jazz giants like John Scofield, which is exactly what you have here recorded at two live shows in 1999 and long regarded as essential gigs by Mule-heads. Not perhaps the best starting point for newbies but old hands and Scofield fans will lap this up.
Paul Riley

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Jon Hopkins
Late Night Tales (Late Night Tales)

Jon Hopkins Fans of ambient electronic music will need no introduction to Jon Hopkins (having worked extensively with Eno, amongst others), but it’s not all lush keyboard washes chez Hopkins as this Late Night Tales mix shows. Collating twenty-one tracks cherry-picked simply because he loves ‘em and not because they gel as a ‘DJ’ set. Needless to say his ear for what works still makes this a harmonious listen with no jarring interludes but there is still plenty of depth and diversity on show from Darkstar and Teebs to David Holmes, Four Tet and of course his own compositions. Yet another fine edition to this excellent series.
Drew Bass

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Pretty Things
Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky (Snapper)

Pretty ThingsWe can’t actually tell you what’s in this lavish (limited to 2000 copies) package as, at £125 a pop, the record company understandably weren’t sending many out to the likes of us - if you’re in the market for it you can see an unboxing here. What we can safely say – ably outlined by the 15 track promo taster disc that we did get - is that the Pretty Things remain one of the most underrated, and influential, outfits of their generation who could easily hold their own alongside peers like the Stones and The Who but, like those other nearly men the Kinks, bad luck, bad decisions and bad karma left them unfairly buried in the past.
The Oracle

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Motorpsycho
Demon Box (Rune Grammofon)

Motorpsycho Norwegian noise rockers Motorpsycho continue their expanded re-issue series (see also Timothy's Monster and Blissard) with what many fans still consider to be their finest moment and Demon Box was certainly their breakthrough album in Northern Europe and this lavish VFM five disc (4 x CD and 1 x DVD) box set contains all of the material originally intended for release the first time around in 1993 – alongside two EPs that followed the album, several live recordings, a nice clutch of unreleased outtakes and a fantastically primitive and chaotic one-camera video of a full gig at the Vera venue in Groningen.
Ruby Palmer

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Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd Vinyl Box set (UMC)

Lynyrd Skynyrd Skirting neatly past the vowel dodging southern rockers decidedly un-p.c. lyrical obsessions with god, bullets and running away from or nicking other peoples birds Lynyrd Skynyrd’s have actually released some stonking great rock songs the vast majority of which can be found on the albums they released between 1973 and 1977 which are brought together here in a 180 gram heavyweight audiophile vinyl boxset so if you've worn out you’re your old copies of (pronounced 'leh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd), Second Helping, Nuthin' Fancy, Gimme Back My Bullets, One More From the Road and Street Survivors then you’re in luck because they're all here.
Ray Harper

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King Crimson
Live At The Orpheum (DGM/Panegyric)

King CrimsonFast approaching their fiftieth anniversary KC have been recording and touring almost since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Unlike many of their peers however the ‘big bang’ of progressive rockers have never stood still, progressing and evolving until this, their latest incarnation as a septet, featuring three drummers (Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison and ex-Revolting Cock Bill Rieflin) as a frontline with KC regulars Tony Levin and Mel Collins plus Jakko Jakszyk and of course y’man Fripp. Recorded during their 2014 world tour this takes a few listens to fully reveal itself but persevere you will be waiting for new material with bated breath.
Ray Harper

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Adamski
Revolt (FutureWaltz Records)

Adamski Acid house fans won’t need reminding that Adam ‘Adamski’ Tinley was the man behind monster’ '90s hit ‘Killer’, but outside of the early ‘90s he has struggled to really bother the charts, which makes this collection all the more welcome as he'll not only bug dance floor purists by gonking up Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Last Waltz’, but will also royally piss off rock fans by re-mangling The Stranglers (‘Golden Brown’) and Led Zeppelin (‘Dazed'n'Confuzed’ (sic.)). Where this collection really takes off however is on link ups with Congo Natty, Lee Perry and Asia Argento, new material that brings Adamski’s acid beats right up to date.
Drew Bass

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Bob Dylan
Shadows In The Night (Columbia)

Bob DylanOh lord, where to start? First up, there is nothing wrong with Frank Sinatra, bit of a twat apparently but the bugger could really sing, and therein lies the problem with this collection of Frankie covers because Dylan, possibly the finest wordsmith of his generation can’t! Of course his inability to sing properly has never been a problem to date as his own songs eminently suited that delicious sarcastic whine, but wrapping those reedy, raspy tonsils around songs that require a real honest to goodness crooner was never going to work and it absolutely doesn’t. The man is clearly bored to death, as am I having listened to this guff...
The Oracle

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Sherwood & Pinch
Late Night Endless (On-U Sound/Tectonic)

Sherwood & Pinch Been looking forward to this since hearing last year’s mighty On-U Sound vs. Tectonic’ 12” link up ‘Bring Me Weed’ which effortlessly melded Sherwood’s old skool rootsy dub with the skittering dubstep of new(ish), kid on the block Pinch, and the results certainly don’t disappoint, ‘Music Killer Dub’ (featuring Congo Ashanti Roy and Congo Natty) and ‘Bucketman’ with Daddy Freddy are immediate winners whilst the eastern influences of 'Africa 138' and ambient fug of ‘Wild Birds Sing’ ensure things don’t ever become one dimensional. Add the multi-instrumental genius of Skip McDonald and you have the first great album of 2015.
Drew Bass

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Wild Billy Childish & CTMF
Acorn Man (Damaged Goods)

Wild Billy Childish & CTMFA recent review in these pages pointed out that HMHB always sound the same and despite changing bands like most of us change socks - Pop Rivits, Thee Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars and Vermin Poets to name a few – Billy Childish has also being ploughing the same very British ‘early Beatles meets early Kinks’ lo-fi punk rock furrow since day one and like HMHB this is a good thing, in fact Acorn Man is possibly the best thing he’s released in years. Let’s hope Ivor Cutler’s belief that Childish is ‘perhaps too subtle and sophisticated for the mass market’ is untrue, but we think perhaps he was actually spot on.
Ray Harper

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Hanne Kolstø
Forever Maybe (Jansen Plateproduksjon)

Hanne KolstøNo longer a well kept secret in her native Norway Hanne Kolstø has been threatening to cross over the channel since her last album Stillness And Panic garnered interest in the press and this certainly has the chops to make that leap. Sounding not unlike the Knife fronted by 70’s pop chanteuse Judie Tzuke, Kolstø’s angelic vocals sitting gracefully astride the, mainly, electro pop backing and occasional indie guitar washes, unashamedly proclaiming ‘this is pop music’. Think Aha, or Tears For Fears updated for the noughties, and our current love affair with all things Northern European (films, music and literature), looks set to continue.
Drew Bass

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tetema
Geocidal (Ipecac Recordings)

tetemaBest known for his work with Faith No More fans of the man will also know that Mike Patton loves to fuck with people’s perceptions recording orchestral Italian pop on Mondo Cane whilst working with a varied list of people from John Zorn and Fantômas to Björk and this project, with the hugely prolific composer Anthony Pateras is yet another lurch into the avant-garde as strings vie with clattering electronica, barely discernible cyclical vocal mutterings rub up against throat shredding bellowing. Occasionally sounding like his work with Painkiller tetema are however more varied and more thoughtful. Not easy listening, but listening is advised.
Ruby Palmer

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Half Man Half Biscuit
Urge For Offal (Probe Plus)

Half Man Half BiscuitWell, here’s a thing, in perhaps the greatest about-turn of their career Half Man Half Biscuit release an instrumental album not unlike Brian Eno’s Songs For Airports casting aside the lo-fi punky clatter and pithy observational humour for slowly evolving hissing… Hold up! I think this computer is playing up, let’s try this again. Aha! lo-fi punky clatter, check, pithy observational humour, check (‘you’re so beige I bet you thought this song was about someone else’), thank Christ for that ,I thought I was going to have to pretend to like the new direction for a minute there, it wasn’t broke, they haven’t fixed it, I’m a happy bunny.
The Oracle

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Sun Ra
In The Orbit Of Ra (Strut)

Sun RaAt last, a kicking off point for all you music fans keen to investigate the mighty, but mighty perplexing, Sun Ra. Having released over one hundred full-length albums, comprising well over 1000 songs finding an entry point is damn near impossible so thanks is due to alto saxophonist Marshall Allen, a long standing member of the Arkestra, who has compiled this terrific 20-track, 2-CD set which cherry picks material from 1958-1978 (including some of Ra's classics). Fans are catered for as this also includes several unreleased tracks, but really this is for newbies that are keen to find out exactly what music from Saturn sounds like.
Paul Riley

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The Willows
Amidst Fiery Skies (ELK Records)

The WillowsCambridge folk roots outfit follow up their well received debut Beneath Our Humble Soil with another genre hopping collection of folk (English and Celtic), bluegrass, Americana and all points in-between. Like all good roots outfits all five seem to be able to play everything they pick up and sing like they were born harmonising and the results are pretty much entirely wonderful. The closest signpost would probably be the Fairport’s but only because of that venerable outfits willingness to cherry pick from many musical styles, if they hailed from anywhere but the UK (where folk is still a dirty word) they would already be huge.
Raft Thong

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Backbeat Soundsystem
Together Not Apart (Easy Star Records)

Backbeat SoundsystemMust admit this didn’t really grab me first time around but a couple of repeat listens revealed what I initially thought was a bit too commercial and bouncy (us roots reggae fans get awfully sniffy about ‘pop’ reggae), was in fact a rather natty mix of Steel Pulse, Third World, UB40 (when they were still good) and early Dreadzone, sneaking some thoughtful and pointed lyrics in on the back of their upbeat sing-a-long party vibe. Released on the Easy Star records label - and those guys know a few things about commercial reggae – Together Not Apart genunely is a real grower, and you really should let it grow on you.
Drew Bass

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Einstürzende Neubauten
Lament (BMG)

Einstürzende Neubauten Anyone hoping for a re-run of the lads historical stage destroying antics and large pieces of metal being hit with larger pieces of metal are going to be sorely disappointed as there is very little in the way of metalwork being undertaken here, this being a musical work about the outbreak of World War I and as befits such emotive subject matter it’s dealt with thoughtfully and with no little gravitas (although there are still moments of wry humour, like on ‘The Willy - Nicky Telegrams’) and the three part title track is a clonking great tour de force which leaves the listener drained and damn near shell-shocked.
The Oracle

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Various Artists
Alice In Wonderland & Other Rainy Day Girls (Charly)

Alice In WonderlandIf, like many old duffers here, you love your music, and live for the odd occasions that something genuinely different trots over the horizon, then you could do a lot worse than pick up this ‘The Great Lost Southern Popsike Trip’ featuring Strange Bedfellows, The Jerms, H.Y. Sledge, Randy & The Rest, The United Notions, The Berkeley Kites and more (nope we hadn’t heard of ‘em either), Alice In Wonderland is positively overflowing with genuinely quirky psychedelic pop. It’s a pity that this particular ‘something different’ comes from all the way back in 1960s but all power to Charly for digging ‘em up (and beautifully presenting them).
Ray Harper

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Pixies
Doolittle 25: Collector's Edition (4AD)

PixiesCertainly one of the best albums of 1989, in fact one of the best of the decade, so it’s unlikely an expanded version is going to improve matters is it? Well obviously you can’t improve on a perfect album, but you can add value by including incendiary live cuts recorded for the John Peel show and, for the Pixie aficionado, a whole bunch of demo’s that show some songs to be pretty much already fully formed (‘Tame’, whilst more muscular in the final mix was pretty visceral from day one) and some that were still works in progress (‘Wave Of Mutilation’ being a chorus in search of a song). In short apparently yes, you can improve on perfect.
Ruby Palmer

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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL Rod Stewart
Box Set (Fatcat/130701 Records)

Rod Stewart Hard to imagine who might want this five album box set collecting all Rod’s solo output between 1969-74 given that it’s pretty expensive and most fans will surely already have it all? That said the albums recorded between 1969 and 1972 are still by far his best (‘74s Smiler is merely OK), and if you don’t have An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (1969), Gasoline Alley (1970), Every Picture Tells A Story (1971) and Never A Dull Moment (1972), or perhaps you’ve just worn out your old LP’s, and you like your vinyl, especially 180 gram heavyweight vinyl then, material/sound wise, it doesn’t get much better than this collection of Rod's finest moments.
Ray Harper

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Public Enemy
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back: Deluxe Edition (Commercial Marketing)

Public EnemyCertainly a contender for the best hip hop/rap album of all time It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back finally gets a sonic buffing up (and now sounds better than ever) plus an extra disc of mixes - mostly good, but they've missed a trick not including the ‘Bring The Noise’ Anthrax link up, or indeed Chad Jackson’s ‘Rebel…’ mix. Best of all though is the DVD of long missing in action 1989 concert film Fight the Power… Live. Also getting the remastered deluxe treatment is the only marginally less incendiary Fear Of A Black Planet so if you don’t have these seminal albums then now is the time to remedy that oversight.
Drew Bass

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Black Widow
Sacrifice (Repertoire)

Black Widow Another of those bands from the late ‘60s who burned brightly but for a short while, often compared to Black Sabbath, which is nonsense (the only link being Black Widows use of occult imagery, oh and both being called ‘Black’ something) they were a more experimental proggy affair featuring wind instruments and lovely big old Hammond swells alongside the riffs and without doubt their high water mark was Sacrifice featuring their best known song ‘Come To The Sabbat’. This reissue bundles the original album with an unreleased version featuring spooky ‘interludes’ (eep!), and a live ‘Beat Club’ DVD show with full theatrical craziness.
The Oracle

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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL Johnny Thunders
Looking For Johnny The Legend Of Johnny Thunders (Jungle Records)

Johnny Thunders Johnny ‘John Anthony Genzale, Jr.’ Thunders was, let’s be honest, something of a fuck up, sporting possibly the most idiotically backcombed hairstyle ever in the fantastically decadent and untogether New York Dolls whilst necking more drugs than a pharmaceutical lab rat Thunders was never going to make his old rocking chair, he did nonetheless manage to create some worthy, if generally ramshackle to the point of falling down, noise and this, the soundtrack album for the documentary of the same name includes pretty much all of it. It’s also on indescribably lovely red vinyl and is therefore the ONLY way to own Thunders best.
Ruby Palmer

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The Jam
Setting Sons: Deluxe Edition (UMC)

The JamAlso available as a four disc set - this double disc version offers the original album, various assorted singles and b-sides plus a live set recorded at the Rainbow London in 1979 – opinion is divided about where this album stands in the pantheon of Jam albums (many fans consider it to be one of the best, Weller himself is not so convinced), but there’s no denying the strength of the song writing here, with ‘Smithers-Jones’, ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Private Hell’ and (originally a single release now included), ‘Going Underground’ and, lest we forget, Weller was only 21 at the time a prodigious talent whose career was set to run and run.
Ruby Palmer

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Gong
I See You (Madfish)

GongThere are any number of artists out there who insist they are unwilling to engage with commercialism and that the music they make is ‘just for them, and if anyone else likes it etc. etc’. Most are talking bollocks but a select few – like Daevid Allen - have resolutely continued ploughing their own furrow regardless of what the rest of the world thinks and if that means sometimes he creates bonkers unlistenable tosh then so be it because he also makes some genuinely fantastic noise and I See You is just such a noise, a psychedelic, jazz-infused bluesy funk behemoth that’s right up there with all the best Gong albums. Hurrah!
The Oracle

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Full Of Hell
Full Of Hell & Merzbow (Profound Lore)

Full Of Hell When the words 'grinding hardcore' begin a press release many old duffers here in the office get a bit twitchy but as this reviewer is a bit partial to notoriously noisy bastard Masami ‘Merzbow’ Akita (how many other musicians have released a 50 album boxset?) I got nominated to go sit in another room and have a listen to this Full Of Hell/Merzbow link up and probably all you need to know is that opening breakneck grunt-shrieking tracks ‘Burst Synapse’, ‘Gordian Knot’ and ‘Humming Mitre’ all hammered past at in just over three minutes and killed the office cactus. Thanks guys, hope you’re happy now!.
Ruby Palmer

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Clark
Clark (Warp)

ClarkWith their star forward Richard James turning in an acceptable but not exactly world shattering performance it falls to Warp sub Chris Clark to thunder on the pitch, back into an unsuspecting opponent and grab his nads (erm, are you going anywhere with this Drew? – Ed), In short the boy’s played another real blinder here, as indeed he has been quietly doing over the previous seven albums, by turns beautiful, unsettling, thrilling and soothing this album proves that techno is more than just insane thudding (although the insane thudding on ‘Sodium Trimmers’ is about as thrilling a noise as this reviewer has heard all year).
Drew Bass

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Quantum Jump
Quantum Jump (Esoteric Recordings)

Quantum JumpThe druggy homoerotic tale of the famous paleface hero and his redskin sidekick with the delightfully unintelligible Indian chanting may be the track most people recall from this overlooked 1970s classic – sonically pitched somewhere between a funky 10cc and Zappa-esque prog-disco (no really!) – but it’s actually crammed with genuinely quirky moments of real class, both opening tracks ‘Captain Boogaloo’ and ‘Over Rio’ setting out the smart as a tack lyrics and ducks-arse tight musicianship whilst ‘Something At The Bottom Of The Sea’ could easily be a long lost Brand X track. Possibly the best thing Rupert Hine ever recorded.
Ray Harper

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Captain Beefheart
Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972 Boxset (Rhino)

Captain Beefheart Having scared everybody witless with the essential but incredibly difficult Trout Mask Replica in 1969 Don Van Vliet then delivered his own favourite Magic Band outing Lick My Decals Off, Baby ('70) which essentially refined the all-encompassing Trout Mask... lunacy into a more streamlined version of bat-shit crazy but which you wanted to stick straight back on the deck when it was done. Follow up albums Clear Spot and The Spotlight Kid (both ‘72) further refined things (although never to the point of commerciality) ensuring that this boxset with excellent booklet and outtakes disc make a brilliant starting point for both Beefheart virgins and fans of old. The Oracle

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Lee 'Scratch' Perry
LSP Megawave Boxest (Wienerworld)

Lee 'Scratch' PerryIt should go without saying that Lee Perry has been involved with some of the greatest albums ever released, however it also needs mentioning that he has also wandered into the studio and mumbled incoherently on some real duffers. Fear not though as this box set, collecting three of his more recent efforts has plenty to recommend it. Best of the batch is 2007s The End Of An American Dream closely followed by 2010s Revelation and if 2008s Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered isn’t all entirely essential guest slots from Keith Richards and George Clinton keep things skanking along in the right direction.
Drew Bass

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Fripp & Eno
Live In Paris 28.05.1875: Box-Set (DGM/Panegyric)

Fripp & Eno This writer has to admit that the first time he encountered Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s No Pussyfooting he was utterly perplexed as the same year had delivered the brilliant Larks' Tongues in Aspic and For Your Pleasure so, to these ears, this just sounded like mindless noodling. You can’t always get it right of course and No Pussyfooting is now recognised as a proto-ambient classic, but I was clearly not the only person confused by this new music as huge chunks of the audience lucky enough to catch the duo’s few live shows left in their droves, booing as they departed. Oh what fools we were, listen now and be amazed...
The Oracle

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Mickey Jupp
Kiss Me Quick, Squeeze Me Slow, The Collection Box-set (Repertoire)

Mickey Jupp If you’re looking for the source of the musical river that later disgorged Dr Feelgood, Ducks Deluxe, Kursaal Flyers and Graham Parker then look no further than the 'Godfather of Pub Rock' Mickey Jupp all of the above mentioned (and a fair few others), would be happy to acknowledge the influence of Jupp’s band Legend and this extensive 3CD and DVD Box-set with Digibook (written by Ex-Kursaal Will Birch) collects just about everything you might hope to find. The DVD contains the TV special Long Distance Romancer (originally transmitted in ’94 and thought to be long lost). Some old lags may well complain at the omission of certain tracks but if you love the Feelgood’s, Rockpile and the Kilburn’s then you will certainly love this.
Ray Harper

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Brand X
Nuclear Burn (UMC)

Brand XThe clunky jewel case might not be the prettiest presentation box ever but given the unavailability of much of the material this collection is terrific value for money collecting the first six albums, plus unreleased BBC Session tracks, into one neat remastered package which will certainly delight long term fans. If you aren’t familiar with the name Brand X were a proggy jazz fusion band featuring the, not inconsiderable, chops of Phil Collins, John Goodsall, Robin Lumley, Morris Pert plus genius bass virtuoso Percy Jones and lordy could they play! File alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, Tony Williams Lifetime and Weather Report.
Paul Riley

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Quireboys
This is Rock n Roll II (Off Yer Rocka)

Quireboys Despite previously having Sharon Osbourne as a manager and links to both Def Leppard and Guns n’ Roses The Quireboys have never really scaled the giddy heights of commercial success (A Bit Of What You Fancy accepted), until recently that is as thirty years after they first played at a pub in Putney (back then, rather brilliantly, called the Queerboys), they're releasing popular albums – this year’s Black Eyed Sons and last year’s Beautiful Curse – and re-releasing material you might have missed last time around like this terrifically ramshackle chorus-heavy effort from '93 now with four extra tracks for good measure.
Ray Harper

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Yes
Relayer (DGM/Panegyric)

YesAfter the dip in quality control, and let’s be honest the pretty self-indulgent, double album Tales From Topographic Oceans (following the triple whammy high water marks of The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge), Relayer was something of a return to form and this 40th Anniversary reissue is without doubt the most completely realised audiophile version available with Steven Wilson once again providing 5.1, high resolution stereo, with alternate studio demo’s and on the Blu-Ray version instrumental mixes, single edits a live track and more. Fragile next please Mr Wilson/DGM (and Yessongs would round things out very nicely).
The Oracle

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XTC
Drums & Wires (DGM/Panegyric )

XTC Following hot on the heels of what many consider to be their finest moment (Skylarking) comes the second in this series of remixed & expanded XTC classics, and if Skylarking (‘86) was their quintessentially English take on psychedelia then 1979s Drums and Wires found them honing their song-writing craft after the departure of keyboard player Barry Andrews and arrival of Dave Gregory, bringing in producer Steve Lillywhite to help shake off their angular post punk past and move to a more muscular sound. Available in CD/SACD and CD/Blu-ray versions with new stereo and 5.1 mixes, 11 bonus tracks, 45 demo/alternate recordings and more.
Ray Harper

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL 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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL ******************************************************************
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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL 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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL ******************************************************************
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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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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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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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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL 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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VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL**VINYL ******************************************************************
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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