Reviews roundup – Jeff Chaz vs. Katherine Jenkins vs. Anora vs. Chris Allard vs. The Flux Machine

81tcmdqy2gl-_sl1500_JEFF CHAZ
Sounds Like The Blues To Me
JCP Records

Damn right I’ve got the blues!  And no wonder, if this rip roaring set of tunes is anything to go by.  A native of Louisiana, Jeff Chaz has plied his trade as a sideman and a band leader for a long time now, but he’s really come into his own over the past few years.

This album of all original tunes sees him looking back as far as the thirties for his influences, which covers the expected New Orleans greats, but mixes up blues, vintage jazz, pop and soul into a tremendous stew.

He can be amusing and heartfelt, as the likes of ‘I’m Going After Moby Dick In A Rowboat’ will attest, but he can handle a slow blues and a heartfelt lament with ease.  He’s got a great core band along for the ride, so props to Doug Therrien on bass, drummer Doug Belote and keyboard man John Autin, along with the various guests who lively things up.

This is what a blues record should be like.

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51mnp3iwkdlKATHERINE JENKINS
Celebration
Decca

Someone is after an early damehood!  But her OBE could be in danger after her “people” allegedly annoyed the Queen by asking to use one of her speeches on this record.

To be fair, every Katherine Jenkins record sounds alike.  But at least you know what you’re getting, which is popular classical crossover.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  She’s not the best singer in the world, but her many fans are happy to overlook her shortcomings, helped along by some excellent musicians and arrangements.

As is the wont of the modern world, the record company are making a great play of tieing this in to her recent entry into the world of motherhood, and Her Majestys 90th birthday.  So all bases covered, as she launches into an array of tunes like ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Rule Britannia’.

In fact, you get two goes at the national anthem, including the three verse version, but be wary of Brendas wrath.  Fans will love this.

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61b2m-iamcl-_ss280ANORA
Labyrinth
independent

Meanwhile, over in Salt Lake City, Anora is trying to do something a wee bit different in the world of classical crossover by mixing classical, ambient and Celtic sounds with modern electronica and eighties hard rock!

Which means you get the rare treat of Beethoven segueing straight into ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe.  Yes, really.  And, by and large, it really works.  It’s the sort of thing that would sit easily with folk who like the thought of a Celtic Women and Lord of the Rings mind meld.

She’s studied classical music, sang in choirs and performed in musical theatre, all of which is put into this.  If you find the idea of Gladiator, Irish folk music and White Lion brought together with a classical twist, then you won’t do better than this.

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51r7caalywl-_ss280CHRIS ALLARD
Invisible Landscape
Perdido

Hmmm, nice.  Jazz time.  Which probably comes as a relief to Chris Allard who spent 2015 on tour with Russell Watson, the classical crossover fella.  He spent the year classical, steel-string acoustic and electric guitars, as well as electric bass and mandolin, but he’s a jazzeteer at heart, and here comes his new solo album.

So there are no Mario Lanza tunes here, as he embarks on his fourth record as a band leader, this time in a trio format with Oli Hayhurst on double bass and Nick Smalley on drums.  The basic tracks were recorded live as a band, before guitar overdubs were done, to preserve that spontaneous feeling, and it’s worked well.

Modern jazz fans will find a lot to enjoy here, as the performances are impeccable across the seven original numbers and a cover of the Wayne Shorter ballad, ‘Fall’.  Add in a couple of vocal numbers with Charlie Wood, and jazz lovers will be left very happy indeed.  Grab a copy in June, when he gets released from a tour with Ill Divo!

http://www.chrisallard.co.uk/

51ia60tijhl-_ss280THE FLUX MACHINE
Louder!
independent

NYC indie time.  Which means the Flux Machine are going for that garage rock thing that everyone gets into after they hear a Stooges record.  So there is a lot of crash, bang, wallop going on here.

That means fans of the genre will take most to tunes like ‘Toxic Love’ and ‘Mess You Up’, both of which slot in very neatly to the genre.  When they move away from the garage sound they tend to end up as pop-punk, which is never as bad as it sounds, and songs such as ‘Run Away’ and ”Love And Affection’ would have attracted some nineties radio play.

Musically, they’re all good at what they do, and when they get slightly adventurous, as on ‘Believe’ and ‘Wheels Of Love’, you do get the feeling that there is definitely a space for the Flux Machine.

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