Reviews roundup – Martin Turner vs. Aukai vs. Gregory Alan Isakov
New Live Dates: The Complete Set
Dirty Dog Discs
Well it’s been a couple of years since the release of “The Garden Party”, so it must be time to repackage some old live shows for the Wishbone Ash fans out there, courtesy of founding original member Martin Turner.
“Life Begins” is a rather nice repackaging of the 2011 CD and DVD releases as a joined up triple disc thingy. I’m pretty sure you could only get them at gigs at the time, so this is a good chance to catch up with Mr Turner and his then band of Ray Hatfield (guitar/vocals) Danny Willson (guitar/vocals) Dave Wagstaffe(drums).
As the name suggests, this was a tour which celebrated the 40th anniversary of Wishbone Ash, and it’s a well recorded show, with some tasty treats on the first disc including the likes of ‘Rock n Roll Widow’ and ‘Everybody Needs A Friend’, while the second disc sees a live outing for the whole of “Argus”. The DVD is less essential, but as a package, it’s well worth it for WA fans.
Meanwhile, back in 2006 and 2007, Mr Turner released two live albums in the shape of “New Live Dates Vol. 1” and “New Live Dates Vol. 2”, which have been shoehorned into a double disc release. It was a different band back then, with only Ray Hatfield on guitar doubling up on the later release. So you’ve also got Keith Buck and Rob Hewins in the band, with original Wishbone Ash guitarist Ted Turner making a guest appearance on four tracks.
Again, the sound quality is excellent, and he digs deep into the back catalogue for tunes like ‘Outward Bound’ and a personal favourite, ‘Diamond Jack’, which rub shoulders alongside the expected ‘Jailbait’ and ‘Blowin Free’. The one slight flaw across all the live material is the vocals, but musically it’s just treat after treat.
Apparently Aukai means traveller in Hawaiian (or if you’re Scottish insert your own och-aye the noo joke), and it seems a suitable pseudonym for multi-instrumentalist Markus Sieber, who started life playing in East German rock bands, before setting off for Colorado and Mexico, finally landing in Berlin to record this album.
And what you’re getting is a thirteen track instrumental album of almost ambient, acoustic music. Which can be tough going for some. I did hear him described as a “soundscape artist”, which fair gave me the boak, but it’s not as self indulgent as all that. Because there are some really beautiful passages in here.
There is some fantastic guitar playing on offer, which touches on Latin, folk and jazz, with lots of background strings, all taken at a leisurely pace. Don’t come here looking for a cheery wee tune, as there is a lot of melancholy on offer, with ‘Last Day’ probably the most depressing (in a good way) of the lot. I had to read the press release to work out what the strange but enjoyable noise was, and it turned out to be an Argentinian mandolin-like instrument called a ronroco. Which was nice.
Fans of ambient music will doubtless find this a real pleasure.
GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV
Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony
Suitcase Town Music
Never heard of him. But in the world of something called chamber-folk, it seems that Gregory Alan Isakov is a bit of a big name. Literally.
He’s put out five albums since 2003, as well as having songs placed in US TV shows like Suits, Californication and The Blacklist and ads for McDonalds and Subaru. So, if you know anything about advertising executives, you will get a feel for quiet, reflective plinky-plonk.
The South African born musician now lives in Colorado, so when the time seemed right to reworks his songs with an orchestra, who better than his local Colorado Symphony, followed by some follow up shows with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra.
So, along with his four-piece backing band, he and the orchestra ran through ten songs from his back catalogue and a cover of a song by Texan alt-folkie Ron Scott. Now, even though alt-fol isn’t really my cup of tea, I must admit that with some fantastic string arrangements, songs like ‘Dandelion Wine’ really made an impact, and the combination of folk and classical, which I didn’t think would work, actually makes the sum better than its parts.