Reviews roundup – Blackmore’s Night vs. Machine Mass vs. The Songs Of Don Williams
Is It Christmas already? It must be in Castle Blackmore as they’ve decided to give themselves some cash for Crimbo.
This comes hot on the heels of the “To the Moon and Back-20 Years and Beyond” package which saw a couple of new tunes stuffed in amongst the oldies. And now here’s “Winter Carols” which sees a bunch of oldies enhanced with 3 new tunes. Deja and vu. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m quite partial to a bit of hey nonny no, courtesy of Mr and Mrs Blackmore, and if you didn’t get this the first time round then it’s actually rather enjoyable. But long time fans will be feeling milked.
The three new numbers are versions of ‘Deck The Halls’, ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and ‘O Christmas Tree’, all done in just the manner you would expect although for some reason they’re pushing “Wish You Were Here” (the Rednex song not the Pink Floyd on) as the single. Those of you with long memories will recall that being on the Blackmores Night debut album “Shadow of the Moon” which came out in 1997.
If I was hearing these tunes for the first time I would have enjoyed this a lot more than I did this time, but if you’re looking for some medieval minstrelry for your Christmas celebrations and didn’t buy this the first time round. Or the second time around which was when the live tracks first appeared, then give it a go.
Well now. I was never a Hendrix fan but I definitely liked this. Which may be a bad thing if you’re trying to get Hendrix fans to pony up for it.
What you’re getting is some serious jazz fusion, recorded live in the studio with no overdubs from some ridiculously talented musicians. It’s a trio of keyboardist, Antoine Guenet (The Wrong Object; Sh.TG.N; Univers Zero), guitarist Michel Delville (The Wrong Object; douBt; Alex Maguire Sextet) and drummer Anthony Bianco (douBt; Elton Dean; Dave Liebman) and they certainly know how to rip a new one through some old material.
They’ve not went down the route of obscure album tracks. Instead they’ve taken the well known numbers from the back catalogue and completely reinterpreted them. They kick off with an eight minute version of ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ and you know right off the bat that this is going to be something different. You can’t pick a highlight when it’s a record stuffed with them but I have been drawn most often to their take on ‘Spanish Castle Magic’. A wild and wonderful offering.
Gentle Giants: The Songs Of Don Williams
I didn’t get round to playing this until after Don Williams died earlier this month. I’d been busy with own wife dying so listening to music wasn’t something I was interested in.
But I was brought up with country music. My deid Irish mammy ended up as secretary of the Scottish Country Music Fellowship in the eighties and I remember getting sat in the corner of the Berry Suite in Edinburgh on a Monday night when the Tuscon Country Music Club had their regular bash. Which meant I heard a lot of Don Williams as the seventies into the early eighties was when he was big in the UK.
However a tribute album subtitled “The Songs Of Don WIlliams” is a bit strange as he wasn’t a songwriter. He was a magnificent interpreter and his voice was rich. Without that voice it seems odd listening to songs he made his own. That’s not to say it isn’t good because it is. There are a handful of songs here that bear up to repeated plays with the Pistol Annies’ version of ‘Tulsa Time’, Dierks Bentley take on ‘Some Broken Hearts Never Mend’ and ‘Maggie’s Dream’ by Trisha Yearwood are absolute gems. But there are a few misses as well with Brandy Clark, Lady Antebellum and Alison Krauss the worst offenders.
It’s too late for a Don Williams revival but if even a handful of people pick up some of his seventies albums, then at least he won’t be forgotten.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton