Reviews roundup – Sonja Kristina vs. Alastair Greene vs. The LaFontaines vs. The Cascades vs. Donny Osmond
Anthology: The Curved Air Rarities Series
Curved Air Records
A tricky one this. You would imagine Curved Air fans will buy it just because most of the work Ms Kristina did out of Curved Air is long out of print. But will they like it?
Because, vocals apart, she generally ploughed a different furrow after the band split up. This double CD sees a hand picked selection of tunes from these years with a couple of new recordings. There’s ‘Frank Mills’ from “Hair”, which is where she got her break back in the sixties and an acoustic rendition of the late Greg Lake’s ‘C’est La Vie’. Elsewhere you’re getting a large chunk of her self-titled solo debut from 1980 which saw her abandoning the past in favour of a contemporary post punk sound. It’s a largely unlistenable album and time has not been kind to it.
However the material from “Songs From The Acid Folk” and “Harmonics Of Love” saw her embracing her past, something fully realised when she put a new version of Curved Air together, one that’s still going strong. Fans will definitely enjoy this as these are not songs that have been anthologised to death. The curious may find it a bit schizophrenic and might be better off trying some vintage Curved Air prog meets folk meets classical before giving this a go.
Rip Cat Records
He’d largely put his solo blues rock career to one side as he spent several years touring with Alan Parsons and his live Project. But he’s put that away and is back fronting his own band with this new release.
And he’s celebrating in style as he hits his little black book to bring in Walter Trout, Debbie Davies, Mike Finnigan, Dennis Gruenling, and Mike Zito for some guest appearances. I remember hearing “A Little Wiser” when it came out 15 years back and being mightily impressed as I was with his work on a couple of Shari Puorto releases. So it’s good to have him back, especially when the songs are this good. I don’t know whether it’s all that time playing melodic prog but he’s certainly rocking out on this collection of original songs. As well as a previously unreleased tune written by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top!
Style wise there are touches of Southern and classic rock in there, but he has got form in that world having also toured as a member of Starship featuring Mickey Thomas. However, this time around, it’s his singing and playing that takes centre stage and you can’t go wrong if you’re fan of blues rock. Not when the trio of Greene, Austine Beede and Jim Rankin gleefully career through songs as enjoyable as ‘Big Bad Wolf’, ‘Grateful Swagger’ and ‘Rain Stomp’. Highly recommended.
Wolf At Your Door Records
Blimey! Youngsters aren’t half angry about stuff. I’m not sure why as they’ve Never Had It So Good. Really.
I’m old enough to remember not having enough money for the electric meter, the tally man coming round while we hid in the kitchen and getting a work permit from the council when I was 13 so I could work 28 hours a week instead of being at school. Because we were proper poor what with a dying Dad and a Mum working in three different greasy spoons to try and pay the bills. And this was the late 1970’s not the 1870’s. So forgive me if shouty youngsters banging on about how awful the world is leaves me cold.
But this Scottish rap rock lot (yes, really) have decided to put the world to rights via the medium of music seeing as how it’s got such a good track record. I say rap rock but sometimes it’s a bit too fey for that and it’s more indie rap on tunes like ‘Release The Hounds’. Elsewhere on ‘Hang Fire’ and ‘Explosion’ they do come to life a bit and things perk up instantly. But when they go all electro on a couple of numbers I find myself thinking about doing the washing up instead of listening to the beat. I’m pretty sure there’s hordes of media studies students out there who will take this to their lily livered liberal hearts before abandoning it for a life in marketing post 2:1.
Diamonds And Rust
It’s only about 6 months since I was banging on about the rather good goth rock album from German gothster M W Wild. He’d left The Cascades a long while back and they carried on with a new singer.
But now they’ve got back together with M W Wild and put out a splendid retrospective album which will knock his solo career off course for a wee while. The Cascades were big on the German goth scene back in the day with a handful of 21st century releases looking longingly back to the days of Bauhaus, Killing Joke and the Nefilim. Well that’s still what they’re doing but they’re awfy good at it. The two new songs which are slotted into this double CD prove that.
As you would expect “Diamonds” is the best of the two CDs with even the demo versions blasting out. Numbers like ‘Handful Of Fear’, ‘Babylon’ and ‘Ground Zero’ rip through you like a Teutonic Sisters of Mercy. The best of the two new songs is ‘Wenn Der Regen Kommt’ which shows that they could still do this if they have a mind for it. Things wane slightly on the “Rust” CD but it’s an excellent selection, lacking only a goth does Judas Priest does Joan Baez cover to complete the circle.
One Night Only
I grew up in a world where light entertainment was everything. So I’ve got a lot of time for medleys, costume changes, wigs and dance routines. So say hello to Donny Osmond! Yes, the Donny Osmond.
At the beginning of the year he as touring UK arenas in Manchester, Glasgow, Brighton, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Birmingham as well as selling out 2 nights at the Hammersmith Odeon. The show in Birmingham was filmed and recorded, and here it is for your delectation.
It was called “The Soundtrack of My Life” tour after his most recent album and as befits someone with over 50 years in the world of showbiz there was a lot to pack in from an opening medley including ‘I Just Wanna Celebrate’, ‘Start It Up’ by the Rolling Stones, Taio Cruz’s ‘Dynamite’ and Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ on into his own seventies hits, a trip to Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and even some standards as a tribute to Andy Williams who gave The Osmonds their TV start.
It’s out as a 2CD or DVD set and to be honest, you’re probably better off watching it to enjoy a masterclass in seventies Saturday night prime time entertainment.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton