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Music Review Section

Music Index

The starting point for an index of all my musical sections.

 

Historic Album Reviews

I am gradually building up my reviews of historic albums from America to U2

 

The Music Years

Albums reviewed by years from 1963 until the present day.

 

The Gig List

A list of concerts and gigs I have attended over the years with reviews when I can remember what they were like.

 

Music Writing

My music writing - both published and unpublished.

 

Here and Now

Details of Eastern Evening News Here and Now columns I was involved in.

 

2009 Album Reviews

Major 2009 albums reviewed and rated.

 

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My Amazon Reviews
Free music - Best of 2009

 

Free music - Best of 2010

My favourite tracks from 2010 compiled as a playlist.

 

 

 

 

 

The Music Years - 2010

The following albums were released in 2010 and have been reviewed thanks to the following legal music sites:

 

Midlake - The Courage of Others - 7.5

Acts of Man/ Winter Dies/ Small Mountain/ Core of Nature/ Fortune/ Rulers, Ruling All Things/ Children of the Grounds/ Bring Down/ The Horn/ The Courage of Others/ In the Ground

There is a thematic feel to Midlake's third album - an album four years in the making. It is undeniable that the roots of this album lie in British Progressive folk rock with more than a nod to the likes of Jethro Tull (at times lead singer Tim Smith uses the same phrasing as Ian Anderson) and the Strawbs. Ultimately this is an album by a letter day band of hippies who seem to have stepped straight out of the 1970s. This could have been played at Woodstock. But there is still a progressive feel to it, although most of the songs are very similar. In some ways that adds to its attraction as it should be listened to as a whole - as if it's a song cycle or indeed just one long song (as Tull said Life's a long song). It's hard to see whether Midlake have taken a step forward or a step forward and two back. That said it is a glorious evocation of the countryside with Smith's plaintiff vocals threatening to soar but staying in check. The overall feel is one of heady atmosphere. This is intelligent folk/rock. It may not be as easily accessible as Van Occupanther, but there are many beautiful moments.

 

John Grant - Queen of Denmark - 6.5

Ex Czars frontman Grant teamed up with Midlake to produce his first solo album and there's plenty here to trumpet. A confessional album, it has some heart stopping moments and some excellent material offset by Grant's rich voice which drives through songs about his sexuality (gay) and never becomes mundane. There is a huge diversity of material from the slow ballads to some almost Germanic material. But the album never becomes mawkish despite some quite harrowing lyrics about lost loves and sexual encounters. Apparently during the making of this album Grant hit an all time low through drink, drugs and suicidal thoughts. As a result he has come up with an album that is both difficult but highly engaging. One where you feel you have listened to something important by the end and in songs such as Queen of Denmark, I Wanna Go to Marz (about a sweetshop and not the planet) and the sublime Where the Dreams Go To Die Grant has fashioned some of the best songs of the year. The latter has a real Richard Hawley feel to it.

 

Johnny Cash - American VI - Ain't No Grave - 6

Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)/ Redemption Day/ For the Good Times/ I Corinthians 15:55/ Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound/ A Satisfied Mind/ I Don't Hurt Anymore/ Cool Water/ Last Night I had the Strangest Dream/ Aloha Oe.

American VI is the final instalment in the Cash series and perhaps it might be an album too far. Whilst American V was never mawkish and saw a man confronting his mortality in song, this follow up, which came from the same sessions and was recorded in 2003. seems almost as if Cash is trying to convince himself on certain matters. So it doesn't have the immediacy of the previous album. Each song suddenly takes on a life of its own as a piece of redemption (hence the inclusion of Sheryl Crow's Redemption Day). He does inject some original feel to Kris Kristofferson's For the Good Times and Tom Paxton's Can't Help Wonder Where I'm Bound" speaks for itself. Less successful is the Cash original taken from the book of Corinthians straight from the Bible and there is a tired feel to Cool Water and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream. As a legacy and reminder of the Man in Black this is a fitting epitaph, as an album in its own right it is passable.

 

Neil Diamond - Dreams - 5

There is a thin line or perhaps no line at all between issuing an album of covers as something of genuinely artistic merit and releasing an album of covers because you have run out of inspiration. Somehow Diamond falls somewhere between the two stools. There is certainly merit in this album but whether you believe claims that it was something he has been wanting to do for years and a set of dreams from his favourite material of all time. Some covers albums go for the tried and trusted material, others (Marc Almond being a prime example) go for something a little more adventurous. Here once again we are inbetween land. For some reason I really like his almost spoken version of Gilbert O'Sullivan's Alone Again (Naturally) and a rather haunting version of Lesley Duncan's beautiful Love Song. Not sure about the stripped down version of his own "I'm a Believer" but there's charm in Randy Newman's Losing You. Not sure either that we need yet another version of Yesterday or Blackbird or Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah for that matter.

 

Ringo Starr - Y Not - 5

Fill in the Blanks/ Peace Dream/ The Other Side of Liverpool/ Walk With You/ Time/ Everyone Wins/ Mystery of the Night/ Can't Do It Wrong/ Y Not/ Who's Your Daddy

Another jaunty little number from our Ringo. If Liverpool 8 in many ways took the man back to his roots, Y Not extends those roots and entrenches them a little deeper into Scouseland. You just know with Mr Starr that there's going to be plenty of dross, but usually amongst it all is a couple of gems. Interestingly they have become songs about the past and so it is here. Many of the pieces are straightforward and monumentally average rockers, but occasionally Ringo rises above and three tracks on this album are significant. Peace Dream shows that he is on more than nodding terms with the memory of John Lennon, The Other Side of Liverpool harks back to the song Liverpool 8, but more importantly Walk With You is a genuinely good song. Firstly it is written by Ringo in collaboration with the genius of Van Dyke Parks and, perhaps more importantly, it has backing vocals from Paul McCartney. Two old mates getting it on and as far as the Beatles go that's all we can now ever expect. The album is worth buying for that one track. Overall it's a pretty punchy affair that may not win any awards but at least the man is still creating music.