Eva Cassidy – Songbird

I'm a regular reader of the hi-fi magazines and the online sites and forums. For years now I've been reading about 'Songbird' by Eva Cassidy. I've never felt it was my thing; my area of interest. It came out on CD many years ago, and then more recently, but still years, and apparently due to demand it has had a couple of vinyl issues.

This is what I've finally bought.

The first song is Sting's 'Fields of Gold' and while listening to it I also skimmed through the sleevenotes of her brief and tragic career before she succumbed to cancer in 1996. Perhaps it was teh combination of both that brought a tear to my eye.

More than any other female singer, Jeff Buckley is the face and voice I keep thinking of as I listen to this record. There are the same strange bedfellows of power and purity in their voices, the way they emote what they sing and can soar or be subtle as they wish and as the music suits.

An album of covers, there is a strong variety of styles including blues, soul and ballads. Pete Seeger, Sting, Curtis mayfield and Christine McVie are amongst the original songwriters. Some particularly stunning soulful classics with incredible performances from Eva. Why is it they only ever play 'Somewhere over the rainbow'??

So do I like it? I do. It far surpasses the libidoless schmaltz you often get from the audiophile labels. This is a record you'll actually listen to. And of course it sounds great too.

Packaging is nice enough, a gatefold sleeve with appropriate sleevenotes and elegy. Great sound and record pressing from the team of S&P and Steve Hoffman/Kevin Gray.

PS : There are a couple of messages in the deadwax…

Eleanor McEvoy – love must be tough

When you listen to a record such as this, full of clarity, perfect detail, delight in every instrument and vocal phrase it really begs the question why doesn't every musician want their music to sound like this? Half-speed mastered by Miles Showell, this record really brings Eleanor and her cheerful outlook on life and love right into your house, band and all.

 I picked up the 'Yola' cd second hand some years ago without knowing much about her, despite living less than a hundred miles from where she lives and records. It turned out to be one of that years delights, both for the music and the sound quality. It regularly features, I discovered later, on  audiophile favourites(favorites if you're in the US) lists and is thoroughly well deserved. I remember being surprised at what a beautiful warm sound came from the CD. I picked up teh vinyl edition afterwards and somehow wasn't that impressed. I expected to be blown away and I wasn't. A second vinyl edition came out later on which apparently fixed things but I haven't picked it up yet.

This album is blowing me away. 

 Its full of the simply beautiful combination of Eleanor's husky voice, touching and joyful lyrics, backed up by wonderful musicians playing a cool breezy, and at times rag-time(!) jazzy music.

Over the past few years there have been plenty of sultry jazzy female singers, Norah Jones, Diana Krall etc. Frankly they all bore me to tears. I'm far more persuaded by the folksy charm of Eleanor McEvoy. Its not quite an Irish traditional hooley but it could be the warm up for one, or the cool down. 

 

Really if you don't buy this you're doing yourself a great disservice.

 

The packaging is simple enough, really just there to provide a few details about the recording, musicians and to protect the lovely 180grm silent pressing. Diverse does it again!!

Aerosmith – Draw the Line

Draw the Line is Aerosmiths 5th studio album and was released in June 1977, just one year after their 'prime record', Rocks. Considering it to be the follow up the their best rated album, you would have thought it to be again highly rated? Wrong! This album was absolutely slated by the critics, and even to this day is very underrated by fans. The album is built up of simple, yet effective hooks that are really in your face throughout the entrire record.

  The trobules occuring back stage most definately contributed to the uniqueness of the album from their previous works. Nothing came similar before it and nothing has come similar since. One of the most noticeable areas where something appeas to be going wrong are in the credits. Where we would normally see most, or all of the songs written by the Tyler/Perry combo, we now only see a mere three. This was an indication of the growing tension between the two band members.

  The album was recorded in a disused monastrey in New York state. which has given the recording a very rough sound. The sound of which can be compared to 60's Rolling Stones records. Although not confirmed it could have been a deliberate attempt to recreate that sound, that the band were inspired by in the earlier days. Either way the sound surely suits the tracks.

  The opening track, Draw the line is perhaps the most memorable riff on the album and is a great example of the rough edge to the music. It employs an almost embarrasingly simple guitar riff at a perfect tempo. Brillaint track! Although it's not Tylers best vocal attempts, without his earthy scream it wouldn't have the same effect.

The following track, I wanna know why, doesn't have quite the same appeal as he previous, and Tylers vocals leave a lot to be desired. The track would probalby be much more suited to an instrumental, giveing a chance to hear the guitar and Tylers piano backing.

Critical Mass goes back to the blues/rock combination of their earlier days. Again though, Tyler does let down a little on the vocals, and the guitar is very quiet. As said in other reviews, the guitar seems almost deliberately dampened, which is a shame.

The next track, Get it up is somewhat average but still has a easily memorable melody, and Tylers voacls are slightly clearer but still not up to his standards.

Bright light fright is a refeshing change, with Perry as lead vocals. The track again is a bluesy style, with a wall of sound when played.

The B side starts with a very experimental track, Kings and Queens. It could be experimental rock on its own and has quite an interesting riff and vocals. It is probably the Gem of the record along with Draw the Line. The guitar is very clear on the track and Tylers vocals are much clearer although dampened. The lyrics themselves are also much more creative than the others found on the album and are ib a way, more complex and interesting.

The Hand that Feeds is the follow up and in my opinion is the most underrated track on Draw the line. The tracks main guitar is even simpler than Draw the line if that was ever possible, but the vocals are much more improved and there is a sense of power in there. You feel as though the band are making more of an effort and they really 'mean it'. Tyler really uses his trademark scream to its full potential to match up to the simple and proud guitar track.

Sight for sore eyes is my personal favourite on the album and performs great live. It has all the catchy elements of the previous tracks but there is again a feeling that the band are performing and mean it. Without Sight for sore eyes the album has the potential to be dull, and for all the negative comments it already receives it would be disasterous. Playing the record through from start to finish, this is the one you always seem to remember, most probably due to the hypnotic chorus, melody at the end.

To conclude the record is the Milk Cow Blues, a cover of a blues track that is well executed from the original. Again, very catchy and the guitar is brilliant from start to end. The album probably wouldn't miss this song but it is a great addition never the less.

Although I admit it is perhaps not their best work it is very underrated and deserves much more credit. Without it who knows where the band would be now?

I reccomend this to any rock lover and I advise you hear it on an analogue recording, whether it be record or cassette just to give it an extra raw sound.