Seasick Steve – I Started Out With Nothin And I Still Got Most Of It Left

Californian blues man Seasick Steve has become notorious for his rebel outlaw spirit and signature dungarees with a bottle of Jack Daniels in the back pocket. The last twelve months really have been his year, with the unlikely star being nominated for 'Best Live Act' at 2008's Mojo awards and winning 'Best Breakthrough Act' in 2007. Now back with his follow up to last year’s Dog House Blues, the man formerly known as Steve Wold invites us to nestle down on the porch, kick back and listen to his worldly tales once more.

Banging out the blues on his customised guitars is what Steve does best and you'd be hard pushed to find another bona fide ex-train rider who does it better. Steve has managed to translate his fiery live shows from the stage to the studio with his languid, treacly voice introducing most songs and even delving into a monologue on the bare explanation of why he can never stay still: My Youth. And on the title track Steve’s intro to a track about nothing never sounded so good.

Having made his TV debut on Later With Jools, Steve has called on Hollands' favourite soul singing diva, Ruby Turner, to join him on the gospel infused Happy Man, while KT Tunstall backs up the legend on rhythm guitar. Pleading for a woman's touch he sings, ''Oh this life has knocked me down to my knees, and I think it's time I get a little bit of that promised land…I ain't asking for much, just your sweet touch and for a little, little while I'll be happy and such''. Steve is also keen to prove he's no chancer with the ladies on, Fly By Night and the collaborations keep coming with Nick Cave getting writing credits on the low key and perfect, Just Like A King, featuring Grinderman.

Whether singing homegrown tales of women, riding trains (On Prospect Lane), faithful dogs (One True), drinking wine (Thunderbird), or a 'how to' guide for getting rid of bugs on a guitar he says he should have thrown out (Chiggers), Steve's sincerity to the blues tradition he was taught by K.C. Douglas makes this a compelling down and dirty listen whose momentum takes you straight back on the trains with him – even though he probably has a bit more than nothing by now.

Nice enough vinyl gatefold with simple white inner sleeve. Well pressed reasonably heavyweight vinyl. Sound is real bassy and closely miked. And very clear. I quite like it 🙂

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/6cqv/

Elbow – Seldom seen kid

While Madonna, David Bowie and Kylie Minogue embrace emerging or popular sounds, with varying degrees of success and cynicism, others only slightly alter what they do over time. Others like Neil Young, 50 Cent or Elbow. A fourth album from Guy Garvey and chums ushers in an occasionally more cheerful and experimental era for the Bury band, but for the most part it's brilliant business as usual.

The Seldom Seen Kid begins with Starlings, a tender effort that, aside from its insane horn blasts and Sigur Ros waves of feedback, comes on like a very now version of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross.

Next up we’re in familiar territory. Chanting, flamenco flourishes, a lyric that aches with lines of cryptic longing like, ''I'm five years ago and 3,000 miles away'', inventive percussion and a haunting yet uplifting Garvey vocal. The Bones Of You is so damn Elbow it should have half an arm coming out of both ends. It is followed by Mirrorball, a beautiful acoustic guitar and piano-led drift into dreams with an epic widescreen synth and strings chorus. It may not be a huge leap of originality for these men, but there is no one else who does it this well.

Elsewhere, Grounds For Divorce, the album's big single, is immense. It snarls, bites, chants and thrashes like Alabama 3 wrestling alligators in a Louisiana Bayou. Pedal steel guitars, handclaps (the hallmark of so many genius singles)… You can imagine Guy watching The Wild Bunch and wearing a Stetson as he laid down the vocal in the studio.

From here only the ponderous An Audience With the Pope dips below the high standard set. Special mention must go to The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver, which is so huge it sounds like a weight-lifting welder building a giant ship from concrete blocks and The Fix, which features a duet with Sheffield troubadour Richard Hawley. It evokes a doomed funfair ride and is probably the best tune about gambling since The Card Cheat by The Clash.Those who find Elbow drab will still probably be unmoved by this Talk Talk-inspired band's latest. But for everyone else who likes to be moved, relaxed, and cheered by superior, soulful Mancunian lullabies, The Seldom Seen Kid is essential.

 

These two 45rpm discs cut that way for better sound quality are more natural sounding than a lot of today's discs but do sound a little compressed. The vinyl is quite heavyweight and housed in a gatefold sleeve with details and lyrics printed on the inside. Inner sleeves are standard die cut white. The sleevenotes also reference the website turnmeup.org an organisation dedicated to the return to a more natural mastering process.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/2bcz/

Glasvegas – Glasvegas

Every so often, Glasgow produces a band, say Primal Scream or Franz Ferdinand, who seem so effortlessly capable of massive success that it makes you wonder why the city isn't the centre of the musical world.

To many, Glasvegas are the next heirs to such a crown. Named in a colloquial nod to their beloved hometown, they have been creating a buzz since catching indie mogul Alan McGee's ear 18 or so months ago.

They were the one band every industry high-flier and music hack agreed on at last year's In The City, despite not actually playing at the conference, and started this year nestled snugly behind The Ting Tings at the head of the BBC's Sounds Of 2008 poll. And now, they have every chance of mimicking the Salford duo's success, though they couldn't be more different if they tried.

Glasvegas' music sounds like the east end of Glasgow that gave birth to it; rough, raw and epic, it is a stunning wall of sound that strains the rich rockabilly and doo-wop of the 50s through the raucous brooding rock of The Jesus And Mary Chain to create something timeless.

It was a sound showed off brilliantly in the three independent singles that got them noticed to begin with – Go Square Go, Daddy's Gone and It's My Own Cheating Heart – and it's one that is driven hard across the whole of their eponymous debut.
All three of those starter singles are included, with Daddy’s Gone still standing out as a devastating slab of emotion-soaked songwriting, but they are by no means the only worthy inclusions.

A nod to front man James Allan's former career as a professional footballer, the catchy echo of Flowers & Football Tops, opens proceedings and the exhausting excellence of the band's oeuvre barely lets up until the smacked-out gospel of Ice Cream Van shuts the album down, with only the slightly odd spoken-word piano drama of Stabbed allowing some breathing space.

It is everything you could have asked for from the band. With the pressure on to produce an album worthy of the hype, they have succeeded where others, notably The Ting Tings and fellow Sound of 2008 nominees Foals, failed and delivered a genuinely classic debut. Scotland's second city has done it again.

Horribly horribly compressed. Simple vinyl packaging. Outer pic sleeve and inner pic cleeve. Heavyweight normal vinyl.

Kings of Leon – Only by the night

As if their towering headlining performance at Glastonbury wasn't enough, here comes the Southern-fried quartet's fourth album to prove once and for all that Kings Of Leon are now bona fide world-beaters.

In the context of a career arc this level of creativity makes perfect sense. Their sound has had a good five years to grow from post-adolescent indie to full-blown, manly stadium glory. All those U2 support slots have now been fed back into the machine. And, like U2, a timely change of production team (losing Ethan Johns but retaining Angelo Petraglia) brings a new focus. Nathan Followill's drums have to be one of the most perfect rock engines around at the moment. They never swamp a ticking grower like I Want You but still throw enough flourishes to push the songs into the red. Meanwhile cousin Matthew's guitar scorches the mix like a flamethrower. Filled with string-bending clichés; but cliches of the most enjoyable sort.

The one thing that really shows the band's confidence is their willingness to slow down and really attack these songs. Caleb claims that medication's effects ifluenced the writing and indeed, the droning insistence can be almost hallucinatory. Interestingly the first single, Sex On Fire – returning them to the fire and brimstone, gothic territory of their peripatetic father's preacher roots – is the one track that comes closest to the Strokes-aping sound that held them back in the past. But Caleb's muzzy, straining voice pushes them beyond arch post-modern irony from the big city. In interviews Caleb's talked about the boys tackling their ''roots'' again, and this album wears its colours proudly.

The U2 analogies don't stop there. Manhattan, another medium-paced stormer has the Edge's echo-fed lines running through it, albeit with more of the Kings' blues rock swagger. Obviously, the advantage of being American is that you can still believe that rock will save the world.

A minor mid-album lull, caused by perhaps too many slower numbers is broken by Be Somebody: a new wave-ish beauty that ends with a maelstrom borne on the back of Jared's rubbery bass. It only remains for Cold Desert to usher us out of the emotional devastation of this very secular three-chord church, swelling and returning at its end with optimistic verve.

Never overstaying its welcome, Only By The Night is the album that the world's been waiting for the Kings Of Leon to make.

 

Nice double gatefold vinyl package. Two heavyweight discs and a nice image embossd on the front cover. Discs not super heavyweight but not flimsy either. Inner sleeves are standard die cut paper.  No other inserts. This record uses far better vinyl than their previous releases but unfortunately follows the current trend for LOUD mastering.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/3r54/

Joe Jackson – Rain

Four years since his last album – 2003's critically acclaimed Volume 4 – Joe Jackson returns with arguably his most consistent collection yet. Recorded in his adopted hometown of Berlin, Rain represents a career culmination of work – shifting effortlessly between styles, and underpinned by the highest calibre of musicianship.

In some respects, little has changed in Jackson's universe. For a start, he's reunited with Graham Maby and Dave Houghton, both players on late-70s new wave classic Look Sharp!. Indeed, two songs here – "King Pleasure Time" and "Good Bad Boy" – could be culled from that pre-Reagan era; rolling back the years in a gusto display of spiky, skinny-tied rock. The enduring influence on contemporaries such as Elvis Costello and latterday piano-men like Ben Folds is palpable, as is Jackson's acerbic wit. The playing, as expected, verges on ESP – skipping playfully with a jazz-tinged feel of joy.

Of course, Jackson has proved himself a true renaissance man in the intervening years, dabbling in everything from soundtrack scoring to reggae and jump-blues. And so it proves here. The classical composer comes to the fore on "Solo (So Low)", before sidestepping into hyper-melodic pop ("Invisible Man", "The Uptown Train") and scene-stopping show tunes ("A Place In The Rain"). Gorgeous Seventies-style ballad "Wasted Time" suggests a few tricks picked up co-headlining a recent tour with Todd Rundgren.

The piece de resistance, however, is "Too Tough". Surely a staple of some future Radio 2 playlist, it’s a proper AOR pearl. And while Rain offers a consistently high-level display of songwriting craft, if you download just one track, then best make it this one.

Its a nice enough vinyl package. Its compressed enough despite being initially mastered by Bob Ludwig and then Paul Gold for vinyl. You get the feeling that it could have sounded great. As it is its average. Reasonably heavyweight vinyl and quiet enough. Inner matt picture sleeve.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/release/5qdp/

Ron Sexsmith – Time Being

I've always quite enjoyed Ron Sexsmith without being a huge fan. I did however love Cobblestone Highway and retriever, and indeed gave the excellent Diverse pressing of Cobblestone Highway a pretty good review on this site.

So here we have another reissue of his latest album on vinyl by another new label called Coppertree Records. They seem to be based in Wales and, well, I don't know very much about them at all.

But they do have something to say for themselves and this record…

Coppertree Records start their vinyl campaign with a lavish 180g heavyweight pressing of Ron Sexsmith’s Time Being. His eighth album proper, and his first to have the tender loving Coppertree vinyl treatment. Considered the singer / songwriter’s songwriter, Ron Sexsmith has earned immense respect from his peers, critics, and a devoted international audience. The Toronto based singer / songwriter boasts a who’s who of celebrity endorsees such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Steve Earle (who produced Ron's 2001 album, Blue Boy), Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, Bono, John Prine, Radiohead, and Chris Martin (who dueted on the track Gold In Them Hills). Coppertree Records have taken due care and attention to the finest of details, and produced a lavish and desirable release that will have any vinyl junkie palpitating at the very thought of it. The heavyweight 180g vinyl pressing is housed in a full colour inner sleeve which is stored in a beautiful double weight, embossed and hand numbered sleeve. To have Ron Sexsmith on ‘the original analogue format’ is essential, so stay tuned, as Coppertree Records may have some more announcements to make with regards to Ron Sexsmith’s material

The packaging is simple enough. An embossed single outer sleeve and a flimsy inner picture sleeve. Everything is glossy!! 🙂

Sound quality is very good. Its credited as being mastered by Bob Ludwig which is always a good sign. however the vinyl will have been mastered by someone else. There are no problems though. Its a good vinyl pressing and the sound comes through nicely on the vinyl though does sound digital. Good digital.

Lyrically as always, Ron is quirky interesting and thought provoking. No standard statements here.

Unfortunately the music, while not bad, does not seem to be such an instant classic as the two previous albums mentioned above. Sexsmith has a laid back style which never exactly reaches out and grabs you anyway. Here the music seems to do so even less. I see from the website that its been getting 4* reviews all over. I think I'll give it a 3.

Coldplay 7″ vinyl box set

We're pleased to announce that, for the first time, all 14 of Coldplay's singles are to be collected together in a box set. 'The Singles 1999-2006' will be released internationally on March 26th.

Each single will be pressed on heavyweight 7-inch vinyl and sleeved in its original artwork. The box set will contain five singles which have never previously appeared on 7-inch vinyl. They include 'The Blue Room EP', Coldplay's rare first release for Parlophone in October 1999, which has been split into two 7-inch singles. The box set will also feature the international singles, 'Don't Panic', 'God Put A Smile Upon Your Face' and 'What If', none of which were released in the UK. It will also include 'The Hardest Part', which was previously only available as a download in the UK.

Please note that this collection will only be released as a 7-inch vinyl box set, there will not be a CD release. For full track details, please go to www.coldplay.com