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.

Hugh Masekela – Hope

Over the last few years I've picked up a few records by Hugh Masekela. The south african trumpeteer has been releasing them for way longer than I've been born and I guess I still have quite a few to collect. A couple of years ago I bought his record on Bernie Grundman's 'Straight ahead' records, 'Almost like being in jazz'. It was immaculately produced and presented but the music left me somewhat cold. It was literally 'straight ahead' jazz but didn't seem to have much to stand out.

In 2004 Hugh performed live at Washington, D.C.'s Blues Alley and ran through a selection of his classic tracks from over the years. 'Grazing in the grass' is there as is 'Stimela(The Coal Train)'(Coltrane??).

Some like 'Lakuta' are fairly standard, but most appealing, jazz with the trumpet obviously to the fore, but for the most part this double 45rpm set is full of the african rhythms and also vocals from the townships of South Africa where Hugh might have grown up. Its a vibrant, thrilling set of songs, a classic collision of the best musicianship and the joy of African music. I can only imagine what it was like to be there that night. It would have been pure heaven for me.

The aforementioned 'Stimela' is the last track on the album, out of 7 tracks and is a ten minute epic. This political tale of the trains that run to the mines in South Africa from all across the continent send the blood cold and the music is shocking and thrilling, tension builds and you are drawn into a frenzy. You stamp your feet and shake your head as you bow your will to that of the music. It reaches into the deepest emotions, most primitive feelings and is thoroughly rivetingly gripping.

Not only is the music of the highest quality, the musicianship peerless but the sound quality, particularly for a live environment is equally stunning. The realism, space and depth is astounding, the detail wonderful. We are blessed that such an excellent engineer was on hand that night to capture the performance. And that Analogue productions elected to put this out on the 45rpm dbl lp set that we have here. You can't get better sound than this and you really should snap this up before it is gone. Its $50 dollars but you'll never regret it. The only downside is the packaghing is flimsy and minimal, but the inner sleeves are the plastic lined paper ones that do keep your records in excellent condition.

Built to spill re-release vinyl

Warner Bros. Records to Reissue Three Limited Edition Vinyl Albums From Built to Spill in Late May
Beloved Boise, Idaho, Quintet Launch North American Tour on June 30

BURBANK, CA — (MARKET WIRE) — May 09, 2007 — Warner Bros. Records will release limited edition vinyl reissues of three albums — 1997's "Perfect From Now On," 1999's "Keep It Like A Secret," and 2006's "You In Reverse" — from beloved Boise, Idaho, quintet BUILT TO SPILL in late May. Only 2,000 copies of each LP are being pressed.

The reissues will be released on regular-weight vinyl in two-LP sets, with "You In Reverse" in a gatefold sleeve featuring artwork from Mike Scheer, Karena Youtz and Tamara Shores. This is the first time "You In Reverse" will be available on vinyl, while "Keep It Like a Secret" and "Perfect From Now On," which have both been remastered, are back in print on vinyl for the first time on Warner Bros. Records, having originally been released by Up Records. "Keep It Like a Secret" will include the bonus track "Forget Remember When," a b-side from the album's recording sessions. "Perfect From Now On" will include the bonus track "Easy Way," a never-before-released song from the album's recording sessions.

BUILT TO SPILL — which currently includes Martsch, bassist Brett Nelson, drummer Scott Plouf, and guitarists Brett Netson and Jim Roth — will launch an extensive North American tour on June 30th in support of "You In Reverse," their first album in five years, which was released last April to critical acclaim. Rolling Stone praised its "action-packed jams and expansive tune sense," while Spin noted its "unique, virtuosic musicianship." The band are currently touring Europe, their first trip there since 2000.

For more about BUILT TO SPILL, please visit their website