Share this page:
Follow Choice on Social Media:
Get the most out of life

Enjoy Life

April's CD reviews

Simon Evans reviews the latest music releases

Jethro Tull Chateau D'Herouville Sessions 1973

(Warner Records)

Jethro_Tull_Chateau_DHerouville_Sessions_1973_CD_coverThe years 1971-72 were golden ones for Jethro Tull – the release of Aqualung, one of the most distinctive LPs of the early Seventies, a Number One album, Thick as a Brick, and Living In The Past, a much praised double retrospective LP. So you could forgive the band a certain over-confidence, perhaps, when they convened at the Chateau D’Herouville, just outside Paris, to commence work on their new album in late summer 1972.

Elton John, T Rex and Pink Floyd had all recorded hit albums at the studios, but Tull hated it from the start, citing malfunctioning equipment, poor accommodation and an ever-present threat of food poisoning. Still they ploughed on with an ambitious collection of songs and instrumentals on the vague theme of traditional culture and our kinship with the animal kingdom being eroded by new technology.

It wasn’t the catchiest idea for an album, and despite the best efforts of the band the material didn’t catch fire. Instead, for the next album Anderson started from scratch, and the result was Passion Play, another chart-topping LP but one that provoked an almost universal critical pasting.

The Chateau D’Herouville recordings lay in the vaults for 15 years until an 11-minute segment was resurrected for the 1988 20 Years of Tull box set, and it was a revelation, some of the band’s strongest material of the era in fact, ranging from the folky Roy Harper-influenced Scenario to the hard-rocking Audition and No Rehearsal. Which left fans baffled as to why the recordings had been left in the vaults for so long.

More discarded Chateau D’Herouville material emerged over the years, most notably on the 1974 War Child album and 1993 Nightcap retrospective set, but this is the first time it has all been gathered together. In truth it is a bit of a mixed bag, with most of the instrumentals being pretty forgettable, but remixes of previously released songs, including Scenario, Audition, No Rehearsal, Skating Away, Only Solitaire and lost gems like Law of the Bungle make it a more than worthwhile exercise.

Fairport_Convention_CD_coverFairport Convention A Live Recording

(Matty Grooves)

Recorded on Fairport Convention’s autumn 2023 acoustic tour this live album, originally only available on the band’s recent winter outing and now available as a digital download, finds the grandfathers of British folk-rock in fine form. For anyone, like myself, who has found the Fairporters in danger of becoming a little staid of late this, and that recent winter tour, have been a welcome wake-up call. The truth is they have not sounded better, and more urgent, since the late Maartin Allcock infused the band with a dose of prog-rockery in the Eighties and Nineties.

Mixing excellent recent offerings, including Cider Rain, Moses Waits and The Year of Fifty-Nine, with old favourites Banks of the Sweet Primroses (from the 1971 Angel Delight LP) Who Knows Where The Time Goes and Matty Groves, the Fairports also demonstrated how they can swing with the best of them on the Stephane Grappelli-like Bankruptured, while Ric Sanders’ gorgeous instrumental Portmeirion always brings a lump to the throat.

No Fairport set over the past 40 years or so has been complete without Meet On The Ledge, a song of friendship and loss that takes on an added poignancy every passing year as more friends are “blown off this mountain by the wind.” For the time being though this remarkable band and its timeless music keeps “coming round again” and long may it continue to do so.


Banter_Heroes_album_cover.Banter Heroes

(Mrs Casey Records)

Fans of Fairport should also investigate this fourth studio album from festival favourites Banter (Simon Nicol is already a fan). Like Fairport the band is able to mix traditional songs, such as the opening The Oak and the Ash, with striking originals from the band’s keyboardist, singer and creative powerhouse Nina Zella to the point where it is sometimes hard to discern which is which; a rare gift and one reminiscent of Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick in their pomp.

Banter also have the ability to take other writers’ songs and make them their own, witness, in particular, their gorgeous version of John Tam’s classic Lay Me Low, a performance that put me in mind of June Tabor’s many memorable interpretations of this great singer-songwriter-musician.

The album closes with Jake’s Jig, a tune with special resonance for the band, as it was composed by their friend and collaborator Gareth Turner and first appeared on the band’s debut album Yes.

Banter are already highly regarded in British folk-rock circles and this album will make them many new friends.

Patterns_on_the_window_CD_coverVarious Artists Patterns on the Window


The latest in Grapefruit Records series of themed albums, gathering together forgotten hits, obscurities and rarities from a given year, reaches 1974 and this three-disc set is a treat, featuring songs that somehow seem to capture the spirit of the year – the ennui of Brian Prothero’s Pinball, the sheer strangeness of the late Steve Harley’s Cockney Rebel hit Judy Teen and Stavely Makepeace’s impossibly catchy There’s A Wall Between Us (Stavely had enjoyed a massive hit the previous year with Mouldy Old Dough in the guise of Lieutenant Pigeon).

Oddities include Jona Lewie’s rootsy Papa Don’t Go, barely recognisable as the artist who also gave the world Seaside Shuffle and Stop the Cavalry, and Iain Matthews’ cover of Poor Ditching Boy, written by his ex-Fairport Convention band-mate, Richard Thompson. Richard and wife Linda are also present with When I Get To The Border, nestling alongside tracks by Roxy Music, Fox and The First Class.

The joy of such collections is the unexpected, and the inclusion of tracks by such long-forgotten bands as the curiously titled Rescue Co No 1 and the West Coast-flavoured Starry Eyed and Laughing make you wonder when they never tasted the success enjoyed by some of their contemporaries.

You_Can_Walk_Across_it_on_the_grass_CD_cover.Various Artists You Can Walk Across It On The Grass


Imagine walking down Carnaby Street during the summer of 1966 and the odds are that you would hear the sounds captured on this wonderfully evocative three-disc set leaking from the colourfully adorned, incense filled boutiques, record shops and cafes. In April of that year Time magazine had proclaimed ‘Swinging’ London to be at the epicentre of the cultural universe – which inevitably proved to be its death knell, for once this close-knit scene had become common knowledge it started to lose what made it special in the first place, its novelty and exclusivity.

For anyone visiting from the provinces, however, the buzz around the capital in the mid-Sixties was unmistakeable and this fully annotated, cleverly curated set perfectly captures the mood of the time, from the slightly obvious – The Kinks’ Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Manfred Mann’s 5-4-3-2-1, Dusty Springfield’s Little by Little and The Easybeats’ Friday On My Mind – to the more obscure – an early Kiki Dee single, Why Don’t I Run Away With You, The Knack’s Dolly Catcher Man and Peanut’s excellent version of the Beach Boys’ I’m Waiting For The Day.

Completing the picture are novelty songs from the era, including Patrick MacNee and Honor Blackman’s Kinky Boots, Twiggy’s When I Think of You and Whistling Jack Smith’s I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman, as well as nostalgia-inducing TV themes from On The Ball and The Avengers.

Immerse yourself in the four hours-worth of music featured here and it really could be 1966 all over again.

Les_Cousins_CD_cover.Various Artists Les Cousins


 Originally the basement of a French restaurant at 49 Greek Street in Soho, Les Cousins opened as a folk club in 1964 and soon became the epicentre of the English contemporary folk movement. Al Stewart once suggested it was as important as Liverpool’s Cavern Club in terms of the future direction of British rock, and he has a point.

Most of the leading lights of the folk scene would pass through its doors, as well as visiting American singer-songwriters such as Jackson C Frank and Paul Simon, and it proved to be a vital crucible for the cross-fertilisation of folk and rock whose influence would spread far into the next decade and beyond.

This three-disc set features many of the artists who performed at Les Cousins over the years, including Al Stewart, Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny, Roy Harper, Maddy Prior, Cat Stevens, Mike Oldfield (with sister Sally) and Donovan, with Paul Simon represented by I Am A Rock, from his first solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook. Some idea of the eclectic range of styles to be found at the club can be gleaned from the inclusion of tracks from more experimental artists like the Third Ear Band and Ron Geesin, blues master Alexis Korner, and more traditional folkies such as The Watersons, Swarbrick and Carthy and Anne Briggs.

Les Cousins closed in 1972, unable to compete with the more lucrative and burgeoning college circuit, but it captured a unique moment in musical history, as does this brilliant set.

Change_is_now_Christian_Parker.Christian Parker Change is Now: A Tribute to the Byrds

(Edgewater Music)

Following on from his justly-acclaimed Sweethearts, a re-imagining of The Byrds’ influential country-rock opus, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, comes another tribute from singer-songwriter Christian Parker to one of the most influential bands of the Sixties, this time exploring some of the lesser-known byways of the group’s small but perfectly formed back catalogue. Mostly staying faithful to the originals, Parker and his excellent band still give an agreeably muscular quality to the title track and Get To You – unsung high points from the superb Notorious Byrd Brothers album, but they truly excel on the Gene Clarke songs She Don’t Care About Time, The World Turns All Around Her, Here Without You and Feel A Whole Lot Better. It’s certainly well worth investigating, especially if you are Byrds fan – and who isn’t?

Current Issue

What's new

Walks by the sea

Fred Olsen's Cruise lines for 2025

Christmas books reviews

DVD reviews

Doctor Who

Our new website - Enjoy Britain online

New CD releases

Discover Knightsbridge, London

Birdwatching and more