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Latest music reviews August 2023

Simon Evans reviews the latest music releases this month. 

Elvis_aloha_from_hawaii_via_satellite CD album coverElvis Presley - Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite

(Sony Music)

This extravagant live performance, dating from 1973, was arguably Elvis’s last hurrah before the long decline that culminated in his death four years later. Not to be confused with the remarkable 1968 TV special, that did so much to rehabilitate the King’s reputation after years in the wilderness, this concert, broadcast to a global TV audience, found him inhabiting safer, some would say blander, territory.

Elvis certainly sounds more at home on the kind of middle-of-the-road fare he was peddling during his long Las Vegas residency – My Way, It’s Over, What Now My Love – than the rock and roll songs on which his reputation was made, and the inclusion of the Battle Hymn of the Republic merely demonstrated how far removed he had become from the anti-Vietnam counter-culture of the time.

As for the songs from the film Blue Hawaii, recorded after the audience had left the building, and available on the third disc of this three-disc set (the second disc comprises the show rehearsal), the least said the better really. Remember him this way? Not really. But there’s no doubting the drama of the performances, and occasional glimpse of the old fire, for which we should be grateful.


Chrome_Dreams_Neil_Young album coverNeil Young - Chrome Dreams


In common with that of Bob Dylan, Neil Young’s catalogue is full of what-ifs and might-have-beens, with classic tracks inexplicably shelved and whole albums left in the can, at least until Neil recently commenced raiding his personal archive. Of the unreleased albums, Homegrown, dating from 1974, and Toast, from 2001, have both since been disinterred, and now there’s this album, a lost masterpiece from 1977.

Not that the material will be unfamiliar to Neil Young fans, with most of the tracks having appeared in some form or other over the years, not least on American Stars and Bars, which replaced it in the release schedules back in 1977. Quite why Chrome Dreams was shelved is a mystery because, heard as originally intended, this collection of songs could have been one of his best; perhaps it was the unfinished quality (which is part of its charm) that did not fit into the edgy musical landscape of the time, but any collection that includes Like A Hurricane, Pocahontas, Look Out for My Love and Powderfinger has to have something going for it.

Long-time fans will complain that this album has long been available in bootleg form, and they have a point – there are only two previously unreleased recordings here – but it’s great to have the songs all in one place, especially as it is possibly the most important ‘lost’ Neil Young album.


Fleetwood_mac_Rumours CD album coverFleetwood Mac - Rumours Live ‘77


The transformation of Fleetwood Mac, one of the leading lights of the Sixties British blues boom, into a West Coast soft-rock band was one of the more remarkable reinventions of the Seventies and resulted in Rumours, one of the biggest selling albums of that decade. This previously unreleased live recording, from a show at the LA Forum in August 1977, captures the band as they toured the album, already on its way to selling a remarkable ten million copies. Not surprisingly, it is mainly comprised of tracks from Rumours and its august predecessor Fleetwood Mac, with only Peter Green’s Oh Well remaining from the old band’s repertoire. It’s a great recording of a band at the height of its powers, and a fitting tribute to Christine McVie, who was with the band almost from its inception and who died last year.


Jethro_Tull_Broadsword_and_the_Beast_40th_Anniversary_Monster_Edition CD album coverJethro Tull - Broadsword and the Beast 40th Anniversary Monster Edition


These days, it seems, even the darkest corners of an artist’s recorded canon will eventually be available as a multi-disc box set. That can be the only explanation for one of the less loved albums in Jethro Tull’s long career being given the full deluxe treatment – five discs, lavish book, memorabilia reproductions, the works.

Broadsword and the Beast, originally released in 1982, came at a strange time in Jethro Tull’s history, with much of the band having been dispensed with for the previous album A as Tull embraced a more synthesiser-led sound. A puzzled as many fans as it dismayed; at least with Broadsword remnants of the band’s late Seventies folksiness started to re-emerge on tracks like Clasp and Fallen On Hard Times, and the track Broadsword was pure class although the over-compressed production (thankfully rectified by a Steve Wilson remix) dated the whole album rather badly.

This new set includes a number of out-takes and an excellent live recording from 1982. Much of this will be familiar to fans, including such stand-out tracks as Jack-A-Lynn, Jack Frost and the Hooded Crown and Mayhem Maybe, all recorded during the Broadsword sessions, which have already appeared on sundry anniversary box sets and rarities packages. Quite why they were left off the original album is a mystery only Tull head honcho Ian Anderson can answer.


1966_The_Chris_Watson_Band CD album coverThe Chris Watson Band - 1966

(Digital download)

It’s a brave musician indeed who seeks to produce an album of Jimi Hendrix covers, but Peterborough-based virtuoso guitarist Chris Watson is better qualified than most to take it on. His style has always been a mix of jazz, blues and rock influences, with strong overtones of John McClaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and, like McClaughlin, Chris will often shun the obvious blues-based path through a solo in favour of an unexpected, but often more interesting route. That is something Hendrix was also able to achieve, especially in his more experimental work such as Third Stone, one of the tracks covered here to great effect.

Chris’s guitar work is especially impressive on this album, named for the period when Hendrix came over to England and first made his name. Chris is not merely content with reproducing classics like Wind Cries Mary, Hey Joe, Purple Haze and Little Wing, but possesses the chops to stamp his own distinctive musical personality on all of them. A word too for the excellent Peter Ravenhill on bass and Andy Clifton on drums who provide solid support for Chris’s excursions.

Anyone who has followed his work over the years – Chris, his band and wife Laurette are regulars on the Peterborough gig scene – will know that one long-standing pet project has been Earthman, a powerful multi-movement piece written following the death of a close friend. It has gone through many manifestations over the years and makes a welcome appearance on what, for me, is the highpoint of the album, forming part of a medley with the Hendrix standard Voodoo Child. Hopefully it will, at last, find a wider audience.

The album is available to download from Amazon and iTunes and to stream on Spotify and Deezer.  

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