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March 2023 Music


Catch up with the latest releases


Eva_Cassidy_I_Can_Only_Be_Me CD coverEva Cassidy - I Can Only Be Me (Blix Street)

The tragedy of Eva Cassidy is that the world only discovered the American singer’s unique interpretative gifts after her death in 1996, at the age of just 33. Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, we have a ‘new’ Eva Cassidy album, one that bathes her richly expressive vocals in the sumptuous orchestral wash of the London Symphony Orchestra. Using a similar method to that employed for the Beatles’ Get Back TV series, in which vocals can be isolated and then re-purposed, the arranger Christopher Willis, a former Cambridge PhD student renowned for his work on the soundtracks for The Death of Stalin and The Personal History of David Copperfield, has taken live performances recorded towards the end of Eva’s life and set them in imaginative new settings. The result has both the immediacy of a live recording and the polish of a studio setting, but ultimately it’s Eva’s voice that shines through, on imaginative reworkings of Time After Time, People Get Ready, and Fleetwood Mac’s Songbird. Refreshingly free of the over-fussy vocal gymnastics of Mariah Carey et al, Eva’s straight-forward, under-stated delivery is heart-breakingly sincere, and when she sings “I miss you” at the end of the jazz standard Autumn Leaves, you know she really means it – and so do we.

Barclay_James_Once_Again CD coverBarclay James Harvest - Once Again (Esoteric)

This album, originally released in 1971, is regarded as one of the Oldham progressive rock band’s greatest achievements and, by rights, should have catapulted them into rock’s first division. As it turned out, the Barclays earned a reasonable crust as an in-demand live attraction through the early to mid-Seventies but had to look to the continent for the kind of major chart success mystifyingly denied them at home. The band’s most naturally gifted songwriter, John Lees, who is just to embark on a farewell tour with his version of the band, was responsible for the album’s two stand-out tracks, Galadriel and Mockingbird, rural reveries much in tune with the early-Seventies back-to-nature ethos, as well as the winsome Vanessa Simmons, an ode to a lost lover, whose sense of melancholy was very much in keeping with the rest of the album – which may be one explanation for its lack of relative commercial success.

This new four-disc expanded version features a newly remastered version of the album, alternative mixes, rare tracks and a couple of previously unheard performances recorded for John Peel’s radio show in early 1971. 

Ruth_Angell_Hlywing CD cover Ruth Angell - Hlywing (Talking Elephant)

 This title of this beguiling debut album from classically-trained singer-  songwriter and instrumentalist Ruth Angell refers to an Old English name for a refuge and shelter, and that’s exactly what the collection provides, with its delicate textures and lyrics rooted deep in landscape and memory. Both are evident in the opening track, Castle On The Hill, a reference to the 19th-century folly that overlooks Matlock, the song vividly evoking Ruth’s memories of journeys home from the big city to her beloved native Derbyshire. In similar vein, The Boathouse recalls a family holiday, Little Bird is written about Ruth’s young son and the many emotions involved in becoming a parent, while Treasure is a reminder both of the things that enrich our lives, as well as how fragile existence can be.

All but one of the songs are self-composed, wrapped in arrangements that range from the sparse to the lush, and it’s a sign of the quality of Ruth’s compositions that the single cover version, Joni Mitchell’s Magdalene Laundries, certainly does not sound out of place. Yes, they are that good, especially the closing track, In The Vale of Contemplation, which, with its rich melodic sweep and haunting lyrics has all the hallmarks of a classic; I’m surprised Fairport Convention have not snapped it up already so perfectly suited would it be for them. All told a mightily impressive debut – I can’t wait to find out what will come next.

Rolling Stones Grrr! Live CD coverRolling Stones - GRRR Live! (Mercury)

In 2012 and 2013 the Rolling Stones embarked on a tour of Europe and North America, which included a show at Newark, New Jersey, captured on this live set. Essentially a greatest hits show, classics like Get Off My Cloud, The Last Time, Satisfaction, Brown Sugar and Miss You are given dynamic performances rarely equalled on previous live albums, while a clutch of all-star cameos breathe new energy into the likes of Tumbling Dice (Bruce Springsteen), Gimme Shelter (Lady Gaga) and Midnight Rambler, featuring the band’s one-time guitarist, Mick Taylor. The Stones long ago gave up any pretence at having any real contemporary relevance but this set demonstrates that they are a fully-honed nostalgia act without equal.

Simon Evans

All the featured albums are available on CD and to stream on Spotify and Amazon Music


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