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May's CD selection

Jethro Toll CD album coverJethro Tull - Rokflote - (InsideOut Music)

For this fascinating album Ian Anderson, who has been Jethro Tull’s creative driving force ever since the band’s formation in the late Sixties, draws on his Scandinavian heritage to craft 12 tracks based around Norse mythology and the old Gods. It’s an album that displays the folkier side of the band, and it’s the most enjoyable Tull album in years, with Anderson’s melodic flute lines much to the fore. New guitarist, James Parrish-James, has plenty of chances to shine on the more muscular tracks Hammer on Hammer (based on a certain Marvel super hero) and Wolf Unchained, there are some pleasing guitar/unison lines on the medieval-inflected Trickster (And the Mistletoe), and there’s even a touch of Focus about the lovely Cornucopia. Those who like to categorise such things will pigeonhole this as old school prog rock, with its mythological ‘concept’, occasionally tricksy time signatures and classical/jazz influences. If so, in this case at least, that is most definitely a recommendation.


Renaissance_live_fillmore_west_and_other_adventuresRenaissance - Live Filmore West and Other Adventures - (Repertoire Records)

The early years of Renaissance – best known for their Top Ten hit Northern Lights – are especially hard to entangle such were the myriad line-up changes. Suffice to say the band as constituted for this fascinating collection of rare and live recordings bore no resemblance to the band that would grace Top of the Pops during their high summer of 1978.

Renaissance was originally founded in 1969 by former Yardbirds members, vocalist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty, with the aim of pursuing a gentler, folkier path than their previous band, which was in the process of mutating into Led Zeppelin. Recruiting Relf’s sister Jane as an additional vocalist and pianist John Hawken, whose classical flourishes were an important part of the band’s original sound, they recorded a self-titled album, toured briefly, and started work on a second LP, Island, before morphing into a completely different line-up which, nevertheless, preserved the classical-pop-folk fusion that was so much a part of the group’s appeal.

This four-disc set features live recordings from the Fillmore West and Casino de Montreux in 1969 and 1970 as well as numerous radio broadcasts and – the real treat for admirers of the band – a selection of demo recordings from the same period, including an early version of the classic Renaissance track Carpet of the Sun, which would eventually appear on the 1973 album Ashes are Burning.


Lindisfarne_Radio_Times_Live_at_the_BBC1971-90 album front coverLindisfarne - Radio Times: Live at the BBC 1971-1990 (Repertoire Records)

The BBC may have wiped and burnt large sections of its televisual treasures in the Sixties and Seventies but its audio archive continues to give up musical gems decades after their original broadcast, many recorded off-air by diligent fans. This eight-disc release from the great Geordie folk-rockers features no less than 60 tracks that have been unheard since their original broadcast, including a complete 1973 In Concert broadcast from the Roll On Ruby line-up and another In Concert show from the 1978 reunion that produced the hit single Run For Home. Naturally the early Seventies albums, Nicely Out of Tune, Fog On The Tyne and Dingly Dell, that found Lindisfarne at one point out-selling The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, are more than adequately represented, and there are probably more versions of We Can Swing Together than you could ever need, but this is still a joy and, for the most part, captures the band at their boisterous best. Diehard fans will be especially pleased to see the years 1978 to 1990 so generously represented.

Also released this month:

Paul Simon returns from semi-retirement for Seven Psalms (Sony Music), his first album of new material in eight years. It is an all-acoustic song cycle lasting just 33 minutes that features Paul’s wife, Edie Brickell on harmonies. It will be followed by a film documenting the album’s creation…

Graham Nash returns with a new album, Now (BMG), his first studio album of new material in more than seven years, described by Graham as “the most personal album I’ve ever made”. It is accompanied by a brief UK tour running from August 23 to September 21…

Nash’s sometime colleague and sparring partner Neil Young has released an archive live album Somewhere Over The Radio (Warners) recorded at a 1973 concert that has entered the folklore of Young fans for its extraordinary free-form nature. Part of a series of ‘official bootlegs’ its archive value is, however, offset by the poor audio quality…

After a 20 year gap singer-songwriter husband and wife Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, otherwise known as Everything But The Girl, return with a new album Fuse (Buzzin’ Fly), that evokes memories of their great electronica-inflected albums Walking Wounded and Temperamental

Shakin’ Stevens’ new album Reset (BMG) will be a revelation for anyone who remembers Stevens for his rock and roll revivalist hit singles of the Eighties. It’s an excellent collection of catchy, bluesy and country flavoured self-penned songs that reflect on our turbulent times.


Simon Evans

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

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