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Album reviews with Tony Burke, Simon Duff and Mik Sabiers

Latest releases from Joe Louis Walker, Gabor Lazar, Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker, Youth meets Jah Wobble, Braids, British blues artists, artists, Jon Balke and The 1975

Joe Louis Walker
Blues Comin’ On
(Cleopatra Records)
★★★★

JOE LOUIS'S 1986 Hightone debut Dark Is the Night led to a run of 26 albums across a dozen labels.

He is a prolific songwriter and a brilliant blues slide guitar player and here he is joined by rock and blues talent including blues man Keb’ Mo,’guitar legends Eric Gales and Albert Lee, Detroit’s Mitch Ryder,  harmonica virtuoso Lee Oskar, Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and John Sebastian.

The title track is blues-rock with Eric Gales, as is The Thang, while Feed The Poor is a tough contemporary blues.

There's shuffle blues on Old Time Used to Be, soulful duets sung with Carla Cooke, 1970s blue-eyed soul with Mitch Ryder, funk on Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man and covers of Charlie Rich’s Lonely Weekends and Love’s 7 + 7 Is.

Walker's legion of fans will want to check this out.

Tony Burke

Gabor Lazar
Source
(Planet Mu)
 ★★★★★

HUNGARIAN-BASED Gabor Lazar’s musical journeys extends from sound art into futuristic electronic spaces and it’s an incredible sonic adventure, taking in influences from dubstep to new EDM forces.

Gabor signed to Planet Mu early this year and Source moves forward with the dance music direction he started to formulate with his previous album Unfold.

This collection, which develops slowly over eight tracks, works its way through his own take on these influences, moving across themes and loops as if each track is a different stage in a process.

Nods to hoover bass and 2-step in Phase or trance techno in Excite lead the way, along with the dive-bombing bass of dubstep in Effort and the frantic techno influence of Route.

Gabor creates with a sound artist’s precision, attacking with drama and a thrillingly off-centre originality.

Simon Duff

Bob Dylan
Rough and Rowdy Ways
(Columbia)
★★★★★

ANNE FRANK, skeletons, Indiana Jones, Beethoven, Chopin and the Rolling Stones all get a name check in I Contain Multitudes, the opening track from Bob Dylan’s 39th album.

It's a bluesy, jazzy and classy affair with death and a sense of mortality driving the album. Whether talking about creating life — in a warped sense — on the jazz-tinged My Own Version of You, to religion on the old school rock’n’roll of Goodbye Jimmy Reed, this is Dylan looking back on a life well lived.

The music is pared back and almost secondary, it’s all in the lyrics, and Dylan’s words and imagery are tragic but delightful.

It ends with the 16-minute opus Murder Most Foul about the assassination of JFK, chronicling what the US has lost and  portraying a country in decline.

It’s beautiful, challenging, contradictory and clear. Listen, learn, and enjoy.

Mik Sabiers

John Lee Hooker
Documenting The Sensation: Recordings 1948–1952
Ace Records
★★★★★

THIS is a 3-CD set  of John Lee Hooker’s recordings for Detroit record man Bernie Besman and his Sensation label. Commencing in 1948, the first session produced such Hooker classics as Boogie Chillen and Crawling King Snake.

Lee Hooker waxed 11 sessions for Besman, who released some of the sides and sold many others to Modern Records in Los Angeles, including unissued recordings and alternate takes, including five of  Boogie Chillen No. 2 and four of I’m In The Mood.

Over the years these recordings have been reissued on a myriad of albums but here we have the motherlode — 71 remastered tracks, 19 of them unissued, taken from the best sources including original acetate discs and vinyl.

This is already contender for blues reissue of 2020, if not the decade.

TB

Youth meets Jah Wobble  
Acid Punk Dub Apocalypse
(Cadiz Music)    
★★★

AN ALBUM title that suggests dramatic reinterpretations of traditional genres from two of dub's most exciting forces, fails to live up to expectations.

Bass players Youth and Jah Wobble are both names with a formidable reputation from previous work — PiL in Wobble’s case and Youth from ongoing work with Killing Joke — and mid-tempo dub reggae-pop eclecticism form the backbone of production.

Highlights include Breaking Shells, which opens with a cool and understated vocal from Hollie Cook, daughter of Pistols drummer Paul Cook, and elsewhere there are contributions from Rhiannon on the dance-hall inspired Inspector Out of Space and author Vivien Goldman on Rhino.

Burnt Umber features Alex Patterson from The Orb on samples, while instrumental track Full Metal Dub features the two bass players free reigning over a sparse grove.

Expect more next time out.   

SD

Braids
Shadow Offering
(Secret City Records)
★★★

HUMAN, honest and heartfelt, Shadow Offering is Montreal-based indie art-rock band Braids’s latest offering, which primarily revolves around twisted tales of love and loss underpinned by hope.

It’s odd pop with attitude, combining anger, pain and yearning. Fear of Man channels Kate Bush and Chvrches as singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston shows her vulnerable side, while Young Buck is a beautiful uplifting take on a pointless relationship.

There are touches of Purity Ring, some Grimes and a very strong hint of The Horrors circa Primary Colours, particularly in the album’s stand-out track Snow Angel — a sonic assault mixing classic shoegaze, keys, odd beats and Standell-Preston’s heartfelt take on the world.

It’s a call to millennials to think about what is happening to society, a challenge to deliver change and a demand to think of others and not just yourself. Follow that call.

MS

Various artists
Crawling Up a Hill: A Journey Through The British Blues Boom, 1966-1971
Grapefruit
★★★★

IN 1966 John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album kickstarted the late 1960s blues boom.

Clapton, Peter Green, Led Zeppelin, Savoy Brown and Rory Gallagher had their roots in post-war Chicago and Detroit blues, while acoustic artists Jo Ann Kelly and Mike Cooper reached further back to the Mississippi of the 1920s and 1930s.

Every label signed a blues band but Blue Horizon with Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack were the market leaders.

This 3-CD box covers the years which formed the backbone of British rock music, a time when blues bands earned their crust touring in second-hand vans, playing pub rooms, clubs and colleges. Some got signed, others only got to cut a demo.

At the time, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band asked Can Blue Men Sing The Whites? Listening to this, they gave it their best shot.

TB

Jon Balke
Discourses
(ECM)    
★★★★

A JUXTAPOSITION of acoustic piano and processed soundscapes sets the scene for Norwegian pianist Jon Balke's new work, in which solo pieces blur distinctions between composition, improvisation and sound design.  

Integrated in the resonance of his piano music are layers of processed material which he describes as “distorted reflections and reverberations from the world.” His framework to get started on the project also included notions of a politically hardening European narrative that is reflected to strong effect.

Highlights include the opening tempo-shifting the self and the opposition and the slow jazz-infused motifs on the polarisation.

At times the compositions tend to be overworked, with the processed designed layers not quite pulling an emotional or conceptual punch but that was perhaps the intention.

That said the mutuality is a clever, flowing work and end track the third afterthought is a gifted jazz shuffle.   

SD

The 1975
Notes on a Conditional Form
(Dirty Hit)
★★★

THE 1975’s last release, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, drew wide critical acclaim for its mix of pop, alt-rock, confessional lyrics and take on the internet’s prevalence on our daily lives.

This latest album has a lot to live up to but sadly lacks the novelty, innovation and swagger of its predecessor.

It starts well with a guest vocal from Greta Thunberg calling for civil disobedience to tackle the climate emergency, with proceeds from the song’s sale going to Extinction Rebellion.
It then segues into People, a dirty and hard-rocking wake-up call for change, but which overall seems disjointed and less energetic than it should be.

There are mixed-up dance beats on What Should I Say and 1980s pop-rock on If You’re Too Shy, but it never really gets going.

Melodic, accomplished and vulnerable, Notes on a Conditional Form deals with big messages. But it feels more like background music when it really should be shouting out loud up front.

MS

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