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Music Album reviews with Kevin Bryan, Steve Johnson and Chris Searle

New releases from, Livingston Taylor, Hannah Rarity, Bill Evans Trio, 999, Yvonne Lyon, Gareth Davies-Jones and David Lyon, David Murray’s Brave New World Trio, Colosseum, The Black Feathers, Charles Lloyd Chapel Trio

Livingston Taylor
Last Alaska Moon
(Wienerworld)
★★★★

 

THERE was a period during the early ’70s when it seemed that every member of the large and unusually gifted Taylor family had ventured into the recording studio in order to regale listeners with their introspective musings on the human condition.

Some of the Taylors have fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons since then, but Livingston and his much better-known brother James are still plying their trade with taste and distinction, and Last Alaska Moon must rank as one of the former’s finest offerings to date.

This mellow Nashville recording dates from 2010 and finds Livingston working with an array of top-notch sidemen including Vince Gill, Leland Sklar and guitarist Larry Carlton as he tackles some impressive self-penned material alongside a radical reimagining of Michael Jackson’s The Girl Is Mine featuring a guest appearance from his cousin Ben Taylor.

KEVIN BRYAN

 

Hannah Rarity
To Have You Near
www.hannahrarity.com

 

 

THIS second album from Scottish singer-songwriter Hannah Rarity is grounded in traditional folk song but with some elements of jazz and blues.

Created in lockdown it has a combination of self-penned songs and cover versions touching on the challenging times we are facing.

Rarity’s own composition My Friend deals with losing touch with friends and longing for contact again during a hell of a year and another song Kaleidoscope co-written with Gordon MacLean is inspired by her work with care home residents living with dementia.

There is also a rousing version of the 19th-century US song Hard Times Come Again No More the lyrics of which seem just as relevant today.

The album ends with a homage to Rarity’s own country Scotland Yet, followed by the poignant Comes the Hour written by Julie Matthews about people living with HIV.

With exquisite instrumental backing and Rarity’s beautiful voice this really is an album which speaks to our times.

STEVE JOHNSON

 

Bill Evans Trio
Morning Glory
Resonance Records
★★★★★

 

IN JUNE 1983, the Bill Evans Trio, with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell, played a memorable concert at Buenos Aires’ Teatro Gran Rex, with all three musicians in serene fettle.

Hear Gomez’s pin-point solo on Emily or Morell’s spurting, supportive drums on Who Can I Turn To?

This was a trio of three nonpareils, their hearts and minds in absolute unison, with their entranced Argentinian audience in complete accord.

As for Evans, Morell said of him after the performance: “Bill just became a part of the piano.”

His sheer melodism, no matter how far out he is on the cusp of a tune, still prevails, always as a point of solace and return.

On The Two Lonely People, you wonder how he can express such solitariness within a trio of such unity, while My Foolish Heart has rarely radiated such subliminal joy in the midst of sorrow. Beautiful!

CHRIS SEARLE

 

999
A Punk Rock Anthology 1977- 2020
(Cherry Red)
★★★

 

THIS  is the first retrospective to embrace the complete span of 999’s four-and-a-half decade recording career, with contents which run the gamut from the band’s 1977 debut, I’m Alive, to their most recent long-playing creation, Bish Bash Bosh.

Frontman Nick Cash’s piercing vocals have always been something of an acquired taste but 999’s early output in particular ensured them of a fairly exalted position in the punk rock pantheon, with a string of infectious singles including Homicide, Emergency and Feelin’ Alright  With The Crew which have lost little of their initial potency with the passage of time.

Most of 999’s contemporaries from the late ’70s fell by the wayside long long ago but Cash and company still soldier on regardless despite the occasional temporary hiatus and this two-disc digi-pak anthology supplies an ideal introduction to their energised sound.

KB

 

Yvonne Lyon, Gareth Davies-Jones and David Lyon
Trace the Line
yvonnelyonmusic.com, garethdavies-jones.com, davidlyonmusic.com

 

 

THIS is an intriguing album from a trio of respected artists and multi-instrumentalists with impressive vocals throughout.

Accompanied mainly by acoustic guitar and piano but also violin, mandolin and accordion, the album is influenced by many musical styles.

Composed entirely of original songs there is a general theme of caring for others reflected in the opening track Unconditional.

The next song Trouble has a distinct bluegrass feel and In the Riot of Love gives hope of redemption from hurt and oppression.

Other songs like Signs and Comfort in the Tragedy also make a plea for healing and understanding.

However, the final track Revolution brings the album to a rousing foot-stomping finale with a call for the forgotten, poor and weak to feel, live and find revolution.

A combination of songs featuring both reflection and protest make this an inspiring album.

SJ

 

David Murray’s Brave New World Trio
Seriana Promethea
Intakt Records
★★★★★

 

A STRANGE yet revelatory sonic meeting this, in Zurich in November 2021, of three “jazz-during-Covid ambassadors,” as Oakland, California, saxophonist David Murray put it.

Murray, Louisiana-born drummer Hamid Drake and New York bassist Brad Jones confronted covid in a fiery, away-based, heart-of-Europe session.

They are superb throughout the album Seriana Promethea. Hear Jones’s bow-work on Metouka Sheli or Murray’s soulful bass clarinet on the title track.

As for the wonderful Drake, every strike, tap, stroke or caress radiates a defiant magnetism.

Murray’s horn guffaws melodiously at the outset of Rainbows for Julia, swings boisterously through Switchin’ in the Kitchen with Drake’s rampaging percussion and Jones’s rhythmic undercurrents.

Anita et Annita is portraiture which makes listeners desperately want to know its subjects.

A powerful, compelling album made in Europe but stretching across the entirety of the US with its strength, passion and artistry.

CS

 

Colosseum
Restoration
(Repertoire Records)
★★★★

 

 

THIS venerable jazz-rock institution have recently returned to recording activity with a newly assembled line-up featuring three original members of the band in the shape of Clem Clempson, Mark Clarke and vocalist Chris Farlowe.

The fruits of their collective labours can be heard to excellent effect on the first studio album from this new band, Restoration, with former Gentle Giant drummer Malcolm Mortimore acquitting himself well as a replacement for the late lamented Jon Hiseman and Nick Steed and Kim Nishikawara chipping in admirably on keyboards and sax respectively.

The latter stepping into the shoes of one of his great heroes, the formidable Dick Heckstall-Smith.

The musical content may be a little less dynamic and challenging  than the work that the original incarnation of this acclaimed jazz-rock outfit were regaling listeners with during their creative heyday some half a century ago but Restoration is well worth hearing nonetheless.

KB

 

The Black Feathers
Angel Dust and Cyanide
Self-Released-TBFCD004

THIS second album by British-born Americana duo Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler was recorded in a tiny chapel in Wales during lockdown following their return from New York after extensive touring and finding themselves in a different kind of world.

It is perhaps though a sign of how lockdown has also led to creative inspiration for artists as the songs form an impressive collection of work with instrumentals from a range of guest musicians.

The lead single on the album is a cover of Portishead’s Glory Box with some electric guitar playing alongside drums, bass and fiddle.

The opening song Lighthouse on Fire is an impressive start and is followed by the anti-war sentiment of Only the Brave.

The title track is one of several reflective songs about life and relationships and the album ends with the haunting song Nos Da.

Like the title there is a mixture of darkness and light but an enjoyable listening experience.

SJ

 

Charles Lloyd Chapel Trio
Chapel
Blue Note Records
★★★★★

 

A BEAUTIFULLY reflective album this, with the shamanic sound of veteran Charles Lloyd’s tenor saxophone and alto flute, the rolling strings of Bill Frisell’s guitar and Thomas Morgan’s succulent bass.

Recorded with lucid sound in the acoustic glory of Coates Chapel in the Southwest School of Art of San Antonio, Texas, the trio play with an assured inventiveness as if they had been playing three lifetimes together, even though this was their inaugural performance.

Be entranced by Lloyd’s dancing timbre in Dorotea’s Studio or his deeply moving notes through Billy Strayhorn’s Blood Count, as if age itself is a reconstitution of youthful energy and audacity.

Frisell and Morgan play together with such brotherliness it is as if it were a single, unified instrument they were plucking.

There is no bravado in this record, just sheer musicianship and emotive depth, making the walls of this holy place burst with release.

CS

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