Ahmed Gallab – aka Sinkane – has impressive credentials. Having worked as a session musician with the likes of Caribou, Eleanor Friedberger, Of Montreal and Yeasayer, he is also the leader of the Atomic Bomb Band, who perform the music of Nigerian electro-funk hero William Onyeabor and whose members include David Byrne, Damon Albarn, Money Mark and Dev Hynes of Blood Orange.
Sinkane’s own music is a blend of funk, blend and grooves from sub-Saharan Africa. It’s at its most intoxicating in the joyful U’Huh, with its snaking saxophone and wah-wah guitar line, the loping Deadweight and the slinky Theme From Life and Livin’ It, complete with parping trumpets and positive, “it’s a brand new morning” vibes. A tonic for otherwise troubled times.
Sinkane plays at Headrow House in Leeds on March 24. For tickets: https://dice.fm/event/sinkane-24th-mar-headrow-house-leeds-tickets
Alison Krauss is the most garlanded female artist in the history of the Grammy Awards. Listening to Windy City, it’s not hard to understand why she has won 27 Grammys and counts Robert Plant and Adele among her biggest admirers.
A selection of ten classic country songs chosen with producer Buddy Guy, who has worked with everyone from Dolly Parton to Glen Campbell, George Jones and Loretta Lynn, it’s a beautifully interpreted album, with Krauss’s vocals quietly affecting and clear as a bell. The arrangements of songs such as It’s Goodbye And So Long To You, I Never Cared For You and Gentle On My Mind are similarly a model of economy, with minimal sentimental twang and a great deal of charm. Krauss’s rendition of the Roger Miller tune River In The Rain is phenomenal in its simple honesty while her reading of You Don’t Know Me, a song popularised by Ray Charles, would surely tug at the hardest of hearts. Outstanding stuff.
This year’s Brit Awards may not quite have broken the mould of mainstream choices for major gongs but its shortlists did at least acknowledge the resurgence of UK grime and the emergence of interesting new voices such as NAO and Christine and the Queens. This triple album includes several of last year’s biggest hits such as Rockabye by Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie, Cold Water by Major Lazer featuring Justin Bieber and MØ, the dance mix of I Took a Pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner and Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur.
More adventurous are the inclusions of the sweary Shutdown by Skepta, 3 Wheel-Ups by the mighty trio of Kano, Wiley and Giggs and the powerful Shut Up by Stormzy, who is a surefire bet to be one of this year’s most notable British breakthrough artists.
If 7 Years by Lukas Graham and Robbie Williams’ Party Like a Russian don’t improve on repeated listens, at least there’s David Bowie’s poignant Lazarus and Biffy Clyro’s invigorating Re-Arrange as a counterweight. At 63 tracks long, there is something here for almost everyone.
Twenty-six-year-old Courtney Marie Andrews’ singing voice may at times bear a passing resemblance to Joni Mitchell; her song writing however is much closer to Nashville than Laurel Canyon.
How Quickly Your Heart Mends is steeped in honky tonk piano and pedal steel guitar, with a gloriously plaintive chorus; Table For One conjures up images of Edward Hopper-like lonesome diners and “dancing with strangers” in small town bars. Put The Fire Out is a wonderfully catchy slice of Americana with a slow burning organ to add to its appeal. Then there’s the strings and piano closing number Only In My Mind, which ends the album on a rueful note.
Having made in-roads in the US last year, the Phoenix singer songwriter deserves considerable attention here too.
Greek composer Vangelis Papathanassiou is best known for his scores for films such as Blade Runner, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Chariots of Fire, for which he won an Oscar.
Yet there is far greater breadth to his back catalogue, as the mammoth 13-CD box set Delectus attests.
Including all of his albums for Vertigo and Polydor, it spans a period of immense creativity from 1973’s Earth to three early 80s albums he made with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson.
Highlights include L’Apocalypse des Animaux, the soundtrack to a French nature documentary that contains some of his prettiest electronic melodies and was composed while Vangelis was still a member of the progressive rock band Aphrodite’s Child (whose line-up also included the singer Demis Roussos).
China, from 1979, indulges Vangelis’ fascination with ancient and modern Chinese culture. A fusion of classical instruments and synthesisers, it was one of his most successful records.
Mask, from 1985, is a dramatic choral work in six movements, full of complex arpeggios and rhythms inspired by African tribal drumming.
Opera Sauvage, from 1979, is a dulcet, classically based collection featuring Vangelis on multiple instruments and Jon Anderson on harp in its closing track.
The Friends of Mr Cairo, with Anderson, yielded the pop hits I’ll Find My Way Home and State of Independence, but Vangelis’ biggest smash of all came with the multi-million selling Chariots of Fire, whose memorable main theme topped the US charts and most recently cropped up at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
All in all, a weighty collection befitting one of the 20th century’s most visionary musicians.