Albums round up: Piano by Jools Holland; Action Time Vision by Various Artists; Marc Riley Sessions Volume 1 by The Wedding Present; Woman by Justice

Opening with May, a beautifully delicate piece inspired by Olivier Messiaen's love of birdsong, Piano is Jools Holland's homage to the instrument with which he made his name.
Piano by Jools HollandPiano by Jools Holland
Piano by Jools Holland

There are allusions here to his piano heroes – Jimmy Yancey, Erroll Garner, Mary Lou Williams and Dr John – and a rousing big band take on Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee, here interpolating JS Bach’s Prelude No1.

Most fascinating and unexpected is a lounger version of Eruption by the Dutch progressive rock band Focus, and a collaboration with ambient pioneer Brian Eno that adds subtle layers of soundscape to Floyd Cramer’s innovative ‘slip note’ classic Last Date.

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Longtime admirers of Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra will thoroughly enjoy the central four-song blues suite that starts with Midnight Hour Blues and concludes with Bluelamp, a tribute to the pianist Lloyd Glenn. And there are strains of ska in Romantic Ruin. Holland’s own composition Christabel revisits the Sixties spy film theme genre to winning effect.

All in all, a cracking album.

The 40th anniversary of punk has been commemorated in many forms – perhaps none more daft than Joe Corré burning £5m worth of memorabilia on a barge on the River Thames. It’s memorialised more fittingly in Action Time Vision: a Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-79, a four-CD box set lovingly curated by Cherry Red, with a foreword by Kris Needs, who edited Zigzag magazine as punk evolved.

What’s apparent from the 111 tracks here – some well-known, such as The Damned’s New Rose, Sham 69’s I Don’t Wanna, Stiff Little Fingers’ Suspect Device and Adam and the Ants’ Zerox, others considerably less so (Some Chicken’s New Religion or Woody and the Splinters’ I Must Be Mad, anyone?) – is that ferocious energy, primitive musicianship and adolescent anger can be a potent combination.

It’s also fascinating to hear future pop stars such as Kevin Rowland, Jim Kerr, Gary Numan, Billy Bragg and Shane MacGowan in their rawest form.

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The shock value much of this material had in the 1970s may have faded with the ensuing years but the creative vitality remains. A must-have for any self-respecting punk’s Christmas list.

No one has jangled their way through British music with quite the same vim over the last 30 years as David Gedge and his band The Wedding Present.

This compilation gathers together three sessions for the BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley, who, like John Peel before him, has been a longtime admirer of the Leeds-born songwriter.

Its song choice spans the decades – from Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft and Something and Nothing from the Weddoes’ 1987 indie classic George Best to You Jane and Mystery Date from their 2012 LP Valentina.

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With the inclusion of enduring fan favourite Brassneck and a cover version of the Cheers theme tune, Where Everybody Knows Your Name, this release – from the Leeds label Hatch Records – is a welcome addition to the gruff chronicler of the heart’s extensive catalogue.

Some of their trademark electronic crunches may be absent from Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Ange’s third album – at least until we get to its mid-point – but the French duo otherwise known as Justice are in good form on Woman.

The filter disco grooves are present and correct, as are soft rock vocals and flourishes of funk and prog.

Heavy Metal is notably over the top, with its trilling electric harpsichord, and the London Contemporary Choir are used to epic effect in the finale, Close Call.

Safe and Sound and Pleasure, however, are more streamlined, hook-laden and dancefloor friendly.

Daft Punk’s closest rivals continue to up the ante.

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