We take a look at the new releases in music, including Jools Holland and Neil Young.
Catskills Records: 20 Years of Victory –Various Artists: Just in time for the party season comes this two-disc (and three LP green vinyl) retrospective of the eclectic Brighton record label. From the heavy beats of Feature Cast to the funky Black Grass, and the soul-inflected Husky Rescue and even the indie onslaught of The Ripps, Catskills artists specialise in tunes that aim directly for the hips. Only the most intently Scroogish of listeners could fail to get their feet-tapping at some point during these 25 tracks (and for those already on board there are a couple of bonus tracks from Husky Rescue and breakout hit-makers Pepe Deluxe). Everyone else is almost guaranteed to want to hunt down every available release by this entertainingly offbeat label. By James Robinson
Jools Holland –Piano: It’s Jools Holland’s five decade-long love affair with the piano that is the focus of his latest record, the straightforwardly named Piano. An instrumental album, it’s tone shifts from jaunty and robust, to classical, funky, jazz-drenched and even includes a delicate, tinkling reinterpretation of prog rock (Eruption). Most intriguingly it starts with May, a duet between Jools and a load of real-life chirping birds, co-written with Sting. Sweet and richly layered, it’s actually quite magical when the birds begin their tweeting. Dorothy romantically swirls with old-school glamour, while Christabel succumbs to sinister plonking. This promises solid background music, but Piano is unlikely to hold your full attention. By Ella Walker
Neil Young –Peace Trail: Now 71, Neil Young has been releasing albums at the rate of knots in recent years, but, sadly the quality has been mixed. Largely disappointing, this is similarly underwhelming. For a man revered for seminal albums such as Tonight’s The Night, After The Gold Rush and Harvest, this is a right mess. Things start promisingly with the title track, but degenerate rapidly with the turgid My Pledge and the ludicrously titled Terrorist Suicide Hang Gliders, which is as awful as its title suggests. The music and lyrics sound cobbled together on a whim, which makes it all the more disappointing from the man who wrote classics such as Like A Hurricane and Cinnamon Girl in his heyday. Let’s hope his next album heralds a much-needed return to form. By Kim Mayo
Thom Hell –Happy Rabbit: Prolific Norwegian singer-songwriter Thom Hell returns with his eighth studio album in 12 years and seems to take us on a time travel adventure. Happy Rabbit is a lush string-laden affair without feeling over-produced, and has a distinctly retro feel in places. Several tracks see him channel those other prolific producers of music and lyrics, Messrs Lennon and McCartney, especially duringtheir mid-to-late Beatles career, without necessarily reaching their heights. When I Was A Child could certainly be called “Beatles-esque” while other tracks’ arrangements seem to be influenced by the late Sixties and early Seventies. At times this works, at others it doesn’t. By David Wilcock
Tishchenko – Violin & Piano Concerto/Eighth Symphony/Three Songs: A student of Shostakovich, Boris Tishchenko, has a very personal musical voice, though he shares with his mentor a modern view of melody and a sense of humour. The concerto does not indulge its solo duo in virtuosity, and is often lodged in sadness and mirroring the Soviet Union’s dark past. He asks for his Eighth Symphony to be played after Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony, Tishchenko’s last completed score exiting the world in a mood of strife and turmoil. The violin and piano soloists, Nikolai Mazhara and Chingiz Osmanov, make light of the difficulties, with the St Petersburg State Symphony, under Yuri Serov, are in superb form. Completed by the deeply moving Three Songs, Naxos’s recorded sound is of admirable detail.By David Denton