I've bought a few albums lately - so here is a quick catch up review on all of them.
John Mayer - Paradise Valley
Ok this has been out a while but I listened to on Spotify and I have to be honest I wasn't initially smitten with it. However I did pop back to it a few times and it grew on me, so when I saw that it had dropped to about £6 for the CD on Amazon and with their terrific AutoRip service (see below) I bought it and I have to say, it's been on big rotation on my car CD player. So what is this? John at his country rock best frankly. Well crafted songs with great singing and some stonking strat guitar work. If you liked 461 Ocean Boulevard era Eric Clapton try this - like I say though give it a few listens. Who You Love and Paper Doll are my top picks off this.
Oysterband - Diamonds on the Water
Any of you old enough to remember "Day trip to Bangor"? Yes that old oddity hit from 1979. If you do then here's a tricky one to swallow... there is a direct heritage from Oysterband to Fiddler's Dram. A long time ago they were one and the same band (although the original name was The Oyster Ceilidh Band before becoming Oyster Band and now Oysterband. They performed both as Fiddler's Dram and The Oyster Ceilidh Band around 78-80). There are still two original members from the Dram/Ceilidh days in the set up. I have to say this latest offering from (possibly) the best musical export from Kent since Peter Frampton, Bowie and The Rolling Stones is just great. British folk rock at it's very best. John Jones' vocals are the show stealer here repeatedly with great tunes, lyrics and everything else. I do love this album and Mrs F has become a decided fan too. The title track and absolutely sublime Lay Your Dreams Down Gently should persuade you to listen to the whole thing. Go listen to Lay Your Dreams Down Gently now and tell me you don't consider that a master class in a quality song. (see vid at the bottom of these reviews...)
Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything.
Elbow are one of those bands that became an overnight success after years of hard graft. The Seldom Seen Kid will remain my favourite album of theirs for a long time I think. The followup to that "Build a Rocket Boys" was a noble attempt with their now characteristic gentle melodies, incredibly clever and well written lyrics, great arrangements and overall uniquely identifiable sound. This album continues in the same veign but to me isn't quiet as close to it's predecessor was to it's predecessor. (Does that make sense?) Which is all odd given this is the first album they've had top the charts but for me Seldom Seen Kid blows this away and then some. Good album all the same - well written songs, again great lyrics. One simple snippet "I’ve broken jaws protecting laws to keep you free" - now that is a great great lyric. New York Morning and Charge are my favourites off this.
Magnum - Escape From The Shadow Garden
A solid slab of melodic rock from the perennial old chargers that are Magnum. These lads may never have had the stadium filling days of some of their compatriots but frankly they have always turned out good stuff - the last couple of albums were workmanlike with good stuff on them but this is just classic Magnum from the Rodney Matthews cover to the crunching guitar riffs, great drumming, swirling keyboards and Bob's voice still belting out with gusto over the top. Some of the lyrics may not get anywhere near the table for the likes of Elbow ("You're going to live to you die" - can't argue with it but not that deep really...) but what the hell it is still a great record closer to their biggest hits like On a Storyteller's Night than of late and all the better for it. One of their best releases for a long long time. These boys have been banging it out since 1972! I first saw them in 1978! Hat's off to them as they are back out on the road again as I type this - go listen they are still worth it.
Sam Carter - Keepsakes
Not a new release at all but I recently purchased this so I'll include it. Sam is a great troubadour - his vocal style is very English as are many of his lyrics and he weaves modern day life references into his very typically folk influenced playing well giving it a contemporary narrative.
This probably isn't new to anyone but Amazon now has this great service. Buy a CD and most of them have an AutoRip facility whereby you can then immediately download the MP3 version of the album you've just bought. This allows you to get it on your MP3 device asap, saves the faffing about having to rip the album when it arrives and if you do lose the CD and have you MP3 device stolen/lost at the same time... you can simply download it again! Also with the Amazon music player you have it available to you in "the cloud" (queue swirly sound effect) and can play it using Amazon's music player whenever you are connected. Clever... I like it. Almost to the point where I nearly didn't buy something in a local shop... but then I did on the basis that I do still want the shop to be there. But it is a clever (free) additional service that I think very useful.