DCSIMG

Album reviews

CD OF THE WEEK

NEIL YOUNG

PRAIRIE WIND

Reprise 9362495032, 12.99

This simple, elegant record is more like a tail wind wafting elements of Young's illustrious career into the here and now, finding only the twisted metal of Eldorado and Rust Never Sleeps a little too heavy to carry.

Not to say that this is exclusively a return to the acoustic beauty of Harvest or Harvest Moon, retaining the electric edge that made After The Goldrush such an exciting record. 'No Wonder' looks back pensively over the century so far with a hint of the riff and political bristle that made 'Ohio' such a song of the Sixties.

There is more fragility to that famous falsetto than ever, which expresses strength rather than weakness on the gorgeous 'Falling Off The Face Of The Earth', and makes the album's most wistful moment, 'It's A Dream', even more so. Affectionate tribute is paid to Presley in the ramshackle honky tonk of 'He Was The King', complete with lurching harmonica and brass section.

Those elements are even more effectively deployed on the country soul blues 'Far From Home' and the title song itself, with a hint of his stint with Booker T and the MGs hanging in that breeze.

ROCK & POP

SHERYL CROW

Wildflower

Polydor 9884801, 12.99

Sheryl arrived on the scene at the same time as Alanis Morissette a decade ago, her Tuesday Night Music Club like an elder, more sensible sister to Jagged Little Pill's precocious sulk. That promise was never really creatively fulfilled. The baggage of success was too much of a distraction, and decent tunes were too thinly spread over an inconsistent output. Wildflower is the follow-up Music Club deserved, even if it is 10 years after the event. She sings with greater conviction, all the better on material as strong as 'I Know Why' and 'Perfect Lie'.

SOULWAX

Nite Versions

Pias PIASB160CDR, 9.99

David and Stephen Dewaele of 2 Many DJs and Soulwax divide opinion. Are they the Jive Bunny of their generation or musical cut up genius? A lot of what they do depends on the source material - if you were there the first time Lipps Inc released 'Funkytown' and thought it a novelty irritant then 'NY Lipps' is unlikely to persuade revision of that original opinion. This is musical recycling gone crazy, featuring reconstructions of tracks from their previous album, Any Minute Now, trying to capture the art of the old 12" remix, which only the laziest DJs played from beginning to end.

CLASSICAL

JAMES GILCHRIST, ANNA TILBROOK

Gerald Finzi: Oh Fair to See

Linn CKD253, 13.99

The English composer Gerald Finzi took great care over the composition of his songs settings, and particularly disliked the habit of composers seeking to somehow add to the poetry: the composer's role was only to gild the lily. As a result, his settings are spare, exposing the partnership between singer and pianist, and relying on the value of the poetry for impact.

Settings of works by Edmund Blunden, Christina Rossetti and Ivor Gurney are included, but the mainstay of this CD are poems by Thomas Hardy, grouped together as 'Till Earth Outwears' and 'A Young Man's Exhortation': almost half of Finzi's 160 settings are of Hardy poems, with their mixture of small events and the transience of life. A welcome addition to the English song genre.

FREDERICK FENNELL, CLEVELAND SYMPHONIC WINDS

Stars and Stripes

Telarc CD 80099, 8.99

Recordings of martial music by symphony orchestras can sound overloaded with colour. There is a simplicity of pace that is needed if the music's true 'martial' nature - with regard to the military aspects of the word - is to be maintained. By contrast, fanfares were historically performed on trumpet, but the cinema has accustomed us to a more full-blooded sound: without it, fanfares can sound thin.

Emotionally simple they may be in effect, but marching music and fanfares can be complex compositionally, as evidenced by Pierre Leemans' 'Belgian Paratroopers' march. Works such as Percy Grainger's 'Lincolnshire Posy' may make this something of a mixed emotional bag, but it's a nonetheless well-performed CD.

FOLK

BLAZIN' FIDDLES

Magnificent Seven

Birnam BRCD004, 12.99

Already in the shops, this is a great album of Scottish and related fiddle music from its seven cheeriest practitioners. Texas cowboy airs, Hardanger tunes from Norway and Irish reels make their appearances, but the dozen tracks are defiantly centred round the Highlands and Islands, and if the ensemble arrangements with keyboard and guitar are always stirring, interesting and imaginative, as in the opening 'Skylark's Ascension', the 'individual' tracks allow a focus on the varied regional styles and interpretations - none more so than Iain MacFarlane's heart-stoppingly expressive 'Skye Air' from the historic Patrick MacDonald Collection.

JAZZ

MARIAN McPARTLAND & ELVIS COSTELLO

Piano Jazz

The Jazz Alliance, TJA-12049-2, 12.99

Take an ego trip with singer-songwriter-guitarist Elvis Costello as he discusses the music that's shaped his life and work with the veteran jazz pianist Marian McPartland. This musical encounter is from her long-running American radio programme in which she chats and plays with guests. She can hardly get a word in edgeways when Costello is enthusing about his own abilities, but their collaborations on such classic ballads as 'They Didn't Believe Me' and 'You Don't Know What Love Is' work very well. The question is: would you want to hear the conversation more than once?

 
 
 

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