RELEASE OF THE WEEK
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
How strange that Billy Corgan chose to call this first Pumpkins album in seven years Zeitgeist, the posh German way of describing the 'spirit of the age'.
After all, never has the music industry been so rife with great bands trying to cobble together a passable present from a glorious past, from the Happy Mondays to Take That. They all meet with varying degrees of success, as do the songs on this record. Corgan publicly declared he wanted his band back via full page adverts in the Chicago newspapers, and all he got was drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who had been with him in the less than spectacular post-Pumpkins project, Zwan.
Co-produced with veteran Roy Thomas Baker and Terry Date, Zeitgeist is a troubled searching for the band's true spirit with neither guitarist James Iha nor original bassists D'arcy Wretzky or Melissa Auf Der Maur wanting any part of it.
So should the band's diehard fans? 'Tarantula' suggested the exercise was worthwhile as the advance single, and 'Doomsday Clock' thunders along just like the real thing. But like the album artwork, a Statue of Liberty slipping below the waves of global politics, most of the songs are too clumsy to have the impact Corgan craves.
It is an improvement on his own solo efforts, and perhaps is best viewed as such rather than an ill-fated attempt to recapture the glory days of the Smashing Pumpkins. Like the rest of the band, those are long gone.
Download these: Tarantula, That's The Way (My Love Is)
POP & ROCK
Our Love To Admire
The New Yorkers sounded like they had broom handles jammed up the back of their retro suits on their first two albums, but their third thankfully sounds less uptight. A languid introduction courtesy of 'Pioneer To The Falls' heralds a new approach, happy to stretch over five minutes where necessary. Keyboards add to the group dynamic, which sounds perversely more focused having come close to breaking up on a number of occasions. 'No I In Threesome' is a lapse, but, thanks to the likes of 'Mammoth' or 'Wrecking Ball', proves the exception to the rocking rule.
Download these: Pioneer To The Falls, Rest My Chemistry
OI VA VOI
Oi Va Voi
The experimental Jewish outfit have struggled to replace KT Tunstall since their guest singer departed to pursue a solo career and the ill health suffered by some who remained hampered progress. Alice McLaughlin has assuaged some of those difficulties, and her ethereal vocal talents are among this album's strengths. Not that Steve Levi is any slouch, as he demonstrates on 'Worry Lines'. Middle Eastern grooves with Western pop sensibilities, Oi Va Voi make world music that sounds truly wordly.
Download these: Dissident, Black Sheep
We Live And Die In These Towns
Warner 2564698852, 12.99
With the energy of Britain's now elderly New Wave in their raging youth, the Coventry trio go about their business with gleefully derivative gusto, proudly wearing influences on their lapel like so many punk rock badges. Sometimes the devotion is too slavish, but 'You're Not Alone' and 'This Song' make the more encouraging noises of a band seeking to establish its identity. The latter in particular fashions an impassioned tale from inauspicious lyrical beginnings, but social awareness does not adequately compensate for being so musically one dimensional.
Download these: Had Enough, This Song
Let's Get Lost
Loretta Reid is a Glasgow-based singer with a lovely, warm voice, and this CD, her first recording, is a charming and unpretentious introduction to her pure, gently swinging vocals. Accompanied by a quartet which includes Kennedy Aitchison on piano and Steven Hawkes on flugelhorn, Reid brings some rarely dusted-off warhorses back to life, and reveals a classy way with a ballad. Shame that the title (misleadingly) suggests yet another Chet Baker tribute.
Download these: When A Woman Loves A Man, Miss Otis Regrets
PEE WEE RUSSELL
Pee Wee Russell In England
Jazzology JCD-355, 13.99
Clarinettist Pee Wee Russell had one of the most distinctive sounds in jazz: a squawky, raw, plaintive tone which was a huge influence on a generation of musicians. During a 1964 visit to Britain, he gave this hard-swinging performance at the Manchester Sports Guild, with the Johnny Armatage band which included Scots clarinetists Archie Semple and Sandy Brown. The tracks reveal a player in his prime, revelling in the adoration of his younger colleagues.
Download these: There'll Be Some Changes Made, Pee Wee's Blues
The Essential Dougie MacLean
Dunkeld duncd031, 17.99
In this double CD from the Scots singer-songwriter, the two-score tracks move from old songs such as 'Ca' The Yowes' and 'Gloomy Winter' to MacLean's own, anthemic 'Caledonia' and 'Waiting For The Storm'. His rarely heard fiddle kicks in on the instrumental tracks 'Edmonton Airbus' and 'The Gael', with recordings from the 1980s. A potent mix of accessible melody and peaceful homily.
Download these: Caledonia, The Gael
Don't Sing Love Songs
Foot Stompin cdfsr1735, 12.99
From the crunchy opening string chords and cross-rhythmic tension, you know an unusual musical intelligence is at work. The title comes from the Stateside favourite 'Silver Dagger', and while the Scots 'Cruel Brither' makes an appearance, most of the songs are in Gaelic. Striking arrangements might on occasion overshadow a song, but this is one of the most absorbing albums to be released in Scotland for a long time.
Download these: MacIain 'ic Sheumais, Silver Dagger
DAVID RUSSELL, ERICH KUNZEL, NAPLES PHILHARMONIC
Joaquin Rodrigo: Concerto de Aranjuez, Concierto para una Fiesta
Telarc CD 80459, 9.99
Joaquin Rodrigo lost his sight in 1904 at the age of three, so all his music was written on a Braille music typewriter. His first orchestral composition was premiered in 1924, and his best-known work, 'Concerto de Aranjuez', almost two decades later.
This re-issued recording comprises three pieces composed over 40 years, and it is the two later works that show how Rodrigo's music developed.
The 'Fantasia para un Gentilhombre', from 1954, draws on music from the 17th century, and retains the courtly dance forms of the time. The 'Concierto para una Fiesta', from 1982, focuses more on the soloist, giving David Russell's undoubted talent a chance to shine.
Download this: Danza De Las Hachas (Hatchet Dance)
BARBARA BONNEY, STING, ROBERT WYATT, ELVIS COSTELLO, BRODSKY QUARTET
Steve Nieve, Muriel Teddori: Welcome To The Voice
Deutsche Grammophon 477 6524, 12.99
A joint venture between a British pop composer/performer and a French psychologist turned theatre director and playwright might be expected to produce something unexpected, and Welcome To The Voice, a music-theatre piece telling the story of a Greek immigrant turned opera devotee, is certainly that.
With a strong cast - opera singer Barbara Bonney, singer-actors Sting, Elvis Costello and Robert Wyatt, and the classical Brodsky Quartet - the vocal result is certainly varied, with Bonney, naturally enough, standing out. Nevertheless, the men hold their own in a range of characterisations.
The music is clear and accessible, very European in feel and successfully blends varied singing styles. Well worth hearing.
Download this: To Be Is Strong