RECORD OF THE WEEK
Wise To The Fade
No Strings noscd3, 11.99
The Glasgow stalwart loses his orchestra here to make his first solo record proper, returning to the label that released his first efforts in the guise of the Suede Crocodiles back in the early Eighties. And what a traditional rock record it is. That's no bad thing, though, with the knowing references to The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes' on the jangly 'Safe From Harm', while the smooth mellow groove of 'Spider Spinning' sings from the same hymn sheet as Shuggy Otis's 'Strawberry Letter'.
McDermott's talent is to manage to sound both mature and reflective yet still pull off a zingy freshness, particularly on 'Watching Cartoons'. 'How Do I Know You're A Cowboy' has a sharp observation about the difficulties of fitting a halo over a Stetson, and a sweet fairground lilt waltzing towards the close.
Despite dropping the orchestra, McDermott is still surrounded by familiar faces such as brother Jim on drums, Stephen Grier playing bass and former Commotion, Blair Cowan, on keyboards.
Consequently Wise To The Fade boasts the same meaty beats as his breakthrough effort Mother Nature's Kitchen, though this time with a melancholy undertone.
Ultimately, it serves as a reminder of potential never quite fulfilled, with a career boasting many a good song but never a consistently good album. Still, this is as good as it has got for McDermott in recent years.
Download these: Spider Spinning, Safe From Arm
ROCK & POP
Angel Music cascd2005, 10.99
Four years ago Baxter's debut, Feather And Stone, attempted to deceive us with the single 'This Boy', because sadly nothing else on that album came close to that song's passionate quality. Baxter was then compared to Jeff Buckley, and the opener here, 'On A Night Like This', reminds us why. So much so, in fact, that it could be a tribute act. Four songs clock in at well over six minutes and 'Skybound', 'Icarus Wings' and the sprawling 'Half A Man' are heavy on self-importance and light on inspiration. Ten years after his death, Buckley will be spinning in his grave.
Download these: Better, You Light Me Up
Falling Off The Lavender Bridge
Domino wigcd186, 13.99
Like a book, never judge an album by its cover, because looking at the picture of Lightspeed Champion on the sleeve of this record might brace you for radical reggae or hip-hop.
In fact the first solo effort from 21-year-old Dev Hynes, erstwhile guitarist with Test Icicles, is a slab of sumptuous baroque pop with a side serving of attitude.
'Everyone Is Listening To Crunk' is a good old-fashioned musical sneer, dressed up in Hyne's sonorous tones. He even looks cool in a yellow body warmer, holding a chicken. An impressive start.
Download these: Midnight Surprise, All To Shit
EMI 27972, 10.99
Here then are the hits of the world's biggest selling contemporary Christian artist, who has bothered the charts as much as God to the tune of 30 million record sales worldwide – not an inconsiderable achievement. 'Baby Baby' was the song which gave her mainstream success and is probably the most recognisable tune here, and mainstream fans whose interest waned might find this the perfect way to familiarise themselves with the more country or religious side of her work. Others might find it all worthy and too sugary sweet.
Download these: Baby Baby, Lead Me On
THE BOY FRIEND, SALAD DAYS
Original London Cast Recordings
Naxos 8.120848, 5.99
The composers of hit 1950s British musicals Sandy Wilson and Julian Slade led almost parallel, if separate lives. For both, stage experience at university led to a full-time career and early success with The Boy Friend and Salad Days respectively. Both hit musicals ran for five years in London, and neither composer would be quite so successful again.
Recorded in 1954, this CD exemplifies both the charm and limitations of British post-war musicals: the slightness of plot, their essential middle-classness. Written for stripped-down performance, the resourcefulness of the young casts comes to the fore. Some succeed better than others, but charm carries the day in these lightweight period pieces.
Download this: The Boy Friend orchestral selections
Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp.31 and 53
ECM 476 6186, 24.99
The room for manoeuvre that Beethoven's piano writing allows his performers to exercise leads to an endless variety of interpretations. There is the overwhelmingly Romantic school, in which the performance is sonorous, well rounded and essentially flows through Beethoven's changes of mood and tempo.
This twin CD by Andrs Schiff, the fifth in a series of recordings, goes entirely in the opposite direction. Here the performance is angular, spiky and staccato, almost shockingly abrasive at times. It's the kind of performance that makes you reconsider previous recordings and return to the eternally asked question: exactly how did Beethoven want his music to be played?
Download this: Sonata No.16, Allegro Vivace
THE SIMON MAYER QUINTET
Acoustic Records cdacs034
This is a must for any mandolin player, and for anyone who appreciates exceptional musical skill and imagination. By Simon Mayor, Gerald Garcia, Richard Collins, Hilary James, and Maartin Allcock – collectively Britain's first modern mandolin quintet – this album includes dazzling technique, a sense of humour picked through the reels, Irish airs, hot swing and ragtime, and even Brazilian and Chinese themes.
Download these: Boston Ballyhoo, Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte
JERRY DOUGLAS, ALY BAIN AND VARIOUS ARTISTS
Transatlantic Sessions 3: Volume One
Whirlie Records whirliecd12, 11.99
This is the latest of the album-from-the-TV-series releases, and sets fiddler Aly Bain and dobro, slide and steel player Jerry Douglas in Perthshire, with a team of top acoustic musos from both sides of the pond. The US influence dominates, and among the ear-catching tracks Joan Osborne's lovely vocals make 'Saint Teresa' a stand-out and Paul Brady reprises his 'Lakes Of Pontchartrain'. There are songs from Julie Fowlis, Iris Dement, Karen Matheson, Darrell Scott and Eddi Reader.
Download these: Saint Teresa, Shove The Pig's Foot A Little Bit Further Into The Fire
HOWARD ALDEN & KEN PEPLOWSKI
Arbors Records arcd 19340, 14.99
It's been a long time since these two virtuosi – guitarist Howard Alden and tenor saxophonist/ clarinettist Ken Peplowski – recorded together, and to hear them join forces on a generous helping of duets is a rare treat. This is a very special, fluid listening experience. The track listing is as diverse as anyone who has heard them live would expect.
Download these: Very Early, Panama
RUBY BRAFF & THE FLYING PIZZARELLIS
Arbors Records arcd 19270, 14.99
Anyone who heard the eloquent, elegant American cornettist Ruby Braff play his last ever concert, at the Nairn Jazz Festival in 2002, will know that he was at his most inspired, lyrical and relaxed in the company of friends – and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who features here along with his sons – was one of his best pals. This sublime, laid-back CD was recorded just two months before Nairn and has the same feel of an easygoing conversation amongst kindred spirits.
Download these: Was I To Blame For Falling In Love With You?, C'est Magnifique