Album reviews


THOUGH there will always be something oxymoronic about an officially sanctioned bootleg, fresh instalments of Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series have become as eagerly awaited as his albums of all-new material for the treasure trove of rare and unreleased recordings they contain.

Vol 8, covering material from 1989 to 2006, is available in a triple CD version, including a book of Dylan singles artwork, for those who wish to remortgage their house, and a four-LP set for those who want to recapture the experience of their first Dylan bootleg. But most will settle for the eminently affordable 2-CD, 27-track set, comprising alternate takes, covers, songs for film soundtracks and live material, including a glimpse of the recordings he made at New York's Supper Club in 1993 for an MTV Unplugged-style TV special which was never produced.

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Both CDs open with versions of the same song, Mississippi, from the Time Out of Mind sessions. In common with much of the material here, it didn't make the cut for that release, only to be recorded again for a later album. Dylan, of course, is famous for his radical reworkings of a host of material. Tell Tale Signs will provide hours of happy scrutiny for acolytes – dedicated spotters will hear lyrics that made it into other songs or tracks which eventually mutated into entirely new compositions.

In some respects, it is not the most helpfully ordered collection. The traditional Girl on the Greenbriar Shore, included here in a live recording from 1992, is believed to have inspired Dylan's idiosyncratic version of another traditional tune, Red River Shore, yet they are placed too far apart to make the connection.

But its confident diversity – leapfrogging from the raw blues of his first Robert Johnson cover, 32-20 Blues, to the lush roots pop soundscape of Series of Dreams, or from a live version of blues standard Cocaine Blues straight to an alternate take on the manicured Ain't Talkin' from Modern Times – is like rummaging around in a newly uncovered suitcase of welcome memories.




WHILE both of this US troubadour's albums to date have inspired little more than the desire to have a nap, this third effort is far more engaging, kicking off with an old-school mellow soul pastiche, You Are the Best Thing, which leaves his ponderous, minimal solo efforts behind in favour of a full band arrangement. The soft soul tone is set for the yearning Let It Be Me, but now Lamontagne is off and running, there is no confining him to one style. Gossip in the Grain encompasses New Orleans jazz (Hey Me, Hey Mama), urgent acoustic blues (Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)), breathy, lovelorn country (A Falling Through) and pastoral folk on Winter Birds and the title track. Most surprising of all, there is a flirtatious tribute to White Stripes' drummer Meg White ("Meg White, baby, you're the bomb – oh, Jack is great, don't get me wrong, but this is your song") on which he actually sounds like he is having fun. See what happens when you start to keep a little company, Ray?



ISLAND, 10.99

JUST when Glasgow seemed to be shaking off its narrow image as a breeding ground for chipper indie guitar janglers, along come a band to reinforce that reputation in grand melodic style. Attic Lights – unlikely drinking buddies with David Gest – are a sunny-sounding five-piece with an endless capacity for delivering soaring close harmonies, which they supplement with lavish string arrangements, Spectorish chords and the occasional warm country inflection.

Like Glasvegas, their lyrics struggle with youth and young manhood, but always in a chirpier musical setting. The second half of this debut tags along in Teenage Fanclub's well-worn footsteps (they are managed by Fanclub drummer Francis McDonald), though their current single Wendy packs more of the teen pop clout of the Bay City Rollers.

As a fun marketing wheeze, the band have industriously re-recorded the track for download with as many alternative girls' and boys' names as they could come up with – so how special can this Wendy chick be?





HERE'S an orchestral vision of the sea that's in marked contrast to Debussy's famous La Mer. This La Mer is by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, and the conditions are wildly turbulent in comparison to Debussy's impressionistic surge. The language is rooted in the exotic Romanticism of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (Glazunov's teacher), but tinged with a faint modernism that occasionally nods towards Debussy and the emerging Impressionists. But there's no avoiding the sense of the passionate that imbues every moment in this all-Glazunov album, sizeably present in the powerful lyricism of his Sixth Symphony and the delicious character sketches that colour its second movement variations, and even more thrusting in the fiery Introduction and Dance from Salome, which Glazunov wrote as incidental music to Oscar Wilde's play.

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The real intrigue of this disc lies in its timely appearance as a foretaste to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's winter season performance of La Mer later this month, under Jos Serebrier. These very artists are on this recording.




IN ANTICIPATION of the 350th anniversary of Purcell's birth next year, Richard Egarr's survey of the short-lived composer's keyboard music is a welcome addition to the catalogue. Firstly, these works are relatively neglected, rarely performed in recital, but deserving of greater exposure. Egarr's playing of the many suites and grounds strikes a subtle balance between the neatly tempered and overtly expressive. You sense the underpinning spirit of the dance, mildly constrained by the rigours of intellectualism. Ultimately, though, they are very listenable, despite the inevitable sameness of idiom and style.





THE great baritone saxophonist's Joe Temperley's seventh album for Alastair Robertson's label is a real treat for any lover of sophisticated mainstream swing. No prizes for working out that the repertoire focuses on instrumental versions of songs associated with Frank Sinatra, sensitively and imaginatively interpreted by various combinations, including a sumptuous eight-piece band (with arrangements by saxophonist Andy Farber and guitarist James Chirillo), a quartet, a trio with pianist Dan Nimmer and bassist John Webber, a brief duo with Chirillo on Goodbye, and a feature for the rhythm section. Temperley is in imperious form on both baritone and soprano. The songs are treated respectfully, with only Chirillo's Moontune (based on Fly Me To the Moon) venturing away from the obvious melody, although I'll Never Smile Again is taken as a mid-tempo swinger rather than ballad. Great tunes, impeccable playing, guaranteed satisfaction.





THIS combination of two sisters and their respective partners adds up to four great musicians. Despite the family and marital connections and years of performing as duos, guitarist Arty McGlynn, fiddler Nollaig Casey, guitarist Chris Newman (the Englishman in this otherwise Irish line-up) and harpist Mire N Chathasaigh have never recorded as a quartet before, but the results are predictably excellent. Crisp, beautifully articulated jigs, reels and marches, lovingly phrased slow airs and tunes from both North and South America all receive sparkling performances, with each of the players given plenty of room to shine as lead instrumentalists. Nollaig Casey throws in a couple of songs for good measure, one in English and one in Irish, but this is very much about instrumental expertise and musicality, executed at a high level but engagingly easy on the ear.

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