A Million Lights
Having dropped to forename status, the artist formerly known as Mrs Cole will have to prove she is indeed worth it. Calvin Harris knows how to produce her with the single Call My Name, creating space for her cute knees-up dance routine after what passes for a chorus, backed by castrated syndrums. And the ubiquitous will.i.am grins his way through the duet Craziest Things. The best tracks are those spared the varispeed – the title song in particular and the polite kiss-off tune Screw You. When she does raunch it up on Sexy Den A Mutha, it feels like a young auntie behaving inappropriately at a family do.
Download this: A Million Lights, Girl In The Mirror
Neneh Cherry And The Thing
The Cherry Thing
Smalltown Supersound, £11.99
Free-form experimental jazz and then some, the first album from the Buffalo Stance lady in more than 16 years is designed to blow the casual listener away. Literally. Without compromise, this is the most radical music she has been involved with since Rip Rig + Panic. When it works, as on the version of Suicide’s Dream Baby Dream, it is quite exhilarating, even if it occasionally slips into self-indulgence, as on the attempt at Mats Gustafsson’s Sudden Movement.
Download this: Dream Baby Dream, Cashback
Martin Taylor & Alan Barnes
Two For the Road
Woodville Records WVCD134, £12.99
With the right combination of musicians, the duo can be the most satisfying of jazz line-ups – and this CD is a perfect example. Martin Taylor (guitar) and Alan Barnes (clarinet) have created a beautiful, intimate album which showcases their rapport and mutual respect and plays out like a series of conversations – some cosy chats, some playful banter and some lively debates. And you don’t have to be a fan of Taylor’s guitar monologues to get a huge kick out of his lovely, warm, lyrical playing.
Download this: Serafina, Willow Weep For Me
Fay Hield And The Hurricane Party
Topic Records TSCD586, £12.99
Topic carries on its excellent promulgation of English traditions by releasing a beauty of an album by the finest of the current revivalists. Hield has a powerfully authentic vocal style and a real understanding of the songs and their context – she’s a university lecturer in Ethnomusicology – while here she teams up musically with her life partner, fiddler and multi-instrumentalist Jon Boden. Joining them are friends including button box and melodeon master Andy Cutting, Sam Sweeney on varied bowed strings, Rob Harbron on English concertina and fiddle, and Martin Simpson on guitar and banjo. Songs range from the rare nursery song Naughty Baby to Dickens favourite Tarry Trousers and the title track’s 800-year-old reshaping of the Greek Orpheus and Eurydice fable. This must be the most profound native exposition of Englandshire in a generation.
Download this: The Old ’Arris Mill
Russian Guitar Music
ABCD 5027, £13.99
Russian guitar works don’t feature strongly in the musical consciousness, perhaps because more traditional instruments, such as the balalaika, were more familiar to Russian composers. A small trend was started by Andres Segovia’s series of concerts in the Soviet Union in 1926, and so this CD by British guitarist Carl Herring features contemporary transcriptions and dedicated works post-dating Segovia’s concerts. Glinka and Tchaikovsky are the best-known among the older composers, while three works receive world premiere recordings: the oldest, more than 70 years after its composition, is by Boris Asafiev, who attended one of Segovia’s concerts. Herring plays with fluency and assurance throughout.
Download this: Track 20, Boris Asafiev, Valse