Album reviews: Liam Gallagher John Squire | Rod Stewart & Jools Holland | Caezar | Lorna Brooks

It’s good to hear John Squire guide Liam Gallagher into new territory on this meeting of Manchester minds, writes Fiona Shepherd

Liam Gallagher John Squire: Liam Gallagher John Squire (Warner Music) ***

Rod Stewart & Jools Holland: Swing Fever (EastWest) ***

Caezar: HOME (Vertere Records) ***

Lorna Brooks: Since Life Stood Still (self-released) ****

As their “group” name attests, you know what you are getting from the meeting of Manchester minds that is Liam Gallagher John Squire. The former Oasis frontman and Stone Roses guitarist have been friends and associates for some time but formalised their partnership after Squire guested at Gallagher’s Knebworth shows in 2022.

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Their self-titled debut album is chiefly Squire territory – he’s the songwriting half of the duo with a more diverse palette than Gallagher, though everything falls within the classic rock remit. The upbeat opener Raise Your Hands features a relatively spry, light touch with Gallagher employing his softest register (you calling him soft?) for a call-out to the vulnerable, though Squire releases the fireworks in the last minute for a glam fuzz-fest coda.

On Mars to Liverpool, the destination is indeed Scouse psychedelia driven by acid blues guitar and a soaring chorus with a hint of minor melancholy, while One Day At A Time is more blatantly psych pop influenced, channelling The Yardbirds in its blend of pastoral melody and fiery guitar.

Liam Gallagher & John Squire PIC: Tom OldhamLiam Gallagher & John Squire PIC: Tom Oldham
Liam Gallagher & John Squire PIC: Tom Oldham

You’re Not the Only One features juke joint piano and rhythm’n’blues guitar riffing, while I’m A Wheel is an all-out mean bluesy strut. It’s good to hear Squire guide Gallagher into new territory. Elsewhere, Gallagher accesses his bratty “our kid” persona on I’m So Bored and employs his full swagger on Love You Forever, “growing old disgracefully” while Squire riffs epically in the full Cream mode which the Stone Roses embraced later in their career, though the pair run out of puff on closing track Mother Nature’s Song with its derivative George Harrison riffing.

Rod Stewart & Jools Holland are likewise old friends forming a somewhat roguish double act on Swing Fever. Absolutely no surprises here as both fall back on the standard swing songbook but at least it’s infectious jumpin’ and jivin’ fun, with Stewart scatting merrily on Oh Marie. There is no denying the standard of musicianship, nor the chemistry between Stewart and band as they match each other for peppy pace throughout.

JJ Gilmour and Joe Donnelly, both members of The Silencers at different times, also conform to type as Caezar. Their carefully crafted second album HOME was recorded at Black Bay Studios on the Isle of Lewis and at times sounds like it could fill that big Hebridean sky. The anthemic Up On Satellites is suitably skyscraping, with epic synths and chestbeating vocals, and they keep it big and sweeping on Kiss of Life. The broody Blue Nilesque Dance Little Angel Dance features Gilmour in torch singer mode but the album falls away in potency on the bland Scotpop of Wake Up and banal swirly ballad Hunter, before picking up again on the chiming Tears Must Fall and the emotional connection of the title track.

Glasgow-born, Edinburgh-based singer, vocal coach and theatre composer Lorna Brooks returns with her first new solo album in 15 years, employing her rich alto and jazz tones to a classy work reminiscent of Rumer, Alison Moyet and Horse, with guests including her contemporary Carol Laula, who duets with her on the cleansing Dawns A New Day, and violinist Seonaid Aitken who adds a gypsy jazz flourish to Do It.

Rod Stewart & Jools Holland PIC: Jonas MohrRod Stewart & Jools Holland PIC: Jonas Mohr
Rod Stewart & Jools Holland PIC: Jonas Mohr

Elsewhere, she stamps her emotional authority on the timeless romance of I Thought I Knew You Before, the beseeching, cathartic Soothe Me and the slick soul funk of Cold Denial. Ten Long Years is garnished with Bacharach & David-style wistful woodwind, We Send Ships Dear with rich, mournful trumpet and Claim the Night with a bluesy tinge to her vocals, while her one cover version, of Jeff Buckley’s Everybody Here Wants You, sits naturally with her own material.


Brahms & Busoni: Violin Concertos (Chandos) *****

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Brahms and Busoni are a pairing less likely than, say, Brahms and Liszt. Yet here is a coupling of Violin Concertos that invites some considerations of similarities. The common protagonist is the remarkable Italian-born violinist Francesca Dego, whose performances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Dalia Stasevska are ravishingly pure, precise and purposeful, with a radiance and opulent virtuosity that embraces an overall Romantic ethos. If anything, the younger Busoni’s concerto inhabits a more flamboyant post-Lisztian world, freely bound and thematically impetuous, with a slow movement oozing unbound passion and a finale that verges on showtime. Dego throws herself fully into it, as she does the Brahms, though in the latter with more poetically manicured sheen. Stasevska preempts that in the distinctive finesse of her Brahms opening. The real magic lies in performances that delight in the unexpected complementarity of two distinctive musical minds. Ken Walton

Lorna BrooksLorna Brooks
Lorna Brooks


Sarah L King: Fire Horse (ECN Music) ****

Singer-songwriter Sarah L King’s compositions come over as storytelling, with a direct style that reminds one somehow of Carole (no relation) King. This debut sees her songs and some choice standards arranged by King and produced by Claire Martin OBE. A keen band includes Jim Watson on keyboards, bass-guitarist Laurence Cottle and drummer Ian Thomas, with occasional rather superimposed-sounding strings. Martin and Ian Shaw contribute some impeccably smooth vocal harmonies, as in the beguiling glide of Mystery Ride, or in Holding on to Love. Skyscapes is an affectionate commemoration of King’s late father, with winsome flugelhorn, Cottle’s muttering bass lays a funky path for Black Dog, while the languorous yearning of Snow Blind comes straight from the heart. Among covers, Devil May Care swings with panache while Stolen Moments is a beauty, King articulating clearly as walking bass and warm brass usher things into swing mode. Jim Gilchrist