Album reviews: Ry Cooder | Star Wheel Press | The Darkness | Jazz | Folk | Classical

A round-up of the latest longplayer releases, including a rootsy rock release by Ry Cooder and the return of The Darkness

A round-up of the latest longplayer releases, including a rootsy rock release by Ry Cooder and the return of The Darkness

Ry Cooder

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Election Special

Nonesuch, £12.99

Star rating: * * * *

Musically, Ry Cooder’s new album harks back to his finest rootsy rock work, such as Boomer’s Story and Bop Till You Drop, but this time with a heightened political and social agenda. Contemporary Dust Bowl blues such as Guantanamo and the chilling groove of the scintillating Kool-Aid mark a mature return to form.

The music preens and struts like something fresh out of the swamp, powered by a bottleneck cut from crystal glass. Equally classy is the beautifully restrained Brother Is Gone; melancholy without getting maudlin about it.

That is reinforced with the shuffling boogie of The Wall Street Part Of Town and the mandolin freshness of Going To Tampa – which boasts the immortal campaigning couplet “I gave all my money, Sarah Palin calls me honey”, and some unresolved sexual tension between the NRA and the Tea Party. The pseudo Civil War sentiment of The 90 And The 9 recycles the “This could be the last time” refrain from the song made famous by the Rolling Stones. Elsewhere, Ry loosens things up with Take Your Hands Off It, a hip-swivelling singalong in defence of the Bill of Rights. Pride of place, though, should go to Mutt Romney Blues, a tribute to the Republican who has done the impossible and made George Bush Jnr appear like the doyen of diplomacy.

Colin Somerville

Download this: Brother Is Gone, Mutt Romney Blues

Star Wheel Press

Life Cycle Of A Falling Bird

Star Wheel Press, available online

Star rating; * * * *

A hidden gem from deepest Perthshire, this will make you believe that Bonnie Prince Billy relocated to Aberfeldy and is making country pop rock with Riley Briggs and Kirsten Adamson of The Gillyflowers – at least on one song here, Subbuteo, the only mention of finger-flicking action since the Undertones’ My Perfect Cousin.

Irish singer Ryan Hannigan has a voice stained with character and quality like an oak floor on the lo-fi spiritual Hey Lord or Love Is Rest. The band sound like no-one else but are quietly superb: slide guitar, mumbled vocals – what’s not to like?


Download this: Hey Lord, Write A Novel

The Darkness

Hot Cakes

PIAS, £11.99

Star rating: * *

Ooh nasty! The Hawkins brothers and cronies return after a six-year absence, and the falsetto and fret-shredding guitar solos have not changed a bit. The album has fewer redeeming features than before, even if they remember how to strip it back to good old glam-rock guitar posturing on Everybody Have A Good Time. But they singularly fail to bring anything new to their own party. Their live favourite, a cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit, is amusing and appalling in equal measure, but with metal back in style we will have to live with the poodle haircuts a little longer.


Download this: Street Spirit


Juliette Gréco


Milan 399 402-2, £12.99

Star rating: * * * *

As with the recent Marilyn Monroe compilation from the same Collector series, this new CD is being sold as “jazz”, but really Juliette Gréco’s only jazz connection was her love affair with Miles Davis. This album is, instead, one for lovers of French chansons performed with guts and passion. The spellbinding Gréco brings the lyrics to life; and even the most familiar songs sound fresh and raw in her hands. The 22 tracks are all irresistible, but some information on the recording dates wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Alison Kerr

Download this: C’est À S’Aimer Que Le Temps Passe, Sans Vous Aimer




Springthyme SPRCD1013, available online

Star rating: * * * *

Here is a re-release from the Age of Vinyl, before CDs even existed, by the seven pioneering Edinburgh-based young women whose music (this was their only album) set a new tone, and light touch, within the Scottish folk scene. Kathleen, Patsy, Mary, Ann, Marta, Val and Rosa cut a swathe through the patriarchal, chauvinist bands of the period with cheerful smiles, colourful clothes and joyfully creative traditional music. Their two fiddles, flute, two concertinas, two harps and a double bass, with vocals in Scots and Gaelic, produced a rumbustious, sometimes delicate, often amusing and always interesting take on their own country’s music. Now, nearly 30 years on, they’ve gone digital.

Norman Chalmers

Download this: Gypsey’s Warning/Flora MacDonald/Sweet Molly


Gioachino Rossini

Il Barbiere Di Siviglia

ICAC 5046, £15.99

Star rating: * * * * *

Rossini’s Il Barbiere Di Siviglia started life under another title to avoid confusion with an opera by Paisiello, but swiftly changed its name on Paisiello’s death, four months after the opera’s premiere.

This 1960 Covent Garden live broadcast features a starry cast, of whom Teresa Berganza as Rosina is probably the best-known today, although the Figaro, baritone Rolando Panerai, had the most extended career. His bravura Largo Al Factotum verges on the shouty, but is full of life and skilfully delivered, while Berganza’s Rosina is superb throughout. With some slight distortion still audible, this is nevertheless an exciting night at the opera, with Carlo Maria Giulini achieving a rousingly successful performance.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: Largo Al Factotum