Kevin Bryan's Record Reviews

"13 Featuring Lester Butler" (Floating World FLOATM6111) -The American blues singer and harmonica player Lester Butler bequeathed just two albums to posterity , the Red Devils' 1992 set,"King Kong" and this gritty offering ,recorded a few months before his untimely death six years later at the age of just 38. Lester's decision to incorporate elements of Americana and alternative rock into his raucous sound meant that his work would never appeal to blues purists, but his open-minded approach to music-making did make Butler a popular figure on the European concert circuit during his latter years. Floating World's CD re-issue captures the essence of his earthy appeal, including three live bonus tracks, "I Wish You Would, " "Boogie Disease" and Elmore James' "So Mean To Me."

"Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath" (Repertoire REP 5222)- RCA Records set up their Neon offshoot in the early seventies to provide a vinyl outlet for some inventive performers whose work might otherwise have proved a little too esoteric for mass tastes,and this intelligently crafted album was one of the first releases from the short-lived, but now highly collectable label. South African jazz pianist McGregor assembled a dynamic line-up featuring top notch brass players such as John Surman,Alan Skidmore and fellow exile Dudu Pukwana to create a heady big band sound which blended township jive,bebop and swing and found its fullest expression in the ecstatic 20 minute long "Night Poem."

The Stranglers, " Giants" (CDCG005PX) -The days are long past when the release of a new Stranglers album would have been greeted as a major event in the rock calendar, but these veteran performers are far from a spent force on the evidence presented by "Giants." Jean-Jacques Burnel's aggressive basslines have always been one of the most distinctive features of The Stranglers' sound and he's certainly in fine fettle here, sharing the vocal duties with guitarist Baz Warne as the re-energised band serve up a typically quirky collection boasting mildly malevolent gems such as "15 Steps, " "Freedom Is Insane" and "Mercury Rising," with the latter track capturing keyboardist Dave Greenfield in particularly inventive form.

"Folk Awards 2012" (PROPERFOLK 12)- This wide ranging anthology features contributions from all the nominees for this year's BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, showcasing seasoned campaigners such as June Tabor, Steve Tilston and Christy Moore alongside the musical exploits of a new generation of gifted folkies led by Bella Hardy and the winners in the best duo category, guitar and accordion virtuoso Tim Edey and Kiwi harmonica ace Brendan Power. The award winning June Tabor steals the show as she delivers a spellbinding version of Cyril Tawney's "Oggie Man" before joining forces with her old friends the Oyster Band for the first time since 1990 to electrify the rousing "Bonny Bunch of Roses."

LSO / Stokowski, "Rimsky-Korsakov : Scheherazade / Tchaikovsky : Marche Slave" (Cala CACD 0536)- This highly listenable collection brings together two fine recordings from the Decca archives in the shape of Leopold Stokowski's stunning 1964 interpretation of "Scheherazade" and a live performance of Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave" which the LSO gave at the Royal Albert Hall in the summer of 1972. Violinist Erich Gruenberg is in dazzling form as the featured soloist in Rimsky-Korsakov's evocative symphonic suite, and as an added bonus the CD also includes twenty minutes worth of rehearsal footage from the recording sessions which produced this exemplary piece of work.

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