The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.
"String Driven Thing" (Esoteric ECLEC 2358)- Esoteric's latest CD re-issue focusses attention on the impressive 1972 debut album from Scottish prog-rock outfit String Driven Thing. The classically trained Graham Smith's fluid and inventive violin work swiftly established itself as the most attractive feature of the quartet's rather portentous and doom-laden sound and the recently recruited fiddler was in particularly fine fettle here , expertly underpinning frontman Chris Adams' vocal exploits on stand-out tracks such as "Jack Diamond," "Circus" and "Easy To Be Free."
Del Shannon,"Home & Away" (Cherry Red / Now Sounds crnow 40)- Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham apparently conceived this mildly psychedelic 1967 extravaganza as Britain's answer to the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," bringing over faded American pop balladeer Del Shannon to work with some of the homegrown performers who were signed to his Immediate label at the time, including Steve Marriott and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. The venture wasn't an unqualified success and "Home & Away" actually had to wait more than ten years before it was released in its entirety, by which time the contents had acquired the winsome period charm which is such an appealing feature of tracks such as "Led Along" and "Mind Over Matter."
Wilton Felder,"We All Have A Star / Inherit The Wind" (Cherry Red / Robinsongs CDMRED 536)- Houston born sax player and bassist Wilton Felder is best remembered these days for his work with jazz/funk fusion specialists The Crusaders ,but he was also in great demand as a session musician, working with everyone from Joan Baez to John Cale and the Jackson 5. These skilfully crafted solo albums date from 1978 and 1980 respectively and provide ideal vehicles for Felder's free-flowing ,jazzy style, with vocals supplied by soul luminaries such as Bobby Womack and "Swing Your Daddy" hit-maker Jim Gilstrap.
Mighty Mojos, "Hook Line and Sinker" (Available from www.MightyMojos.com)- The debut album from Ulster based blues band The Mighty Mojos is a compellingly gutsy and powerful affair,blending some strong original material with energised covers of songs made famous by the likes of Robert Johnson,Muddy Waters and Tampa Red. Their approach to music-making may not offer too much in the way of originality or innovation but the finished product should still be required listening for blues enthusiasts everywhere, with slide guitarist David McClean meriting a special mention in dispatches for his stunning contribution to the proceedings.
"Constant Sorrow : Bluegrass From Root To Flower" (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 073)- This fascinating 3 CD set traces the inexorable rise of bluegrass from its rural roots in the mid twenties to acceptance as a mainstream musical form in the late fifties,drawing on archive recordings from leading lights of the genre such as Bill Monroe,Mac Wiseman and The Stanley Brothers. Ralph and Carter Stanley went on to become popular performers on the American college circuit during the sixties folk boom,,and their soulful sound is well represented here by classic tracks such as "I'm A Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Angel Band."