The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan. Todd Rundgren's Utopia, "Todd Rundgren's Utopia / Another Live" (Edsel EDSD 2127)- The multi-talented Mr.Rundgren has dabbled with a wide variety of musical styles during his lengthy career, as well as producing albums by artists as diverse as XTC, Meatloaf and Steve Hillage. This CD re-issue revives the two albums that Todd recorded with the first incarnation of his Utopia band in the mid-seventies, including mildly cerebral epics such as the 30 minute suite "The Ikon" and live versions of The Move's "Do Ya" and "Something's Coming" from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story." Paul Myers' highly informative liner notes set the seal on an absorbing prog-rock package.
Argent, "All Together Now" (Esoteric ECLEC 2321)- "All Together Now" was Argent's third and most successful album, released in 1972 and opening with the full length version of their million selling single,"Hold Your Head Up." Russ Ballard's failed attempts to steer Argent in a more direct, pop orientated musical direction would eventually prompt him to leave the fold in 1974 ,but the singer-guitarist was still in fine fettle here as he launched into tracks such as "Tragedy" and "He's A Dynamo." These dynamic offerings were perfectly counterbalanced by Rod Argent's much more flowery and imaginative "Pure Love" and "I Am The Dance Of Ages, " two fine vehicles for the former Zombies' mainstay's impeccable keyboard technique.
Stiff Little Fingers, "Assume Nothing ,Question Everything-The Very Best Of" (Music Club Deluxe MCDLX 155)- SLF frontman Jake Burns penned the sleeve notes for this inexpensive new anthology, which serves up 42 tracks from the fiery Belfast outfit frequently abrasive back catalogue, including confrontational ditties from their creative heyday in the late seventies such as "White Noise," "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster." SLF's more recent output may have lacked the cutting edge associated with those early punk anthems,but Burns and the latest incarnation of the band are still soldiering on regardless,with a batch of acerbic new songs completed and scheduled for release early next year.
"Jumping The Shuffle Blues" (Fantastic Voyage FVTD087)- In the years before the emergence of reggae and ska Jamaica's unique Sound System culture was dominated by the rough hewn charms of the vibrant "Shuffle Blues" emanating from the U.S.of A. This new 3 record set brings together the best of those historic recordings from the period between 1946 and 1960, including contributions from giants of fifties r&b such as Wynonie Harris,Louis Jordan and Lloyd Price of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" fame.The real appeal of this splendid package lies in the wealth of undiscovered material on offer however, with many of the more obscure archive gems from half a century ago actually appearing on CD for the very first time.
Bill Withers, "Just As I Am" (Cherry Red / BBR CDBBR 0143)- Virginia born Bill Withers was already well into his thirties when he recorded this smoothly soulful debut set for Sussex Records in 1971, with production duties assigned to the great Booker T.Jones and no less a luminary than Stephen Stills making a telling contribution on lead guitar. Former factory worker Withers had assembled a formidable crop of songs for his first foray into the recording studio, and "Just As I Am" boasts classic self-penned creations such as "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands" alongside Bill's distinctive re-vamps of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" and The Beatles' "Let It Be."