Kevin Bryan’s record reviews

The Spencer Davis Group, “Keep On Running-The Collection” (Cherry Red / Press Play PRESS2CD)- The Spencer Davis Group emerged from the hinterlands of Birmingham in the mid-sixties with a soulful brand of white r&b which leaned heavily on the precocious talents of the multi-talented Steve Winwood, who was just seventeen years old when the band enjoyed their first chart-topper in 1965 with “Keep On Running.” This inexpensive anthology features alternate versions of some of their early hits culled from radio and TV broadcasts, alongside some of the more impressive album tracks that a later incarnation of the band captured for posterity after an increasingly disillusioned Winwood left the fold in 1967 to form the excellent Traffic.
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“Soul City Detroit - Motor City Labels and the Dawn of Soul Music” (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 164)- This new 2 CD set presents a fascinating insight into the music scene in Detroit during the early sixties, capturing the city’s performers as they grappled with the transition from the untamed exuberance of fifties rhythm and blues to the production line approach to music-making favoured by Berry Gordy and his cohorts at Tamla Motown. Some classic early offerings from Motown stalwarts such as Marvin Gaye, The Miracles and Martha & The Vandellas are given an airing alongside a string of compelling obscurities culled from the dusty archives of long defunct Detroit labels like Flick, Fortune and Lu-Pine,including the Falcons’ impassioned 1962 hit,”I Found A Love,” featuring lead vocals from a youthful Wilson Pickett.

Yardbirds, ”Making Tracks” (MVD 5606D)- This London outfit served as an invaluable finishing school for some of Britain’s finest young rock guitarists during their commercial heyday in the mid-sixties, with Eric Clapton,Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all passing through their ranks in rapid succession as they notched up hits such as “For Your Love,” “Shapes of Things” and “Heart Full Of Soul.” A great deal of water had flowed under the proverbial bridge by the time that “Making Tracks” was recorded, but founder members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty were still on hand to oversee proceedings when this live DVD was assembled at various venues during the band’s recent American tours. “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “Dazed and Confused” are the pick of this disjointed but relatively painless jaunt down memory lane.

Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, ”A Bach Notebook For Trumpet” (Linn CKD 418)-Linn’s latest absorbing CD finds musician,academic and all round Renaissance Man Jonathan Freeman-Attwood applying his vibrant techinque to works penned by eleven members of the unusually gifted Bach Family,including of course the great Johann Sebastian himself. The innovative trumpeter joins forces with pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar to tackle the latter’s stylish arrangements of compositions whch were originally written for instruments as diverse as the cello,organ and human voice, creating a unique and deeply “unhistorical” recital which is most unlikely to find favour with musical purists,although it’s well worth investigating nonetheless.

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, ”Dear River” (Linn Records)- Emily’s eagerly awaited new album was produced by Calum Malcolm of Blue Nile fame, and finds the gifted Aussie expatriate exploring the meaning of home and the effects of exile and displacement, expertly underpinned by the rootsy musical contributions of the Red Clay Halo. This impressive song cycle is blessed with the pristine sound quality which has become Linn Records’ trademark, and if you’ve never come across any of Ms.Barker’s perceptive creations before you’d be well advised to lend an ear to fine tracks such as “Ghost Narrative,” “The Blackwood” and “Dear River” itself.

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