(taken from later issue):1) Ringo Starr “Y Not?” (2010) I bought this as a present, honest. I don’t go around buying modern Ringo CDs usually (though I did for a while in the 90s when they were actually quite good) but I thought I’d give this vaguely controversial album (yep, Ringo’s being all moody about his home town of Liverpool. Again) a listen. Like many a Ringo album there’s only two tracks worth hearing – ‘Walk With You’, a duet with Paul Mccartney which marks the first time the Beatles have worked together since 1997’s ‘Flaming Pie’ and, surprisingly, ‘The Other Side Of Liverpool’, the track that’s causing all the fuss. Much as I hate hearing celebrities banging on about how horrible their early life was (Liverpool’s been a lot kinder to Ringo than he has to Liverpool after all), this one at least has some clever lines (‘Liverpool is cold and damp – only way out, drums, guitar and amp’ is the best Ringo lyric since ‘It Don’t Come Easy’, even if it’s terribly unfair. Liverpool was a port, Ringo. It’s the best place for any American record-loving teenager of the 1940s to be born. And trust me, even the roughest end of Liverpool wasn’t that much worse than other Northern towns). But hearing some caterwaulingly awful modern singer taking over the last track (I never did find out who it was and I’m afraid of finding out) and the desperate attempts to be modern make you despair. Ringo’s really been missing George’s guest appearances on his last three solo albums – what the hell happened to the man who gave us the fairly promising ‘Time Takes Time’ (1992) and ‘Vertical Man’ (1995)? And where the hell is the re-issue of Ringo’s second best (after 1974’s ‘Ringo’) album ‘Stop and Smell The Roses’ with AAA favourites Stephen Stills and Van Dyke Parks (lyricist on ‘Smile’) taking part? ‘Y?’ might be a better question.
BELLE AND SEBASTIAN:
(I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson (2012)
As only the second member of Belle and Sebastian to go solo (after the surprise runaway success of Isobel Campbell), you'd expect Jackson to have a similarly large amount of songs he wanted to get off his chest. Stevie Jackson is a likeable chap, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock and roll even I can’t hope to match and this album features as large an array of ideas, styles and emotions as you’d expect. Through it all, though, Stevie’s love of a basic rock and roll beat shines through. ‘Richie Now’ is particularly interesting, especially the latter which is a re-write of The Kinks’ glorious ‘Do You Remember, Walter?’ about a childhood friend who changes. Richie even had ‘all the Beatles LPs and the Twist and Shout’ EP from 1963’, so he must have been a special kind of guy! The other, glorious song is 'Pure of Heart', with an earnest teenage Stevie trying hard to act all macho and hard because none of the girls go out with him, before finally acknowledging he ought to stay pure of heart, a classy pop song as great as anything Stuart Murdoch has written. It has to be said there’s only two songs here to rival Jackson’s two greatest B+S moments to date ‘Roy Walker’ and ‘Seymour Stein’ though. It’s a shame, though, that the last two rather lesser B+S albums didn’t make more use of Jackson’s talents – had they split half of Murdoch’s songs with the better half of this album ‘Write About Love’ wouldn’t have been such a crushing disappointment.
THE HUMAN LEAGUE:
Taken from a later issue of News, Views and Music:
Dave Davies “I Will Be Me” (CD, 2013)
I ought to be getting to used to the sheer shriek and power behind Dave Davies’ solo albums by now (this is number six), but even compared to the others this is noisy. Kinks fans who love the band noisy and grungy (as a sort of updated heavy metal take on ‘You Really Got Me’) will love it for it’s sheer power and refusal to grow old gracefully and yet the problem (as with the first two albums ‘AFL’ and ‘Glamour’) is that there’s no dynamics here: no let-down in steam and speed as there was with albums three and four (‘Chosen People’ and ‘Bug’, the best two out of Dave’s half dozen solo releases). In fact, if you come to this album straight from one of the Kinks’ more lyrical moments such as ‘Waterloo Sunset’ (or any of Ray’s mid-70s concept albums) then you might struggle to recognise the playing at all (this is a noisy, thrashing sound the Kinks stopped playing at all between 1965 and about 1977). Some of the songs are wonderful, such as Dave’s typically quirky opener ‘The Little Green Amp’ where he tells us the old story of slashing his amplifier with a razor blade to get his trademark sound, only for the neighbours to complain. It could easily have got silly, but a poignant middle eight still yearning for girlfriend Sue 50 years on now (who became pregnant by him, aged 15, in 1963 shortly before the Kinks broke big and their respective families ‘split them up’) adds just the right touch of heart to this autobiographical tale. Title track ‘I Will Be Me’ is great too, Dave spitting out his defiance in an update on ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ from 1965. At long last an AAA member tackles the Coalition, too, in the track ‘Living In The Past’ in which ‘The blind lead the blind leading towards death’ and in which the credit crunch came suddenly ‘everyone was still laughing’. Unfortunately, the other 10 songs on the album don’t make much of an impact and seem to pass by in a sea of noise. Worse still, Dave’s voice is still hesitant and awkward after fighting back from the stroke that hit him ten years ago and is at times painful to listen to. Still, that’s not his fault – it’s wonderful to have Dave back at all and far from mellowing him that stroke only seems to have made him stronger and more determined to go back to making music ‘his’ way, without thought to commerciality or – at times – listenability. ‘I Will Be Me’ is far from Dave’s best work but it has much to recommend it if you like your Kinks loud, proud and unbowed. 5/10
Taken from a later issue of News, Views and Music: Micky Dolenz “Remember” (CD, 2012)
It’s been a while since Micky released an album (1992 as far as I can tell) but there’s actually very little difference between this album and ‘Micky Dolenz Puts You To Sleep’. Both are nostalgic albums full of memories from the past and – sadly – are almost all cover-based (in his Monkees heyday Micky wrote songs every bit as good as Goffin-King, Boyce-Hart, Leiber-Stoller and all those other famous songwriting acts the group used to cover). Micky’s voice is older and deeper now and he sensibly doesn’t strain it, which gives something of a pipe-and-slippers feel to the record – in fact had Micky and Dave Davies got together to make half an album each you’d have had the perfect record; just as Dave is too dominantly loud and noisy, however, so this album needs a bit of ‘life’ to get it going. Again, though, there’s much for old fans to enjoy: Micky tackles no less than three old Monkee favourites and whilst ‘I’m A Believer’ is a little obvious a choice (sung in a similar but superior way by writer Neil Diamond on his last LP) the other two are fantastic. ‘Sometime In The Morning’ by Carole King, the highlight of second LP ‘More Of The Monkees’ is a sweet song about first love, rattled off by a teenage Micky in heart-throb mode in 1967 and now revisited as something warmer, more heartfelt and nostalgic, as if the couple are still together some 40 years later. ‘Prithee’ (Better known by Monkees fans as ‘Do Not Ask For Love’) is one of the most famous Monkee outtakes, finally released with Micky singing it in 1987 some 20 years after it was recorded (Peter Tork sings it in the ’33 and 1/3rd TV special’ in 1968). Dispensing with the Elizabethan backdrop of harpsichord and strings, Micky reaches further back in time to make this song a madrigal, complete with a dozen chanting Micky’s. The result isn’t quite up to the original, but it’s still mighty impressive and the song is a great choice, still one of the best Micky ever sang. The real album highlight, though, is ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’, a Beatles song with a Monkees connection (you hear a snatch of it in the last ever Monkees TV episode ‘The Frodis Caper’ written by Micky; Dolenz asked John Lennon for his permission, making this the only time in the 1960s a Beatles song was ever heard on television outside of a fab four appearance). One of Lennon’s most under-rated songs, it misses the punchy strings and grungy McCartney guitar of the original but fits the album’s slowed-down nostalgic mood really well (‘Taking a walk by the old school’). It’s a more adventurous choice than yet another cover of ‘In My Life’ anyway! Overall, then, there’s maybe four songs from ‘Remember’ that are, well, memorable – the rest really aren’t up to much, but the peaks of the album make up for some of the lesser moments.
THE MOODY BLUES:
Taken from a later issue of News, Views and Music:
Mick Jagger “The Best Of” (2011)
A lot of fans won’t even know that Mick has released solo records away from the Stones, given how poorly most of them have sold over the years. Few will know that he’s released enough tracks to make up a 34 track album. And only the very smallest part of those would ever think that all of these songs deserve to get re-released on a two CD album. That said, considering the bad press Mick’s solo work has got over the years (causing a rift between him and Mick that still festers to this day, given some of the comments in Keef’s book ‘Life’) this set isn’t half bad. I only own two of Mick’s solo albums properly and whilst I can’t say I’ve played his first album ‘She’s The Boss’ all that much I do have a soft spot for third album ‘Goddess In The Doorway’. Mick’s sudden dalliance with disco and funk caught most fans on the hop in the late 70s and although the best of his work with the Stones has aged well (‘Miss You’) the first two solo Mick albums in a similar style aren’t anything like as good. The best songs from this set nearly all come from ‘Goddess’(‘Hide Away’ ‘Brand New Set Of Rules’) but the best song of all is a wonderful yearning ballad ‘Angel In My Heart’ from ‘Wandering Spirit’. Actually no, check that, because I’ve just been playing ‘Rules’ again and it’s even better than I first thought. It’s also clearly the first draft for one of my favourite Stones songs ‘Laugh, I Nearly Died’, with Mick regretting his recent mistakes and trying to put things right (it single-handedly manages to be the best Stones-related track of the past 30 odd years!) For that moment alone it’s worth buying this set, although 34 tracks are a good 20 too many. Tracks to download: ‘Angel In My Heart’ ‘Brand New Set Of Rules’.
THE SMALL FACES:
Eric Stewart (all updated from later issues)
And finally, Wings: we've reviewed the Denny Laine albums separately in our 'proper' album reviews (see our great long list at the bottom of the page!) However, there is one more member of Wings who released a solo album: Henry McCullough “Poor Man’s Moon” (2009)
Don’t worry if you don’t recognise the name – chances are few of you will know it even if you own some of the album she plays on. But guitarist Henry McCullough was for an all too brief time a member of Wings, playing on the singles ‘My Love’ and ‘Live and Let Die’, the album ‘Red Rose Speedway’ and the TV show ‘James Paul McCartney’ (which still hasn’t had a proper release yet!) He left before ‘band On The Run’, refusing to go to Lagos to record the album (with good reason as it turned out, what with the muggings, monsoon weather and Macca’s collapse from a lung complaint) and to most people disappeared. Henry’s always been around though, playing small gigs (mainly in America) and releasing albums for low budget record labels (again mainly in America). His latest, ‘Poor Man’s Moon’, is the first of his many solo records to fall into my hands and its delightful, much slower and much bluesier than you’d expect for such a rocky guitarist (for both Wings and oe Cocker’s Grease Band) and Henry’s lived-in vocals suit his new acoustic compositions very well indeed. If I had a complaint its that the songs all sound so similar you’d be hard pressed to tell where one ends and another begins if you weren’t paying attention closely, but that can also be a good thing, with this album conjuring up a mood of laid-back weariness and thoughts about approaching old age and death. Henry’s always been a forgotten talent despite appearing in one of the 70s’ best-selling bands and – although not as essential a purchase as most of Denny Laine’s albums – all Wings collectors should own at least one of these records. Tracks to download (not that you can download them, but never mind): Opener ‘Too Late To Worry’ and ‘Big Old River’.
And that’s that. Do let us know if we’ve forgotten anything – doubtless we’ll have missed out some album on a list this long. Normal service will be resumed next week!