Kevin Bryan record reviews

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Our resident musical anorak brings his latest tops picks...

Ceolbeg, “Collected” (Greentrax CDTRAX 374)- Many of Scotland’s finest folk musicians have passed through Ceolbeg’s ranks over the years,and “Collected” showcases the cream of this essentially part-time outfit’s highly regarded back catalogue . The late Davy Steele’s rare gifts as a songwriter are well represented by two of his finest creations,”Farewell Tae The Haven” and “See The People Run,” and the innovative sextet’s instrumental prowess also illuminates a stylish assortment of slow airs, jigs and hornpipes culled from the six albums that the various incarnations of the band recorded together.

“Electronic” (EMI Records)- This 2 CD re-issue serves up an expanded version of Electronic’s 1991 album featuring a generous helping of rare tracks,alternate versions,edits and instrumentals. This collaboration between New Order’s Bernard Sumner and former Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr also drew heavily on the Pet Shop Boys’ creative input, and the latter’s Neil Tennant chipped in on vocals on one of the album’s highlights,the subtly memorable “Patience Of A Saint.” The Mancunian duo’s highly acclaimed debut set also spawned no less than three chart singles in the shape of “Getting Away With It,” “Get The Message” and “Feel The Beat,” perfectly capturing the spirit of British electro pop in the early nineties.

Billy Boy Arnold,”Chicago Blues From Islington Mews 1977” (Angel Air SJPCD415)- Chicago born harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold was midway through a British concert tour when he put together this earthy package for Red Lightnin Records,trading licks with Groundhogs guitarist Tony McPhee as he revisited his own “ I Wish You Would” alongside classic blues creations such as Jimmy McCracklin’s “Just Got To Know” and Little Walter’s “Ah’W Baby.” The finished product was hailed as “Blues Album of the Year” by “Black Echoes” magazine despite having been recorded in the space of just two days in October 1977, and has lost little of its potency with the passage of time.

John Fiddler,”State of the Heart” (Angel Air SJPCD416)- Medicine Head’s minimalist brand of bluesy rock was all the rage for a few years during the early seventies,bringing John Fiddler and Peter Hope-Evans singles successes such as “Pictures in the Sky” and “Rising Sun,” but the two men eventually went their separate ways,and Fiddler later went on to front British Lions and Box of Frogs. “State of the Heart” was John’s first solo album ,appearing as a cassette only release in 1991 and boasting a batch of songs that he’d penned in response to a subsequently withdrawn offer to join The Stranglers as Hugh Cornwell’s replacement. This newly remastered CD still retains the feel of an underproduced bootleg, although Fiddler completists should find it a very worthwhile investment nonetheless.

Pavarotti / Abbado, “Giuseppe Verdi : Rarities” (Warner Classics 2564 64653 8)-The recordings featured here date from 1978 and 1980 and find the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti as he tackles some extremely rare arias from the Verdi archives. Many of the pieces were penned to accommodate specific singers’ vocal gifts and then swiftly jettisoned,and this fascinating package also features two orchestral works,the prelude to the original “Simon Boccanegra” and the full scale overture that Verdi composed for the Italian premiere of “Aida,” expertly performed here by Claudio Abbado and the Orchestra of Milan’s La Scala opera house.