Record Review with Kevin Bryan

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Here are the latest weekly record reviews from Kevin Bryan:

Pete Kennedy - Heart of Gotham. (Self released)­ This deliciously wordy and evocative offering from singer/­songwriter Pete Kennedy (pictured) has been described as a ‘love letter to New York City’, and it’s certainly an impressive piece of work, prompting comparisons with similarly gifted tunesmiths from the 70s such as Willie Nile and Steve Forbert. The finished product was by all accounts five years in the making, as Pete took the occasional break from his long-standing collaboration with wife Maura in The Kennedys to assemble a genuinely solo set which found him playing all the instruments on Heart of Gotham as well as handling lead and background vocals on every track. Union Square, Gotham Serenade and New York are the best of the bunch.

James Taylor - The Essential James Taylor (Rhino Records).­ James Taylor is in many ways the archetypal American singer­songwriter, and Rhino’s latest attempt to capture the cream of his repertoire in a single anthology draws on recordings made between 1970 and 2002, including live versions of old favourites such as Steamroller, Country Road and You Can Close Your Eyes.

Taylor’s early studio output is well represented by a batch of introspective gems from the early 70s led by Sweet Baby James, Fire and Rain and You’ve Got A Friend, deceptively understated creations which have lost little of their homespun charm with the passage of time.

John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest - Legacy (Esoteric Records)­. This splendid live package was recorded at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in November 2006, and captures founder members John Lees and Woolly Wolstenholme’s sterling efforts to keep Barclay James Harvest’s name alive after the original outfit gave up the ghost in 1998. The two musicians and assorted sidemen performed a set dominated by prog­rock gems from the band’s early years, including Mockingbird, Medicine Man and the climactic After The Day, the latter being given an airing on the concert stage for the first time in more than three decades.

Stone The Crows - Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law (Angel Air Records). ­The excellent Stone The Crows were seemingly destined for rock stardom when they made their vinyl bow in 1970, but guitarist and creative mainstay Les Harvey’s untimely death in a freak on stage accident two years later effectively signalled the band‘s demise too. This splendid two-CD re­issue revives the first two albums that the Glaswegian blues rockers recorded before this tragic event, with vocalists Maggie Bell and Jim Dewar in fine fettle as they share the limelight with Harvey during grittily compelling ditties such as Raining In Your Heart, I Saw America and Mad Dogs And Englishmen.