record reviews january 2019

JESSE KINCH

I’m Not Like Everybody Else (Curb)

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Born in Long Island, Kinch was the winner of the one and only series of American TV series Rising Star. Four years on he finally makes his album debut, one that comes in two sizes. Either breathily sung sensitive guitar/piano ballads or growly, beefy and bluesy rock. While former are pleasant enough, the best being the acoustic How Do I Reach You? (The Last Veil), it’s the more powerful numbers where he’s at his strongest. These too come in two forms, self-penned songs and covers, but, while the opening and closing tracks, Preaching Like The Pope and Tamed, and the six-minute Masami (The Elegant Beauty) are solid enough powered up hard rock, they’re not memorable songs. The five cover versions, two of which he sang on the show, are a different matter. He doesn’t mess around with I Put A Spell On You, his show audition, Stevie Winwood’s I’m A Man, which sticks pretty closely to the Spencer Davis Group original, or Lennon and McCartney’s This Boy, although that does get an orchestral arrangement, turning in perfectly respectable versions. On the other hand, the Kinks title track, originally the B-side to Sunny Afternoon, starts out like a sweeping orchestral power ballad before building to a stadium swelling crescendo while he totally transforms Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean into a shadowy, brooding blues rock ballad that you might imagine David Coverdale doing, and very much making it his own. He has an undeniably impressive set of lungs, but, an unknown over here and so long after his moment in the relative spotlight in America, whether that’s going to be enough to rise above fate of most such talent show winners is open to question. Mike Davies

JAMES AND THE TRANSISSIONS

Technicolor Vol. Giallo (self-released)

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An LA-based Southern California power-rock trio comprising brothers and Giovanni and Nico and Antonio before, this is the latest in a series of EPs, four tracks (and a fifth cleaned up version of one) and, while it doesn’t bring anything new to the party, those who enjoy some dirty guitar distortion, raw drums and echoey vocals in the manner of Queens of the Stone Age and the more garage moments filtered through a sort of late 60s acid rock lens will get off on Goodland and Private Underground while Balancing Act offers a more experimental workout. Mike Davies


THE BOY LEAST LIKELY TO

The Greatest Hits (Young and Stupid)

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On hiatus since their last album in 2013, Wendover duo Pete Hobbs and Jof Owen regroup for this 17 track compilation, two of which are new recordings. The fact that only two singles actually ever charted, the opener Be Gentle With Me reaching the dizzying heights of 62, casts the title in much the same playful note as their melodic folksy pop with its hummable tunes and catchy choruses sporting such titles as I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon To Your Star (which would have made a perfect CBeebies singalong, but was , in fact used on a Cadbury’s Chocolate Digestive Biscuits commerical) , the jug band bouncy When Life Gives Me Lemons I Make Lemonade and the summery Hugging My Grudge.

At the same time the could do something like the strings-washed Michael Collins, a song about perspective imagining the Irish freedom fighter alone, staring out into the universe “looking through old photographs and listening to Patsy Cline.” They also had a thing for Wham, George and Andrew being their Christmassy 2010 single (complete wth a nod to Last Christmas) and one of the new numbers is a rerecording of their acoustic strummed stomp cover of Faith, previously only released as a download (as was I Box Up All The Butterflies), while the poppy burbling, steel drums funk One Of These Days is all new. Disappointingly, they don’t include their charity Christmas cover of A Winter’s Tale while other notable omissions include Every Goliath Has Its David, the oompah brass coloured The Boy With Two Hearts and the ultra rare Summer of A Dormouse, but otherwise this is a perfect year end present for the faithful and a fine instruction for newcomers to an outfit that deserved to be far more successful than they were. Mike Davies


HELEN ROSE

Trouble Holding Back (Monkey Room Music)

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Produced by Marvin Etzioni, this is the debut album from the sax-playing NewYork blues n soul rocker whose influences trawl in the likes of Bessie Smith, Bobbie Gentry, Joplin, Isaac ayes and Al Green as well as the country shades of Ronstadt and Harris.

Opening with the strutting Love and Whiskey, this is firmly sweaty bar music, the fingerclicking sultry swampy country blues of Flatlands of North Dakota clearly channelling Gentry while she turns in a gutsy bayou blues take on the traditional When The Levee Breaks and chips out a sparse fractured piano cover of Steve Earle’s The Mountain. Etzioni contributes several numbers, the best being the sax-laden bluesy moan Trouble Holding Back and the closing skeletal blues co-write Love On Arrival. Interestingly, the bluesy shuffle John Coltrane on the Jukebox, written by Don Heffington, is based around The Dream Syndicate’s John Coltrane Stereo Blues, and swaggers with a horny fire. Mike Davies

THE FLESH EATERS

I Used To Be Pretty (Yep Roc)

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A name from the 80s, fronted by Chris Dejardins, the flesh Eaters were a much admired but seldom heard force on the LA punk scene, establishing their credentials with 1981 album A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die. They’ve reformed with their all star line up that, alongside Chris D, features Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman from The Blasters, X’s D.J. Bonebrake, bassist John Doe and Stev Berlin of Los Lobos fame on sax.

The result is a typically moody and in wanders between slashing guitar punk and shadowy balladry, two new numbers, Black Temptation and the semi-spoken 13-minute narcotic Doors-like Ghost Cave Lament, inspired by an extended flamenco piece by Manitas de Plata, bookend the album while six tracks revisit the back catalogue, along them, the furious Pony Dress, My Life To Live, the urgent, organ-driven The Wedding Dice and Miss Muerte, the title track of their previous album back in 2004. There’s also three covers, The Gun Club’s She’s Like Heroin To Me, the drum thundering Cinderella by 60s Seattle garage psych outfit the Sonics and an unlikely version of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 prog-psychedelic blues single The Green Manalishi. A Flesh Eaters revival is unlikely to take the world by storm, but for those with fond memories of that 80s LA punk scene, this marks a welcome blast of nostalgia. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2018