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Welcome to FairHearing.co.uk music review site

This site is about you and the music you are creating. We sing and play and we’re glad that you do.

We start from a basic respect for musicmakers, though we may not instantly love everything we hear.

You can quote all or any part of our reviews, as long as you credit us.

We would like to hear the music you are creating, whatever the genre. Though perhaps we lack the intellectual depth to critique death metal, we like blends of music especially those drawn from roots /west coast / jazz / psychedelia /R&B / folk/country.

We don’t care where you’re from, how old you are, what colour or sex you are. Or anything like that!

We find the conventional “star rating” syndrome demeaning and pompous. Opinions are only opinions. We might connect you with acts or artists you grow to love… Well, we hope we will!

Onwards!

Pete Sargeant

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Jon Allen

Deep River


Absolute via Universal

There’s a brand of music pretty much spearheaded by Jon Allen that you might dub Anglicana…I say that tongue in cheek as I don’t care for labelling. But it embraces acoustic and folk elements, blues, early rock’n’roll, Celtic – especially as regards the major-scale melodies – and even music hall and jazz. Allen has an upper-range bluesman’s voice and often phrasing but don’t buy this expecting the obvious numbers. He writes his own stuff, veers towards the stripped down as he is often performing solo with guitar and rack harp BUT even some of his latest songs sound as though they have been around for ever. If that or they evoke maybe ‘Gasoline Alley’–era Rod Stewart, or dear Ronnie Lane, Allen wouldn’t be offended. Although in conversation last week I did tell him that if anyone, I heard traces of Nils Lofgren ( ‘Take You To The Movies’) or closer Jesse Barish the SF pal of Marty Balin and the Airplane, Barish having a romantic timbre of worn velvet. He doesn’t know Barish.

Radio loves this man, much as they love Rafferty and Rea. Your girlfriend will steal this album from you if she doesn’t buy it herself, rest assured.

On this outing, the songs range from the plaintive ’Night & Day’ and relaxed Dylanish ‘Deep River‘, to the obvious set-starter ‘All The Money’s Gone’ and Little Feat-funk trip of ‘Get What’s Mine’.  The European melody and dark lyric of ‘Falling Back’ suggests a future single ( if Jon listens to me ha ). Overall it’s a heady and beautiful mix of electric and acoustic guitar music all carried by Allen’s classy but homespun vocals and blues lovers will surely fall for the airy ‘Hummingbird Blues’

Pete Sargeant        www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Beverley Martyn


The Phoenix & the Turtle
Les Cousins / Proper

It’s a survivor’s voice, this. A survivor of life’s ups and downs and emotional stresses, some doubtless eased by the passage of time and others likely indelible…

Let’s put this in context – the very first ‘folk’ show I went to was at a pretty spooky church crypt here in Richmond in England and not far from the River Thames. It was a dark night and as an electric rock fan I had succumbed to the allure of taking a dark haired girl I had met on a bus and found dazzling. The girl, not the bus. In fact, I only went for the date aspect. I will admit. The act was a charisma-soaked Canadian character called Patrick Sky and quite a writer. BUT I was actually entranced by a mumbling tousle-haired player opening the show and singing of strange weather, ghosts and (?) jellyrolls..whatever they were. He seemed to know, he hissed out the words and hammered out hard bluesy guitar figures. Magical……fast forward to a duo – this time John Martyn AND Beverley Martyn. Their voices – at a festival – worked well together but they were no grinning Peter Paul & Mary outfit. There seemed to be tension, mostly harnessed into the music, but not all and not quite..

What happened after is pretty well known.  The marriage disintegrated, Beverley Martyn was for quite a while on the scene but not…

December 2013 – London’s Royal Festival Hall. I am there to see the tribute show to the late great Bert Jansch and the lineup is staggering, taking in Ralph McTell, Pentangle, Donovan Leitch, Robert Plant, Bernard Butler…and the best part of the show is a saturnine and measured tread through Memphis Minnie’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’, all sullen emphatic vocal and clanging electric guitars. It is stunning and when an ‘own’ gig at Bush Hall is announced, we book tickets without hesitation

So this album is her first in fourteen years and DOES include the MM song, hooray !  The ex bass man from Counting Crows and the ex drummer from Los Lobos contribute, as does guitar man and producer Mark Pavey. Martyn describes the sound as ‘ very Transatlantic’

‘Reckless Jane’ is a BM collaboration with long-departed legend Nick Drake..the voice is hesitant but strong in its own way, the electric guitar counterpoint edging in over beatific strings and acoustic guitars ; ‘Potters Blues’ is a close cousin to ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ in melody but concerns the late acerbic playwright Dennis Potter, a fascinating man I have been reading about in Roy Hudd’s autobiography.

The steady lope of ‘Going To Germany’ has a spirited vocal and pleasing guitar arrangement ; ‘Sweet Joy’ shows an almost hymnal atmosphere..seems it was Beverley’s very first composition. Heavy amp tremolo worthy of Buffalo Springfield haunts ‘Mountain Top’ and puts me in mind of a subdued Melanie, if there could be such a thing. ‘Jesse James’ the closer has a sprightly roll to it.

This record drips feel and sincerity, the careworn voice made for telling tales, the guitar-based arrangements really appropriate and colourful. No clutter, no gimmicks and all up close and personal

Pete Sargeant    www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Harriet Coleman

Lucky To Be Me !
www.harrisjazz.com

A sunny and respected character on the South Easy jazz scene here in England, Harriet Coleman is one of those artists best heard live. However by choosing unusual songs and working with a fine team of players she has created a collection that sound equally assured and fresh. Assured because many years of singing live have left her with ace phrasing and a warm presence ; fresh because these numbers have not been done to death by others yet still occupy the jazz/lounge territory the album targets.

I bought it because I was at a show featuring Ms Coleman and spotted Steve Waterman’s name on the record. I have seen this chap play a few times and here and there and like, say, Jim Mullen, he doesn’t do rubbish !  The same goes for J Holland but moreover Protect The Beat sax man on this set Derek Nash, of course – the only man to really understand the importance of the late Eddie Harris to adventurous and rhythmic jazz. The other participants here are John Pearce on piano, Andrew Cleyndert on double bass and drummer Steve Brown.

Perhaps Harriet wouldn’t be offended by me referring to Rosemary Clooney ? because the latter’s lively and tuneful delivery may possibly have been an influence on the young Coleman ? or Jo Stafford may have been, for that matter…..opener ‘My Heart Stood Still’ has some trippy percussion breaks and cool piano figures …it’s a Hart / Rodgers creation of course but not a warhorse. The Gilbert / Jobim  ‘Dindi’ has a dreamy ambience and bossa nova delivery ; A new New Orleans feel pervades the Lieber / Stoller number ‘I’m Feeling Too Good Today Blues’ which has a kittenish touch worthy of Eartha Kitt but of course Harriet’s vocal timbre is the other end of the spectrum. The muted trumpet is a cool touch. The strutting ‘I Love Being Here With You’ could have been a straight Peggy Lee copy, but isn’t – Coleman is being Coleman;  The trumpet is liquid, emphatic and the sax break just about throaty enough…but doesn’t this song cry out for Hammond organ ??

The knowing Sammy Cahn lyric ‘Please Be Kind’ is in good hands, here ; my favourite though on this set is undoubtedly ‘Call Me Darling’ – Coleman sounds absolutely at home and natural here, the key for the vocal is spot on  ( as it is for all the selections, I would add) and the sax offsets perfectly judged. The rhythm section is a bit laidback here but the piano sparkles, yet again.   The bass and drums dynamic however makes ‘I Won’t Dance’ a beautiful reading of the song.  Title cut ‘ Lucky To Be Me’ is another joy, fine singing and pacing..would have made a great flute feature.

An upbeat, swinging collection that breaks no musical boundaries but satisfies the ears and shows everyone off well – this lady makes songs come to life and makes it look easy

Pete Sargeant      www.fairhearing.co.uk

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The Moons


Heart and Soul
CD single -  Schnitzel Records

This Midlands rock group formed some five or six years ago, their last single was a stormer and this latest cut ‘Heart and Soul’ is apparently from an album due soon and entitled ‘ Mindwaves’. I for one can’t wait to hear the new collection and when it, er..’drops’..are you supposed to say ‘drops’ this week ? – it’ll be straight on to my turntable for likely repeat plays. Really, this is the sort of act that will sound better roaring off fresh vinyl , their electric guitar sound  and edgy vocals having a tinge of classic UK rock combo’s like The Action or The Creation. The big trap of being a veteran writer is only liking the stuff that reminds you of your youth – the conservative approach. But like Temples (who I saw last week) this does have a punch that will draw in new young listeners ( bombarded as the poor saps are by a chart which is a deluge of camp synth pop and lame rapping) thirsting for something to punch the air to and – ahem – rock conneisseurs who know commitment and honed skills when they hear it…

Andy Crofts is a sharp writer thankfully not having the Weller fetish that infects the younger moddy bands – I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a Warren Zevon fan (and I hope he is ). Here, he has slashing guitars over a GlamRock stomp and crisp horns that is impactful and catchy, with its descending chord tread after the verse  .A hint of Bowie solidifies as the song batters on..’I would like to be, set free’ goes the lyric and love has crashed, evidentlyfor the singer. A tinny trilling guitar rides out the fade and a wobbling electronic wave dies. Splendid stuff !  and SO radio-friendly..if radio would only wake up and DO ITS JOB !  they should rush a copy over to Miami Steve van Z for his rockin’ radio show in the States and I thank them for mine.  The Moons deserve to tour with the Jim Jones Review or the New York Dolls – they are that good

Pete Sargeant     www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Jenny Green

Caught A Touch Of Your Love

www.jennygreensings.com

One of the great ironies of music is that the jazz scene gives a home to some types who a/ think they know what jazz is and what it is not – viz. the self-appointed arbiters of what should be acceptable as ‘jazz music’ and b/ just will not listen to anything at all outside their perceived boundaries.  Losers in every sense, cutting themselves off from new experiences and (worse) frowning at those of more liberal disposition.    To me, jazz is about improvisation, not playing or singing the same piece the same way next time, the interplay of performers, sharing what results. It is music that shouldn’t be gathering dust or hived off into ghettos of snobbery…

Hence all the more reason to treasure and encourage artists like Jenny Green. She has the ability to make songs swing, melodies float and rhythms grip. Moreover the skill to deliver a lyric with a freshness many would envy. Our Jen teaches, performs, fronts groups, collaborates and even runs jazz get-togethers firing up young and old, veteran and novice to get up and make music together. Some of us players like to explore a love for jazz at her soirees whilst playing shows elsewhere in distinctly different musical areas ; others have established themselves as jazz performers and don’t venture beyond associated venues or audiences. Whatever your approach, jams such as Jenny’s are an entirely positive force and enrich the scene – many is the time I have taken people who ‘don’t like jazz’ to a JG show and they have enjoyed virtually all of the acts, admitting so afterwards.

Green’s previous release displayed her versatility and so does this new set. She is skilled at singing popular music and does so in public eg Van Morrison, Beatles, Petula Clark and some times to these ears when in jazz vein seems to be as musically influenced by instrumental players as by other singers, for instance the way she might sustain a note or phrase just as a sax player would or even deliver with a touch of the percussionist’s swaying pace or a staccato influence. Not that this would be by design, Jenny is just a natural and gimmick-free singer. There is no Bassey overkill, no Streisand flared-nostril camping. Best of all, Green’s style is not modelled on any particular performer. She has heard it all and has a limitless choice of approach. Luckily for her, her singing sits well on all types of instrumentation

On this collection, Sean Hargreaves’ production and arrangements seem to aim at a ‘picture frame’ ambience, creating a backdrop over which Jenny can make the lyric happen and the melodies roll. No shocks or surprises, no bombast. What results is listenable, smooth in the good sense of making linear sense but avoiding any OTT touches and…. satisfyingly rich

Highlights include the Lena Horne-tinged pumping blues of ‘Hum Drum Blues’, such a Noo Yawk horn chart and swaggering Winston Clifford drums plus a Hargreaves piano break ; the knowing reading of ‘You Turned The Tables On Me’ with its Latin cadences and well-paced Neville Malcolm bass. The horn and reed players – Bryan Corbett, Ed Jones, Duncan Lamont and Trevor Myers sound particularly pokey on the title cut which has a Horace Silver roll about it and has maybe the best vocal performance on the record offset by a smokey sax outing, the piano playing across time. The old pop hit ‘The More I See You’ is taken at a very leisurely tempo and very Grover Washington sax sound. Thus it is a more reflective take on the song than the usual snappy run. Should definitely have used a Rhodes or Wurlitzer keyboard here though, to take the chill off the chord progression, methinks. The breezy ‘Let’s Get Lost’ is my favourite cut here and Jenny makes this work so well, an irresistible invitation of a song. Green on a Bacharch tune is always going to work – here we get ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ and from the crisp drum intro this works a treat, try keeping your toes still……outro number is Rodgers & Hart’s ‘This Funny World’ no less and gets a subtle and subdued setting …that works.

So – a well-produced jazz vocal record not stuffed with cliché song choices and sung sweetly and emphatically by one the scene’s true characters. If this sounds like your stop – jump on !

Pete Sargeant       www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Charlie Landsborough

With The Beatles

A conversation – Part One

We are pretty much in this performer’s corner – he composes, he sings, he leads cracking roots-music lineups, he tells worse jokes than your scribe, he has time for his followers..and if he does a version of another artist’s song, he adds a little something of his own. Charlie’s take on ‘City of New Orleans’ on his previous studio album is a great example. I think we’re really talking about authenticity here, as Landsborough has great knowledge of the music he loves and he can recognise that in others

Hence when we heard that Charlie was bringing out his versions of favourite Beatles songs, we asked to chat to him about the album and especially his choices. The record is called ‘Here, There & Everywhere’ with the cover photo’s showing various Landsboroughs by the Cavern Club in Liverpool, he living not far away. He tells us that he’ll be featuring a few of the new cuts in his forthcoming tour

FH : When I heard that this record was coming through for me to hear before I called you, I did two things, for my own amusement. One was to jot down what Beatles songs I might attempt if I was doing versions and then the ones I thought YOU might do

CL : (Laughs) Ah !!! That’s an idea, Pete…

..and not one of the b—–s I chose for you, have you done !!

(Chuckling) Well..initially, the whole thing’s a huge departure for me cos’ I usually do me own stuff. Here. The record company said ‘Charlie, we want you to do a Beatles songs album for us ..now perhaps they were thinking ahead of the game and realising it was the 50th anniversary of the first Beatles hits, y’know..generally I much prefer to do me own material, I am a great Beatles fan it’s true and I loved the wealth of diversity of the stuff they were getting through..so the first hurdle I suppose was picking the songs to try.  But they give us free rein there on choices..so it stays personal if you like..’you sort it out between you’ was their line..so I thought we’ll do ones I am enthusiastic about as the key, it wouldn’t work for me doing a song in a kind of disgruntled manner..so it was a panel or collective of two, really to set things rolling on choices and then start work..there’s some fantastic guitar work on there…

You ain’t kidding !!! I had made a note to talk about THAT !

Now John, me guitar player who you saw with us on some recent gigs, he’s left, he’s moved to Ireland. I was with him on Monday night, we’re still the best of mates..what a player ! ( he is a Mike Campbell type guitarist, uncannily framing every vocal and solo’ing when needed – PS) And we have Yazz  – the ‘Only Way Is Up’ girl helping us with the backing vocals, so I have some smashing music on there..(Laughs)..I just hope I sit on top of it OK ! because releasing an album like this ..you’re up for all sorts of criticism and I’m therefore releasing it with bated breath..I just hope people will like my take on these fine songs

But you’ve really just confirmed how I started this, because the diversity of what the Beatles did is the nub..here they were, very quickly moving from rock’n’roll and Motown covers to their own songs, their own ideas and styles..not being the Tin Pan Alley ‘you’ll sing this, you’ll wear this’ template..if you went in to the studio again, you’d probably choose some different songs to do..just for the record, Charlie …my ones would be ‘Rain’, ‘Norwegian Wood’ which I speed up as if the Byrds wrote it..”Happy Just To Dance With You’..and in Spin The Wheel the other singer brought in ‘You Won’t See Me’..from ‘Rubber Soul’

Oh I love ‘Rubber Soul’ – that’s a favourite

It’s about Jane Asher..Paul wasn’t sure whether they were still an item

That’s a great song ! – I should have been performing with them..now this shows you how poor the band I was in was but I was playing lead guitar ! and our drum kit was one snare drum and we were supposed to be playing at the Grosvenor Ballroom in Wallasey.this was with The Silver Beatles as they were called then..but for whatever reason, I never made it and that’s one me regrets. And then years later I was playing in a band in Liverpool ..now Eddie who played pedal steel with us, he had Ringo as his Best Man and when Apple started, Ringo said to send some stuff down for him to sort..and he never did !! so we missed the boat on a couple of occasions…my happy knack of being in the right place at the wrong time and vice versa ! I joined the Army and was languishing in some remote part of Germany ..meanwhile half of Merseyside was being signed up..and I came home on leave when the Beatles returned to Liverpool ..they played the Empire..Chris Montez and Tommy Roe, two American performers were on the bill..they were full of the Transatlantic schmaltz and showbiz and all that..then the Beatles bounced on and the place went mad of course and there was one girl screaming her head off and John Lennon – I remember this well – called over and said ‘Shut up, love – I’m trying to sing here !!’..after what had gone before it was so refreshing..and they were fantastic..I do wish I had met them earlier on, y’know

The interesting thing here. Charlie – your singing voice is nothing like John’s or Paul’s. Or George’s or even Ringo’s..but there is a guy in the FourMost who sings a bit like you…if anything your voice has the occasional touch in phrasing of Billy J Kramer but more so an American guy called Bob Lind

(Warmly) Oh yeah ! I know both of them…

So I’m thinking – he’s not going to imitate the original lead vocals, is he ? it HAS to sound his own

That’s pretty much how it went, mate! You’re spot on there ! it was good fun putting the songs together and doing the arrangements and we did medley a few of the songs, for the flow ..there’s certain riffs and bits that you have to put in..but over the top of it ? ..God forbid that I would ever try to be anyone but meself ! I greatly admire many other artists who are far better singers and songwriters than me and I’d be a phoney to try anything else, the way I see it. So hopefully what will communicate is my own little take ..at the end of the day I can only do what I do..

IN PART TWO, Charlie and Pete discuss the chosen songs and much more…

CHARLIE LANDSBOROUGH ‘Here There & Everywhere’ is out on EDSEL 7th April 2014

Pete Sargeant               www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Ward Thomas


Footnotes EP
Wardthomasmusic.com

At the London launch of this EP, the female duo were introduced as 19 year old twins who write songs, sing them and LOVE The Dixie Chicks…that’s as may be but on this show and showing they will be bringing something of their own to the country-rock-pop scene, notwithstanding coming from Hampshire, England

Backed by a light percussion chap and another acoustic guitarist, the songs on this release where put over with punch, occasional tenderness and not a little (natural) charm. The ace up their sleeve is that the girls’ voices are not identical, Sorry  don’t know which is which, but the one In gave the record launch congrats card to has the slightly clearer authoritative voice and her sibling a slightly fuzzier, sweeter touch. So when they sing together..its a rich blend and quite an asset, making them distinct from the nearest similar acts – notably The Webb Sisters who from Troubadour Club beginnings where we first met them now split their time between own gigs and touring with Laughing Lenny Cohen…

Single ‘ The Good & The Right’ is not a hymn to David Cameron but rather a catchy rockin’ lil number loaded with banjo’s, guitars, a snappy snare and a descending chord passage. The voices are sweet and persistent and yes, pretty strong, with a subtle string arrangement to boot..obviously a nod to The Dixie Chicks down to the softer solo vocal segment, the chorus waiting to burst back, fiddles et al  ; ‘Footnotes’ is a more tender piece taken at a steady pace and with a hint of Alison Moorer or Suzy Boguss – as listenable as any pop-country out there  ; ‘Take That Train’ is a shuffling and more breathy number with trilling piano and a syncopated rhythm plus the sort of tunefulness that made Dolly Parton a mint and a theme park..I swear Dolly would love this pair, their voices blend so well. Neat guitar at the end of this ; closer ‘Caledonia’ is rather solemn and lined to a documentary about Scotland, if I heard correctly.? ( I wonder if they’d like to use my song about separation – ‘Hit The Road, Jock’ ?)   Very folky and elemental.

A tuneful debut and let’s see where they go from here – a bit of luck with radio is what they need

Pete Sargeant    www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Simon Kent


Dreams & Memories
www.twitter.com/simonkentmusic

Starting off with an insistent acoustic guitar with a middleweight tuneful vocal in reflective mode…I am reminded of the blissed-out album of a few summers ago by Public Symphony with its sitting in the park at dusk on a warm evening vibe. The song is ‘Everything’s Alright’ and this is followed by another mellow summer night number ‘See You Fly’, the vocal more relaxed and it must be said, poetic.

Kent is an English South Coast cat and puts his voice over subtle guitars and gentle keys /electronica  on this and several other cuts. Throughout he retains his melodic and tuneful touch so a times it’s as if he’s the young chilled out relative of, say, Travis or Del Amitri – and none the worse for that.  Some of the songs are more memorable than others – eg ‘Over the World’ with its hints of The East ( no, not Dover) which needs a (real) string arrangement to release its potential ; the beautiful ‘Inside Your Heart’ where he sings with a soft but assured touch over a gorgeous melody and too-hesitant guitars..now what a terrific duet this would make with a female singer ! A truly fine composition, Mr Kent. The closer ‘Give Me Back That Moment’ is Simon’s Nick Drake moment and the heavier backing falling in is just right, enforcing the song’s tunefulness with a neat guitar tone on the single-note passages.

So far, so listenable and at times exceptional. But what fascinates this scribe is the uncanny and likely unconscious similarity to Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon in Kent’s phrasing…the closer has this but more so on ‘Spaced Out Refugee’ which could be a superior Duran out-take !  However the song itself is Kent’s of course….intriguing, though …wonder whether he is a Duran fan  ?

In summary, a good set of tuneful songs, well-delivered and with good contributions from other participants in particular the on-the-money drumming viz. ‘Over The World’ (James Walker) and its desert drift . a tougher track or two would have balanced the record up a bit. Maybe this is remedied in a live set ?  we shall see…..

Pete Sargeant    www.fairhearing.co.uk

SIMON KENT

Dreams & Memories

www.twitter.com/simonkentmusic

Starting off with an insistent acoustic guitar with a middleweight tuneful vocal in reflective mode…I am reminded of the blissed-out album of a few summers ago by Public Symphony with its sitting in the park at dusk on a warm evening vibe. The song is ‘Everything’s Alright’ and this is followed by another mellow summer night number ‘See You Fly’, the vocal more relaxed and it must be said, poetic.

Kent is an English South Coast cat and puts his voice over subtle guitars and gentle keys /electronica on this and several other cuts. Throughout he retains his melodic and tuneful touch so a times it’s as if he’s the young chilled out relative of, say, Travis or Del Amitri – and none the worse for that. Some of the songs are more memorable than others – eg ‘Over the World’ with its hints of The East ( no, not Dover) which needs a (real) string arrangement to release its potential ; the beautiful ‘Inside Your Heart’ where he sings with a soft but assured touch over a gorgeous melody and too-hesitant guitars..now what a terrific duet this would make with a female singer ! A truly fine composition, Mr Kent. The closer ‘Give Me Back That Moment’ is Simon’s Nick Drake moment and the heavier backing falling in is just right, enforcing the song’s tunefulness with a neat guitar tone on the single-note passages.

So far, so listenable and at times exceptional. But what fascinates this scribe is the uncanny and likely unconscious similarity to Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon in Kent’s phrasing…the closer has this but more so on ‘Spaced Out Refugee’ which could be a superior Duran out-take ! However the song itself is Kent’s of course….intriguing, though …wonder whether he is a Duran fan ?

In summary, a good set of tuneful songs, well-delivered and with good contributions from other participants in particular the on-the-money drumming viz. ‘Over The World’ (James Walker) and its desert drift . a tougher track or two would have balanced the record up a bit. Maybe this is remedied in a live set ? we shall see…..

Pete Sargeant www.fairhearing.co.uk

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Charlotte Church

EP 4
alligator wine records
www.charlottechurchmusic.co.uk

Or CCEP4, as I am tagging this series. And this time our intrepid songsmith and singer floats us into the world of mathematics and scientific curiosity…..the live launch of the record at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith had the new tracks weaved between spoken scientific quotes pondering beliefs and possibilities underlining the dream-like ambience of the material. On the previous EPs there has been a very surreal flavour to the music which tumbles from hard-banging and mostly harsh beats to synth washes and passing sound clouds hissing with distortion and hints of phasing and flanging. Though two eager acoustic drummers are used live, the overall feel of the ensemble music and backdrop is very electronic and for me a tad cold. But this isn’t a group I could play in, not that this prevents me appreciating the construction and the skills evident here. The players led by Jon Powell are fired and fuelled so this is light years in style from, say, Kraftwork or Neu. Hence any warmth at all has to come from Charlotte Church’s voice and on these records, she’s sparse with it

I’ve said it before, but no UK singer can get near this woman for power and tuneful roar. Or has ever, in this sphere of music.  Most electro-pop chanteuse go the whispery / breathy route over electronica whereas Church is controlling the power of her vocal output for the 5th gear at strategic moments, it is then she lets everything go and the listener is right in the jetstream. All credit to her recent EP debut sound guys for capturing her rush of notes and keeping the middle intact, it cannot be easy to harness at times. Roger McGuinn was in similar territory on The Byrds’ Chestnut Mare…

The cuts :  ‘Entanglement’ has a jungle drums intro and there is that careening voice jetting into the soundscape, sustained notes over a grainy Hammond and with pretty guitar figures like sonic butterflies flittering across the rhythm. Insistent as a song and her heart sounds in. Klaxons and clicking decorate the song. ‘Love Alone’ has a pure Bowie ‘Low’ era stark tempo and prominent (plectrum ?) bass guitar against eerie keys. A hint of the operatic ballad in the vocal and the number is very Berlin (the city not the group) and the phrasing is very David Bowie to these ears. It’s the ill-at-ease rhythm and harsh snare.

‘Little Movements’ is already a fan favourite and is taken at a softer pace initially. A hint of vocoding on the voice – sorry guys this is a criminal offence, THAT voice should never be treated as it can only detract. Not to worry, we are soon in a lightweight funk chattery passage with a mix of tones that suggest ZE label’s mutant dance era. Messy but sticks in the mind.  ‘Death & Mathematics’ is the winner for me here, again a Bowie-ish tempo and that lovely voice, subtle and skybound. By far the best melody on this disc and so beautiful it almost aches as the synth strings float along. A biting guitar figure snaps at the heel of the vocal with the rhythm section almost accommodating its force. It’s kind of Zero 7 territory in Tina Dico times, ethereal and haunting. “Hood Shade’ begins a shade hesitantly and with a held-back vocal. Sax and organ nod to soul but we are not in Memphis, amigos and no dance beat emerges. Instead a trumpet noodles and suddenly Charlotte is in full voice as the beat hardens into a rockier mode. Then a swift pastoral fade.  Pretty weird !

Layered voice phrases start “Love’ which I think is a single. A choir of Churches and a plunge into what Georgio Moroder would consider a Latin beat, but briefly. This is a tone poem or mini-operetta whichever way you approach it. Again the vocal is powered and tuneful and it rounds the record off with a very positive vibe via a looped sequence…puts me in mind of Bowie’s lad’s ‘Moon’ film somehow..I bet CC has watched that ?

Individual, adventurous, heartfelt…but again, not for everyone

Pete Sargeant     www.fairhearing.co.uk

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