Robb Johnson
Minimum Wages
Irregular Records

Hard On the Heart But Still Telling It Like It Is

I can only apologise to everyone associated with this album, as I somehow managed to download it then upload it to my phone, then play it over and over again during some very acrimonious Pay Talks at my day job …. while somehow not adding it to the Reviews Spreadsheet!
Better late than ever.
Robb is an old-fashioned singer-songwriter with no real pretentions’ of headlining Glastonbury; being more or less happy to ply his trade in Folk Clubs, Union Halls and the more intimate Festivals on the circuit; and the world is certainly the better for having him and his observations in it.
The opening track Fiddler In The Rain is deceptively lovely; starting as it does with:
Look there’s a child who holds a rainbow
Who walks at her mother’s side
The story unravels quite literally and it’s somehow darkly beautiful as Robb describes the of a Comrade’s funeral cortege led by said Fiddler in the Rain ….. which eventually leads to a recording of Lorraine Tillbrook leading a parade of 6 key workers at that years Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival while the crowds clap.
This is followed by Last Night of The Proms; which should make everyone who actually hears it blood angry.
Being a songwriter of some repute Johnson manages to shoehorn in some very relevant topics post-Brexit into a story revolving around the most British of institutions; The Last Night of the Proms in a way I never thought possible; and the chorus (if you can call it that) should certainly make you ‘think.’
The Tories outlawed Robin Hood
and cut down 100 Acre Wood
then closed down British Industry
so let’s all blame some refugees
It would be nice to think Ed Sheeran or Adele might cover this at some time.
The cool thing about Johnson’s songs are that there’s often a delightful shaft of light somewhere to counteract the darkness of his Political rants (no matter how deserved); which is where My Quiet Flame and My Very Best of Friends come into the equation; and of course the entirely fabulous Great Aunt Gladys, which begins with the twittering of some birds before Robb tells this wonderful woman’s story; starting at the end of WWI and ending many years later after a lifetime fighting for not just her own rights; but the rights of people who didn’t even know they had rights.
When I write my reviews I genuinely wonder if anyone ever actually buys the CD because of my prose; and here I presume Robb’s fans will buy this anyway regardless of a review on t’internet; but I really, really hope at least one person goes crazy and parts with £10 because then they will get to hear the likes of the tragically beautiful Sister Reynardine and the prescient and heartbreaking Hartlepool Asda, Saturday Morning.
Then there’s two other songs that not just made my blood boil; but made me proud that there’s still someone out there carrying on Woody Guthrie’s tradition …… first there’s the powerful ode to the Battle of Orgreave during the minor English Civil War, which was the Miners’ strike in 1984 ….. This Is Your History; but the history that is taught at the tea table across the North; but not in their schools.
This is followed by the contemporary Minimum Wages; which was a song that helped me get through those angry weeks of the pay negotiations; which we won but it was a hollow victory, as the pay rise only gives many of us coppers over said Minimum Wages ….. and Robb Johnson manages to cut through the fog we are all smothered in with his razor sharp observations.
While primarily a solo artist; Robb is joined her by a variety of musician friends who add their talents on Flugelhorn, Fiddle, Accordion, piano and of course an assortment of wonderful harmonies too.
OK these songs are as generally as hard on the heart as they are on the ear; but howway man; 2021 hasn’t been a barrel of laughs; has it?
Somebody had to tell it like it is ….. and with Billy Bragg no longer being that man/person ; we must now look to Robb Johnson.

Released October 2021



Jeff Tweedy CHELSEA WALLS (Soundtrack)

Original Music by Jeff Tweedy
Chelsea Walls OST
Omnivore Recordings

An Interesting Collection for Tweedy and Wilco Completists and Mix-Tape Compilers.

Ethan Hawke’s directorial movie debut in 2001, “Chelsea Walls” saw Jeff Tweedy and Hawke being connected by a few degrees of separation and Tweedy creating the soundtrack.
The press release explains the context quite succinctly:

Tweedy had collaborated with musician and producer Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth, Stereolab) for a special live performance.
As fate would have it, O’Rourke had been working with Glenn Kotche, and O’Rourke introducing Tweedy to Kotche would lay the groundwork for the trio’s work together on the debut album by their band, Loose Fur. Tweedy also asked Kotche to work with him on an improvised soundtrack to the movie he had agreed to score. The relationships moved past Loose Fur and the Chelsea Walls soundtrack.
Wilco was in the process of a creative sea change, the result of which would be the modern-day masterpiece, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Kotche joined Wilco and O’Rourke mixed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

So, with all this taken on board, what does it actually sound like?
I must admit, when I read the word “improvised” I felt a cold shudder, fearing the worst excesses of noodling.
There’s some of that for sure, but the opening two tracks featuring Tweedy and Kotche are based around repetitive melodic riffing and howls of distortion which make them more palatable.
Taken out of the audio-visual context, they do prompt the listener (Confession – I’m not familiar with the film) to create their own scenarios; and for me, they threw up violent city-scapes.

Third track is Wilco performing the “Promising”, with acoustic guitar to the fore in the mix and Tweedy’s instantly recognisable vocal pushed back a little.
It may say “Wilco” on the tin, but it feels more like a solo Tweedy effort.

“Frank’s Dream” is Tom Waits like in title and in performance – brushed snare and hi-hat along with melancholic piano create a soundscape that is indeed somewhat trance-like.
Odd stops and starts obviously tie into the visuals, but jar the audio-only experience.
This is followed by the much more familiar “When The Roses Bloom Again” – in this mix, credited to Billy Bragg and Wilco, there’s very little (if any) of the former and more organ wash and more of a Country feel than I recall from other versions I’ve previously heard.

Jimmy Scott follows with “Jealous Guy” – yes, that “Jealous Guy”.
This is a gorgeous, gritty slow New Orleans jazz take on the Lennon song. If I was making a mixtape from this album, this would definitely make the cut.
This is juxtaposed with “The Wallman”, a Tweedy/Kotche instrumental which sounds like it got lost on drugs somewhere near the Amelie soundtrack, with its stoned musette accordion drone and tinkling xylophone.

“The Lonely 1” credited to Robert Sean Leonard and Steve Zahn features a close mic-ed confessional vocal, one take picked guitar and somewhat painfully discordant intro violin. It’s an interesting take on the Wilco song from a historical perspective, but my familiarity with their version means I’ll be sticking with it. It’s back to more riffing between Tweedy and Kotche on “Hello, Are You There?” – a looped guitar with distorted harmonica over the top is what this one’s about.

It’s back to Robert Sean Leonard again on “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling”, a short, delicate, impromptu off the cuff rendition of the gospel song on guitar and vocal.
“Finale” takes the looped guitar route again – both in the standard and bonus extended version in the release -overlay this with glockenspiel sounding keys and you get the idea.
“End credits” concludes matters in the standard release, unsurprisingly and it’s a more rounded melodic loop with added snare and eastern guitar snatches.
There’s a further bonus track after this – Robert Sean Leonard’s take on “Promising” which almost sounds more like Wilco than Wilco!

All in all, this is a release which is going to appeal for the most part to a select audience -mainly for Tweedy and Wilco completists and mix-tape compilers, who’ll mine this for the nuggets it undoubtedly contains.

Review by Nick Barber
Released January 14th 2022



Anastasia Lynne
Girl With the Hourglass Eyes

Graceful, Personal and Articulate 21st Century AOR Singer Songwriter.

I know not a lot about Anastasia Lynne save she’s a singer-songwriter based in LA. Now normally I like a bit more background information prior to writing my reviews; but if this young lady wishes to remain being enigmatic; that works for me too; simply because it will be the songs and music that draw you and I into buying albums; isn’t it?
And the music here is quite extraordinary in many ways.
For an opening track on a debut album Beneath Us errs on the epic; starting with Ms Lynne using her amazing voice as an ‘instrument’ she stretches notes beyond recognition in a way many would associate with Adele; but this song and what follows is a lot more accessible in my opinion.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the songwriting here; solid as a rock and many songs sound like they come from the singer’s own relationships; but it’s her extraordinary voice that makes these songs sound so special.
When a song is titled Sensitive there’s always the fear that it can be a bit whiny and self-pitying; not so here; straddling the fine lines that Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon pioneered back in the 70’s and possibly Norah Jones has carried a torch for in recent years too, Anastasia delves deep and lets her feelings fly free and touch the hearts of whoever is listening; plus the album title is hidden in here too.
This is followed by Bothered, which could even be the flip side of the previous song and again, when you listen to the lyrics your heartbeat will race and your brain won’t know why.
In this day and age there are so many new musical genres it’s beyond baffling when I read some Press Releases; but here when you listen to the fabulous Close The Blinds or possibly Springtime your mind will be whisked back to the heady days when AOR ruled the airways; not that Ms Lynne is a Rocker by any stretch of the imagination; but that’s where this imaginative singer-songwriter probably most comfortably sits; and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Now; with only seven tracks to choose from you’d think selecting a single Favourite Song would be easy; but this fully formed EP/LP is so full of classy singing and songwriting you could stick a pin in and find a Favourite to suit a particular mood; but I’ve narrowed it down to two songs; the intimate Take Me Further, which sounds uncannily like a young Emmylou Harris singing a Joni Mitchell song to my ears …… and yes; the standard here really is that high.
The other is called In a Dream and for no real definitive reason it sends a shiver down my spine each time I hear it; and the melody and instrumentation is so intensely claustrophobic you feel her pain in every note of the four and a half minutes.
As I said earlier finding a comfortable spot to place this album in 2021 isn’t easy, as Anastasia Lynne is patently a singer-songwriter, but that covers a multitude of arenas; so the best way to describe it is to say were any of these songs to turn up on a radio show alongside Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Jackson Browne and Joan Armatrading they wouldn’t sound out of place at all.

Released November 5th 2021


RMHQ Readers Top 20 Reviews 2021

Ho Ho Ho boys and girls, …… her’s the Annual RMHQ Readers Top 20 Reviews of 2021.
As usual it’s a simple formula based on the amount of actual ‘hits’ each review received during the year.
Some peaked and faded after a week on the site, others have smouldered all year having numerous peaks and troughs.
My annual gripe about Labels, artists and their Press People not promoting the reviews comes to the fore yet again, as several very important releases by ‘name’ acts don’t even make it into the Top 200 reviews out of 280 we published; yet the Top 20 reviews were coincidentally all ‘promoted’ on Twitter and Facebook by these people and the stats rocketed (as did sales three acts assured and thanked me).

I’m pleased, nay thrilled that the list is as an eclectic mix of acts both local and unsigned sitting alongside household names; plus there’s a fascinating selection of genres (but no Jazz!) as I’d hope for and represents what we try to do week in and week out.


Anyway; here’s the Top 20 in reverse order and trust me; there are some absolute belters in here.

20= Archie Brown – DIDDLEY BOW
20= Gordie Tentrees MEAN OLD WORLD
18 Felice Brothers FROM DREAMS TO DUST
17 Liz Jones & The Broken Windows BRICKS AND MARTYRS
16 Grand Nationals (Bill Meyer) NEW OLD STOCK
15 Sarah Klang VIRGO
14 Roger Chapman LIFE IN THE POND
13 Shawn Pittman STOMPIN’ SOLO
12 Jason Ringenberg RHINESTONED
11 Danny & The Champions of the World LOS CAMPEONES EN VIVO
08= Rory Gallagher RORY GALLAGHER (50th Anniversary)
07 Five Points Gang WANTED
06 Araluen AND THERE IT IS
05 Shipcote & Friends POP PICKERS
04 Dean Owens & Calexico DESERT TRILOGY
02 Brinsley Schwarz TANGLED
01 The Daintees THE BOYS HEART


Anna Lavigne
Roses For the Ride
Barbaraville Records

Grown-Up Late Night Avant Garde Dinner Jazz Loveliness With a touch of Celtic Charm Too.

Even though I’d met her a couple of times in the preceding twelve months I was totally unprepared for the sheer loveliness and all around quality of Anna Lavigne’s debut album ANGELS IN SANDHOES in 2020; and when she got in touch a couple of weeks ago regarding this release I was genuinely worried that she and Producer Martin G Stephenson could hit those heady heights a second time, in a year.
More fool me!
The couple appear to have created a distinctive ‘sound’ that pulls several genres together, that in lesser hands could be a right mish-mash; but here, turns out to be quite stunning; starting with the delightful Yellowhammer Way, which has an Avant-Garde/singer-songwriter feel to it; and reminds me very much of a young Marianne Faithfull about it; yet tucked away in the shadows is a distinctly Folky fiddle ….. and it works so well.
This is followed by French Honeysuckle Mood which turns things upside down by being a gorgeous Jazz-Lite missive that literally purrs with every note and stanza. Also; it’s the type of song that even someone like me could imagine what the accompanying video ‘should’ look like.
As a long time fan of Martin G Stephenson I can tell that his hands are all over the production here; but Anna’s voice and her songs are unlike anything he’s ever released under his own name.
Even if you’re playing this album as ‘background music’ you will nonchalantly find yourself tapping your foot or hand along with the melodies; which Ms Lavigne is never afraid to use to compliment her smoky late night singing style on the likes of Foolish Heart, Lila or the finale Last Song, which just oozes 60’s grooviness ala Ms Faithfull and/or Sandie Shaw.
While there’s generally a laid back vibe to most of these songs; Anna can go deep when she feels the mood; which is where the dark and doomy This Time comes into the equation; full of garage-guitars and lightly but firmly brushed cymbals too.
I know exactly where this album fits in my collection; but the wider population? I’m less sure; and with no money tree to shake for a marketing budget; the likes of Uncut and The Guardian readers are going to miss out on an album that has the capacity to change their lives; with Nostalgie de la Boue and the gorgeous Foolish heart in particular, which somehow adds a slight reggae lilt to the Dinner Jazz sound that alongside Anna’s enchanting voice to create a song that will stop them right in their tracks at their Saturday night dinner parties; or Sunday mornings drinking strong coffee and reading the papers on the boulevards of Shoreditch and Bearsden.
I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve played this album in the last few days; it just has that effect on you; with two songs that are especially magical yet from opposite ends of Anna Lavigne’s musical spectrum; Old Road is as Folky as this album gets; but with an Americana sensibility too as Anna dips her toes into Nanci Griffith territory; and the harmonica/guitar parts sound absolutely wonderful too; which then leads me to my Favourite Song by a gnat’s hair ….. Mindblown, which again dabbles with 60’s grooviness before Anna comes out of leftfield with a startling and timeless song that will mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people at different stages of their lives; which is quite some achievement.

While Martin is very involved with this project; and many of his fans will be interested simply because of that ….. but be under no illusions; this is very much an Anna Lavigne record and all the better for that; as she has a rare talent that needs to be admired because of its very own quality.

Anna Lavigne: Lead & Backing Vocals & Piano
Martin Stephenson: All guitars, Dobro, Harmonica, Keys
Ivan Korop: Gipsy Jazz Guitar track 7
Niles Krieger: Mandolin tracks 1 & 4, and Violin track 1
Bruce Michie: Tenor & Baritone Saxes, Trumpet, Trombone & Clarinet
Al Thomson: Tenor Saxophone tracks 2 & 6
Edmund John Sloggie: Accordion
Chris Mordey: Electric Bass
Graham Anderson: Double Bass
Charlie Smith: Drums & Percussion

Released November 5th 2021

Neil Young BARN

Neil Young

Class Never Sleeps or Even Fades Away

I’m pretty sure that I was sent this album by the label by mistake last night; as I’ve never had a thing from them before …… but hey, maybe RMHQ has finally hit the BIG TIME!
Oddly enough I’d actually read a review earlier in the week and it left me intrigued; but not intrigued enough to buy it I hasten to add.
Just like Bob Dylan; any new release (plus re-releases and outtakes sadly) is greeted like the Second Coming by the popular press; but usually ignored by the likes of us at RMHQ; so where does Neil sit alongside the myriad of young pretenders in December 2021?
The album opens with Song of The Seasons, with Neil retracing his acoustic steps around about Harvest Moon; with wheezing harmonica, simple guitar and a world weary vocal on a story of aging love and just plain aging; all done in a way that Neil trademarked nearly 50 years ago.
Then the guitars are cranked up to 8 on track #2 Heading West; thankfully not Arc/Weld levels and even more thankfully Neil’s vocals are at the top of the mix; so you can hear his apposite words in a manner that scores of Alt. Country bands have tried to replicate unsuccessfully, whereas Young and Crazy Horse do it ever so naturally.
To me, that is the strength and weakness of this album. While each individual song is worthy of release; there’s no real ‘direction’ to the overall album.
For once I can’t criticise any single song here; as each and every song are at the very least ‘good,’ while in the past as I felt that the quality control after Chrome Dreams II left a lot to be desired.
Again, just like Dylan, Young’s hardcore acolytes will spend more time poring over ‘hidden meanings’ and possible repeated melodies than they will just bloody sitting down and enjoying the album as entertainment; which is exactly what they will do on his biographical Canerican; which is a great description of what he actually is after all these years ….. don’t sweat it kids; just enjoy the ride.
In my defense I’ve loved hearing Neil and Crazy Horse again after all these years and they genuinely sound like they are enjoying themselves on the sweet Tumblin’ Through the Years, the crunchy and prophetic Human Race and last but not least, the sparky Change is Never Gonna Come; which sounds a bit like they are going for the title of Best and Sloppiest Bar Band in the World, previously held by the Faces.
As a sometime Neil Young fan; I’ve always prefered his acoustic songs best; as I think that they’re more suited to his intimate singing style; and he doesn’t disappoint with either They Might Be Lost and Don’t Forget Love which sounds as if he’d been listening to After the Goldrush the day before writing it.
Now, normally on a Neil Young album there’s either a single belting stand out track; or it takes a long time for one to seep into your Soul; and while the former isn’t the case here, I’m hoping that the dark and brooding Welcome Back and They Might Be Lost will be the latter. For an intricate band effort and a deceptively simple acoustic Folk Song, there’s a lot going on in the corners of these intricate arrangements; and they could both be the best Neil Young songs I’ve heard since Prairie Wind.
Normally I like to take at least a few days and plays to feel the mettle of an album; and today I’ve had to condense that into a Saturday morning …… but that’s what you do when you buy a record, isn’t it?
The first play is like opening a birthday present, the second – reading the instructions; then three and four being enjoying (or disliking) at your own leisure.
Me? I’ve actually enjoyed this a lot more than I expected, as I’ve got a few of his albums that never made it to a third play. BARN is now in the car and ready for a late night journey home.
Then, we have to ask ‘Where does BARN fit in Neil’s great canon of work’ ….. overall not even close to the Top Ten; but if you are looking at just the 21st Century, I’d say Top 3; and last but not least, if you’re +/- 25 years old and your Grandad gives you this as your first ever album by Neil Young (and Crazy Horse) you’re in for a veritable treat; as it’s got just about everything you need as a starting point to delve back into that humongous back catalogue.

Released 10th December 2021


2021 RMHQ Albums of the Year

We’ve had steady growth with both daily readers and associated ‘followers’ over the last few years which has been very flattering; but 2021 has been an oddity, but while our profile appears to have risen, judging by the amount of new albums we get offered and from ‘where (!!!!) but our overall readership has actually dropped back to 2017 levels, which has been worrying …. but while we’ve reviewed another wonderful and eclectic selection of albums; there’s hardly been any individual ‘big hitters,’ which might account for the drop.
Who knows; but with the edition of Tom and Bill to the existing writing team of myself, Nick, Roy and Bill it’s a case of Carry On Regardless whether you like it or not! (PS we are always on the lookout for new and aspiring writer/reviewers of any age, creed or colour …. editing done as a matter of course)
Anyway after a few false starts I’ve finally collated my very own Top 20 Albums of 2021 ….. as eclectic as you’d expect, with some great Blues and Soul releases mixing in with Folk and every shade of Country known to man; which is how I like it; and probably baring nothing in common with No Depression, Rolling Stone or Americana UK ….. which I think is a good thing.
There are albums from new artists to us and old friends too; with the criteria being that the individual albums had to surprise and please me in equal measures ….. which these all did (and a dozen more!)

20 Carolyn Wonderland TEMPTING FATE (October)
18 Vincent Neil Emerson VINCENT NEIL EMERSON (May)
17 Matt Hill aka Quiet Loner RETURN OF THE IDLE DRONES (Greedy Magicians Vol II ) October)
16 Brandi Vezina #DONTSETTLE (December)
15 Shipcote POP PICKERS (August)
14 Nathan Bell RED, WHITE and AMERICAN BLUES (It Couldn’t Happen Here) (October)
13 James Holvay SWEET SOUL SONG E.P (April)
12 Jason Ringenberg RHINESTONED (January and March)
11 Joanne Shaw Taylor THE BLUES ALBUM (September)
10 Robbin Kapsalis and Vintage #18 SOUL SHAKERS (October)
09 Curse of Lono PEOPLE IN CARS (December)
08 Heath Cullen SPRINGTIME IN THE HEART (April)
07 Tito Jackson UNDER YOUR SPELL (August)
06 Tommy Atkins TOMMY ATKINS (August)
05 Steve Earle JT
03 Ward Hayden and the Outliers FREE COUNTRY (August)
02 Malcolm Holcombe TRICKS OF THE TRADE (August)
01 Garrison Starr GIRL I USED TO BE (March)


Beans On Toast
Survival of the Friendliest
Bot Music

An Album That Exudes Summer and All of The Glories of Being In the Great Outdoors

Don’t you just hate it when you forget someone’s birthday? Especially when that someone is Jay McAllister, AKA Beans on Toast; who releases an album every year on his birthday, December 1st, and has done so for the last 10 years.
I nearly missed the release of this years ‘birthday present,’ for a variety of well intentioned reasons, but better late than never for a gift of this quality.
Straight away you know this is a collection of optimistic songs, even if the title doesn’t give you the idea, a glance at the track titles such as A Beautiful Place, Let’s Get Married Again, Not everybody Thinks We’re Doomed and Love Yourself give the game away.
2021 has been a hard year for everyone;and if someone is willing to look on the bright side and try to cheer us up then I’m all for it.
Working with Blane Harrison of the Mystery Jets who both produces and plays on the album, along with some help towards the writing too.
The opening track A Beautiful Place has that folkie quality reminiscence of Mumford and Son, it also serves as the closest thing to a title track; containing the line ‘survival of the friendliest’. ~
The phrase borrowed from the book Human Kind: A Hopeful History.
On Stones, he’s encouraging us to pick up stones and rather than throw them, look at their beauty and the possibilities they offer, building homes instead of walls.
Blow Volcano Blow is about creative construction, tearing down walls exploring possibilities and posits home as somewhere we are going to not somewhere we are coming from.
Not Everyone Thinks We Are Doomed, is exactly what it appears to be, countering the doom and gloom that fill our news feeds.
Because the world has always been wild and unpredictable, that’s half the fun of it and not everybody thinks we’re doomed.”
Tree of The Year encourages us to remember when we worshiped trees; and how our new ‘gods’ can be fickle and flawed while trees ask nothing for their fruit or shade.
With The Commons, we are back to more familiar beans territory, a protest song.
This call for the right to roam will appeal to all of us whose politics lean towards the anarchist. This should be every ramblers anthem.
Apples is another reflection on acorns growing into mighty oaks. It’s got a spoken word section that lifts this track beyond its simplicity and into something else altogether.
The whole album exudes Summer and the glories of being outdoors, this is the perfect music to have on your earbuds when walking in the countryside, or better yet listen to it at home and leave the buds behind when walking.
Take Beans On Toasts’ advice and listen to nature instead.
It’s a Beautiful Place.

Review courtesy Tom Gleeson

Released December 1st 2021



Chuck Berry
Live From Blueberry Hill
Dualtone Records

Quite Rightly the King of Rock & Roll and Here’s Why.

Even in 2021 I’m pretty sure the vast majority of adult Rock Music fans would think of Charles Edward Anderson Berry ahead of any other pretenders to the King of Rock & Roll throne …. yes/no?
To me, Chuck Berry is the most influential songwriter and performer in the history of Rock & Roll, as his songs have most definitely kick started the careers of a lot more acts over the last 65 years than anyone else …. and that includes Elvis btw.
This album is the culmination of a bunch of intimate concerts at the Blueberry Hill Club in St Louis during 2005/06 and is being released to celebrate what would have been his 95th Birthday.
First off you’re possibly asking ‘Does the world need another Chuck Berry retrospective; never mind a 15 year old Live Album’ …. probably the answer is a resounding No; but what the Hell! This is a blast …. so what’s not to like?
The first thing you notice while listening to opening track *Roll Over Beethoven is that it’s a tad slower than you’ll remember; but remember Chuck was about 80 when it was recorded so the arrangement is obviously adjusted accordingly; and when you hear the piano/guitar duel between Robert Lohr and Charle Berry III you will forget his age in a blink of an eye…. he still Rocks.
Most of the hits and favourites are here; and while some have aged better than others; and certain subjects are not as ubiquitous as they once were; but it’s still difficult not to sing-along with Oh Carol/Little Queenie and of course; Sweet Little Sixteen ….. but what the Hell; this is all about living our youth again isn’t it?
I’ve never seen Chuck play live; but even at this advanced age you can still hear the unbridled joy in his singing and playing during Let It Rock and Nadine, even though he must have played them tens of thousands over the years.
To my ears there are two new songs here; one called Bio, which is pretty much ‘what it says on the tin’ and while he sound like he’s having fun; I can think of a dozen better songs from his back catalogue that would have filled these four minutes better; but the slow and sensually Bluesy Mean Old World is a rare treat and certainly deserves its place here; and if nothing else, daughter Ingrid Berry’s harmonica playing is as soulful as it simply sizzles.
Without My Ding-a-Ling being here; choosing a Favourite song has to be a toss up between the majestic Rock & Roll Music and when Chuck announces … “Here’s Johnny now” you know exactly what’s about to happen; and even though the perennial Johnny B Goode has been a staple of every single Rock band at one time or another …… hearing it come from the vocal cords of Chuck Berry himself is simply a total joy to behold.
Yes, you can live without this release; but if you want to treat yourself or better still treat a young music fan; Christmas Day will really rock if this is on the turntable.

*Roll Over Beethoven ….. as I said earlier I believe Chuck Berry influenced far more acts than any other single human being; and as an example the first time I heard this song it was on WITH THE BEATLES album; and they didn’t do too badly, did they?

Released 17th December 2021


Bruce Cockburn GREATEST HITS (1970-2020)

Bruce Cockburn
Greatest Hits (1970-2020)
True North Records

A Mastercraftsman’s Work over 50 Marvellous and Interesting Years.

Living in the UK, as I do I wasn’t aware of Canadian Legend, Bruce Cockburn for 45 or more years of this magnificent retrospective; which is probably why I’ve become besotted with this album over the last week.
While Cockburn’s voice is instantly recognisable; each and every one of these tracks are inherently different and document how the singer and songwriter has not just evolved over that half century but experimented and seamlessly switched genres with ease as the years have gone by too.
The package starts with Going to the Country from his 1970 debut album; and beautifully charts a trip from Ottawa to Montreal in a sparkling solo acoustic style; and is followed by Musical Friends where Cockburn takes on the role of a full on band on a song that sounds very ‘New York’ to me.
Two very different songs from the same album set the scene for what is to follow, with Cockburn; unlike many of his contempories; resting on his laurels constantly repeating himself.

For me; and I suppose many who receive this Double Album as a Christmas present; there are surprises around every corner; not just with the songs but the accompanying photographs which seem to chart Bruce metamorphizing from his Elton John period via John Lennon until he becomes the handsome theologian we now know him as.
Obviously with thirty songs representing half a century of songwriting; everyone will like different periods; but quite a few songs have really caught my attention; especially the dark Bluesy duet with Kathryn Moses, Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long, the dreamy Wondering Where the Lions Are and the horribly imaginative If I Had a Rocket Launcher which should have been ‘of its time’; but is sadly still relevant about so many conflicts around the world in 2021!
As the first album unrolls and the second disc begins; we find Cockburn dabbling in 80’s and 90’s AOR but doing it in such a way People See Right Through You Waiting For a Miracle and, of course A Dream Like Mine, still sound fresh today.
Obviously not everyone Bruce Cockburn shared a stage or studio with 50 years ago are still on the scene never mind pertinent today, as he himself is …… but latter day songs like Listen For a Laugh, Open and the finale States I’m In could only have been written and performed by someone who has had a life well lived and is comfortable in his own skin.
With so many delights to choose from it’s not been easy selecting a single Favourite Song …… do I go for the prescient Coldest Night of the Year?
Any of the wryly observed Political opus’s, Call It Democracy, Stolen Land or If a Tree Falls?
Cockburn can really dig deep to write a love song too; so the melancholic shuffle Anything, Anytime, Anywhere has to be in the running as does All The Diamonds in the World from way back when in 1973; but a song from Cockburn’s Electro-AOR period in 1981 has stood the test of time; and somehow sounds like a soundtrack to the 21st Century …… The Trouble With Normal when played very loud is far and away the biggest surprise here for me; and therefore my Favourite Song.
Even though I have Bruce Cockburn’s last three releases; this retrospective has been illuminating from start to finish and really and truly showcases a Mastercraftsman at work over 50 marvellous and interesting years.

Released December 3rd 2021