Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Albums of 2014: Peter James Millson - Sweet The Love That Meets Return

Let me start by saying that I have thought long and hard about posting Albums Of 2014 so early in the year - but I know what I like and I like what I know (that sounds vaguely familiar in a Prog sort of way) - so for Albums that I know are going to make the list, well why not get them in early to give everyone an opportunity to seek out and get a few months more enjoyment if they feel so inclined as to invest.

I first came across Peter James Millson last year whilst searching for new music.

So I've been waiting for Peter to release his debut album for some time. Finally it's here. And it doesn't disappoint.

Last year, one of the best albums of 2013 was Stay True by Danny & The Champions Of The World.

Now the guy who took the photo for that album cover is none other than Peter James Millson.

Peter is a very talented photographer and has decided that the call of the music was too much and has released his debut album this year. It has been produced by Danny George Wilson  - Danny Champ himself - and has been engineered and mixed by Chris Clarke (The Champs bass player) at his Reservoir Studios.

The ten tracks have Danny & Chris' fingerprints all over them. The album has the same feel as Stay True but with a lighter touch. 

On this album, Peter sounds like Danny's younger and more sensitive brother. The music has a more singer/songwriter feel than Stay True's triumphant Country/Rock/Soul mix. It's almost folky in places but never sounds twee.

Here is Peter playing a track from the album called Michael.


The album is quite nostalgic and recalls childhood days on tracks such as the uptempo opener I Remember Us and Being Young.

The music is played with aplomb (as you would expect with the majority of The Champs contributing) and a special mention for Paul Lush who contributes some lovely and sympathetic guitar work.

Peter's vocals are dreamy and sensitive and very English - which is a nice counterpoint to some to the transatlantic musical settings. It reminds me in places of a more Country/folk Nick Heyward - a very good thing - and Peter has a similar gift for melody as Nick.

Danny has done a fine job on production duties with some gorgeous touches of Hammond and Harmonium to contrast the acoustic and electric guitar backing.

And another special mention for the pedal guitar work by Henry Senior, which adds a Country tint to several of the songs, especially the more atmospheric Midnight Bell.

My favourite track on the album at the moment is the achingly romantic In Winter, which sounds like it could have been written by Mike Batt, and that's a huge compliment. It contains some lovely Hammond organ and cello too.

Red Leaves On The Cherry Tree has a faintly 60s kind of vibe with some great guitar work by Paul Lush and Hammond organ which sounds faintly Pink Floyd-ish in places. It's certainly the most experimental track on the album.

The album closes with the delicate Everybody Knows, which could have slotted easily onto any James Taylor or Jackson Browne album from the early 1970s - but here sounds contemporary and fresh - with Paul Lush's guitar to the fore and finishes with a touch of saxophone and guitar dueling.

PJM & Paul Lush

Here is a track from an EP that Peter released last year - and does not appear on the album.

 Sweet The Love That Meets Return is a great debut from Peter James Millson. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Stay True and anyone else who likes good songwriting and performance.

I highlighted Peter in an earlier blog post in the New To Me 2013 section - worth checking out.

Photos courtesy of peterjamesmillson.com & Peter's Facebook Page

Twitter - @pjmillson

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Live in 2014: Neil Finn - Colston Hall, Bristol - Saturday 26th April 2014

Crowded House - one of my favourite bands. I've seen them quite a few times. But I've never managed to get to a Neil Finn solo gig. So tonight was a first.

The support act tonight was Hollie Fullbrook. Born in Bristol (yes, she played the hometown card) and emigrating to New Zealand as a child, Hollie is the leader of the band Tiny Ruins and she played a solo acoustic set of some of her songs while promoting her new band album Brightly Painted One (Bella Union). Her songs were rather good. And later she reemerged as part of Neil's band playing Cello & guitar/vocals

Freed from the shackles of the Crowded House repertoire, Neil opens up with the atmospheric and downbeat Impressions which is also the first track on his new solo album Dizzy Heights.

For anyone who hasn't heard solo Neil, he is a lot more musically experimental.

For this tour, he is joined by a young band which includes Mrs Finn on bass.

Tonight, Neil draws on Crowded House albums, His 3 solo albums - Try Whistling This, One Nil & Dizzy Heights, The Finn Brothers albums and even Split Enz!

This is from his performance on Jools Later - 4 nights before.

Neil was certainly on top form tonight and the 2 1/2 hrs just flew by.

With such a wealth of material to choose from, it was always going to be a varied and interesting show with Neil digging out the older songs as well as the classics.

It was nice to finally hear the solo tracks live, as they rarely get an outing in a Crowded House gig.

Early highlights included my favourite Crowded House track Distant Sun, which came in as song two and the title track of the new album Dizzy Heights. And I enjoyed hearing the Finn Brothers song Suffer Never for the first time live.

Although my favourite Neil solo song - She Will Have Her Way got me on my feet in this sit down show.

Neil stated that it was a pleasure to be able to play the piano on more songs than he does at Crowded House shows. I agree with this as Neil is an accomplished pianist, and we don't get to see that side of his talent very often. And it was nice to hear the songs played on the instrument on which they were written. 

And Neil's version of Don't Dream It's Over, played on piano on this tour , is a case in point. It never fails to bring a tear to my eye and always reminds me of former Crowded House drummer Paul Hester, sadly no longer with us.

Another highlight was the album track Divebomber from Dizzy Heights. On the album, it's a bit misplaced, with it's falsetto vocals, sound effects and experimental structure - but live, it's a different beast and works much better as a live performance. Reminded me of Pink Floyd funnily enough. Especially with the multi-coloured projections as the backdrop to the show.

The first encore included the rocky Locked Out and the Split Enz classic, I Got You and finally got the girls running down the aisles dancing and most of the crowd on their feet. Well Done Ladies.

As you can see, I've included various videos from the current tour to give you a taste of what the show experience.

Now Neil has always enjoyed a bit of crowd banter and throughout the gig talked to two guys, Derrick and Simon.

Neil mentioned that he would be sliding across the top of the piano at some point and when Simon interjected that he could do that, Neil said he would call on him later in the show - and he did. But he also made Simon work for his 15 minutes of fame. Check out the video I recorded below.

The Split Enz classic, I Got You was a nice surprise to end the first encore.

At the end of the show, Neil came back on to the stage alone and played a gorgeous version of Four Seasons In One Day, which I did manage to capture for posterity.

He ended the show with the band joining him for the Crowded House classic Better Be Home Soon. See the video on link below.


It was a brilliant show. The best I've ever seen Neil perform. And I even managed to get his personal set list from his piano.

One thing though Neil, next time, come to Wales. And play Recurring Dream again :)

Twitter - @neilmullanefinn

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Archivist: BRIAN ENO (with Daniel Lanois & Roger Eno) -Apollo:Atmospheres & Soundtracks

Brian Peter Gerorge St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno.

Now that's what I call a name. Luckily for us, he has shortened it somewhat to Brian Eno. Although he's actually known as just Eno.

An Art graduate from Winchester School of Art, he joined Roxy Music in 1971 and stayed for 2 years before internal tensions with Bryan Ferry forced him into a decision to leave the band.

After he left Roxy Music, Eno released 3 albums in 1974-75, Here Come The Warm Jets & Taking Tiger Mountain.

The third album, Another Green World, featured minimalist pieces which would point the way for his groundbreaking 'Ambient' series of album.

The first of these would be Discreet Music which was released in 1975. It was also the first to use his christian name.

There would be one more 'rock' album, Before and After Science, before a series of 3 albums, Ambient 1; Music For Airports, Music For Films 7 Ambient 4: On Land between 1978-82.

Eno's Ambient music had always been somewhat ethereal so it was no surprise that he was approached by Al Reinhert to produce the soundtrack for his documentary movie of the Apollo space missions, simply titled Apollo. It was later renamed, For All Mankind.

For All Mankind

Eno enlisted the help of multi-instrumentalist and producer Daniel Lanois and his musician brother Roger. The music is totally gorgeous and fits in with the visuals of the movie perfectly. If there was ever a musician to provide music for a documentary about space, then it had to be Brian Eno.

Much of the music that was used in the movie has since been heard in many other documentaries, movies and advertisements.

It set the template for many instrumental albums to come and has obviously influenced many other musicians such as Sigur Ros.

There was a lot of music that appeared in the movie that did not find it's way on the soundtrack album although three tracks have gone on to be absolute classics of ambient music.

Brian Eno continues to release ambient music to this day, the last being LUX in 2012 as well as his production work with the likes of U2 and Coldplay.

Albums of 2014: The Redlands Palomino Company - Broken Carelessly

Let me start by saying that I have thought long and hard about posting Albums Of 2014 so early in the year - but I know what I like and I like what I know (that sounds vaguely familiar in a Prog sort of way) - so for Albums that I know are going to make the list, well why not get them in early to give everyone an opportunity to seek out and get a few months more enjoyment if they feel so inclined as to invest

It seems that Clubhouse Records is yet again the place to be if you want to release a great album in 2014. Only a couple of months after the release of  the brilliant Paul McClure's Smiling From The Floor Up

Clubhouse Records have released the new album by The Redlands Palomino Company - Broken Carelessly - and let's just say that they have surpassed the promise set by their previous three albums.

Led by the husband and wife team of Alex & Hannah Elton-Wall, The Redlands play a gorgeous mix of Americana/Country rock.
It's been three years since the release of their last album, Don't Fade, and the time has been spent wisely bringing together a collection of classic songs to make Broken Carelessly one of my Albums Of 2014.

Here we hear from Alex & Hannah talking about the making of Broken Carelessly.

photo courtesy of beat-surrrender.com

The lead off single from the album is the opener In These Lines, which showcases the lead vocals of Hannah, which are just stunning throughout the whole album.

Guitar arpeggios and pedal steel guitar feature heavily throughout the whole album and lift the music above the standard Americana fare.

Lead vocals are shared by Hannah and Alex, who gives us the early Eagles sounding country rocking Solitary Strangers.

Throughout the album you can hear the quality of the influences such as the Byrds, especially in the lovingly jangle of Everything I'm Not. The Byrds have already set the standard in horse songs with Chestnut Mare but The Redlands contribute their own horse song with the uplifting title track Broken Carelessly.

Don't Ever is Country swing of the highest order and brings to mind Emmylou Harris with Hannah's sparkling double tracked vocals and harmonies. And pedal steel of course.

1985 with Alex on lead vocals again recalls the 60s sounds of the Byrds with some The Flying Burrito Brothers thrown in for good measure.

Scattered Earth brings to mind the Emmylou album Wrecking Ball with Hannah providing lead in a horse blanket of atmospheric beauty.

For me, the highlight of the album is the haunting Swim. It features Hannah on lead vocals and begins with just acoustic guitar and Hannah's lovely harmonies before a touch of organ warms the stark beauty. This track reminds me of the also excellent Maria McKee at her very best.

The album closes with Band Song where Hannah sings what could be an almost autobiographical hymn to being in a band. It's a moving song and a perfect way to close the album - 'If You Wanna Hear A Song, Long Live This Band'. With pedal steel, of course.

But there are so many highlights to enjoy on Broken Carelessly. It is the sound of a band who are confident in their own abilities as musicians and songwriters. And a special mention must go to Alex for his production which makes the album sound deep and varied with particular attention paid to the vocals. A good thing.

The album is so good, it had no space for the excellent track Sunday, which can be found on the single In These Lines and is worth downloading immediately.

So, take my advice and go and treat yourself to a copy of Broken Carelessly, it's going to be the best Americana/UK Country album you'll hear this year.

Twitter - @TheRedlands 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Albums of 2014: Oysterband - Diamonds On The Water

Let me start by saying that I have thought long and hard about posting Albums Of 2014 so early in the year - but I know what I like and I like what I know (that sounds vaguely familiar in a Prog sort of way) - so for Albums that I know are going to make the list, well why not get them in early to give everyone an opportunity to seek out and get a few months more enjoyment if they feel so inclined as to invest

Oysterband have come a long way since their inception as the Oyster Ceilidh Band in 1980.

The boys have traveled all over the world and released over 25 albums in their 34 year history. 

From the early albums of political leanings to the subsequent albums of a more gentle and mature nature, the Oysters have always been a great live and albums band and every album has been worthy of a place in anyone's collection.

In 2013, multi-instrumentalist and bass player Ray Cooper decided to leave and concentrate on a solo career.

pic courtesy of Ray Cooper

Coming off a two year period where the Oysterband recorded and toured a new album with June Tabor - which was to be Ray's last album with the band - the band won even more plaudits and awards for the Ragged Kingdom album.

Often when a major member leaves the band, the rest of the group struggle to find the magic again.

So, Oysterband buried themselves away to work on the follow up to their last 'band' album, The Oxford Girl & Other Stories, which was an album of reinterpretations of songs from earlier releases, released in 2008.

With their producer Al Scott now performing bass duties they set about recording what was to become Diamonds On The Water.

So what would they sound like without Ray?

 Oysterband have come back even stronger than ever and Ray's departure has re-energised the band both in songwriting and performance.

From the a capella opening of A Clown's Heart to the gorgeous closing Like A Swimmer In The Ocean the band have released their best album yet!

They have looked to nature and travel for many of the songs on the album including The Wilderness.

With the inclusion of female vocalist Rowan Godel on tracks like Lay Your Dreams Down Gently the band add another dimension to their fantastic harmonies as can be seen below with John Jones' side project The Reluctant Ramblers with the song No Ordinary Girl which also appears on the album.

This album blows away the image of the 'finger in the ear' folk tunes and highlights some of the best contemporary songwriting from any artists out there today.

pic courtesy of folkradio.com

You won't find any boisterous outings like Blood Wedding or the anti Thatcher anthems of The Shouting End Of Life. But what you will find is an album of gentle persuasion and a band who are obviously happy in their own skin.

John Jones' voice is as beautiful as ever and the instrumentation and arrangements put together by Alan Prosser, Ian Telfer, Dil Davies, Al Scott and JJ are uplifting and subtle as anything they've ever produced.

I have seen Oysterband on many, many occasions and they have matured into a seriously brilliant band which 'Rise Above' all genres of music. So if you think this is just music for folkies and people in Arran jumpers, then think again. This is quality music made by a band who are on the top of their game.

pic courtesy of theguardian.com

You could do a lot worse than to use Diamonds on The water as your starting point if you've never heard Oysterband before, then work your way backwards from here and you'll find a wealth of great music awaiting your discovery.

Twitter - @oysterband1 

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Archivist Volume 2: Asia - Asia

Who would have thought it?

1980 - Bass guitar & vocalist John Wetton had been writing tunes with guitarist Steve Howe who had left YES. Then ex ELP drummer Carl Palmer and former YES/Buggles keyboard player Geoff Downes joined the new band ASIA.

Yes, who would have thought that the guys with such a Prog heritage would come up with one of the most tuneful and hit laden rock albums of the 80s? And I loved it!

Nobody expected this group of now aging rock musicians to reinvent themselves as an early 80s super-group.

The eponymous debut album by ASIA became of of the best selling albums of the 80s and revitalised AOR in the USA.

pic courtesy of chartstats.com

The critics hated the album but the public supported it and ASIA went on to sell over 10 million copies. It was kicked off by the single Heat Of The Moment.

The album came with a Roger Dean cover and gave birth to 7 singles.

photo courtesy of blogs.eltiempo.com

pic courtesy of eil.com

The 'Classic' Line up of Wetton - Howe - Downes - Palmer - went on to release their next album in 1983 - ALPHA. 
Alpha contained 2 great hit singles.

This remained the last album completed by the classic line up until PHOENIX was released in 2008.

ASIA has, over the years, had 20 different members in the band and released 14 albums. But has never matched the sales figures of the debut release.

Their latest album - GRAVITAS was released this year by the classic line up minus Steve Howe who has retired from the band to concentrate on YES & other projects making way for young guitarist Sam Coulson.

Twitter - @asiageoff  @arkangel2605 @ELP_carl @SamCoulson87