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Popular Music CDs - Part 22 - June, 1999

Graham Vine

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"Portraits of Bob Dylan"

Steve Howe

Gas; 00087

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

It is often said that the songs of Bob Dylan are better performed by others. They are certainly different - just contrast The Byrds with  "Mr Tamborine Man" and the Julie Driscoll/Brian Auger Trinity version of "This Wheel's On Fire" with the originals. I think it could be fairly said that each version has merits, and this explains in part the genius of Bob. And so a project to make an album of other people's versions of Dylan songs must always be on the cards. Steve Howe, best known as the guitarist with the band 'Yes' has run with this notion, and few of us will be disappointed. I have already played the opener over and over again - Jon Anderson takes vocals for this 12 minute epic, and I simply can't get enough of it. We have Dylan's poetry-set-to-music together with an arrangement rich in the 'Jon And Vangelis' treatment of the likes of "I'll Find My Way Home" from '81. Whilst we're on the subject of the guest vocalists, I have added all their names to the track listing. I have enjoyed all of them, with just a slight reservation over the P. P. Arnold track.

Steve himself has taken the reins in four of the tracks (#2, #5, #10 and #12), and very plaintive they sound too. I'm glad songs like "Just Like A Woman" are included; there's no harm in more versions of these classics. Annie Haslam has one: sounding a little like Joni Mitchell she gives us a smashing "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" with a slight country-twang to it. One of the songs most intimately tied to Bob Dylan the performer rather than Dylan the songwriter has to be "Lay, Lady, Lay", and it's good to hear Keith West once more. Former lead with 'Tomorrow' and then a teen-idol with the "Excerpt From A Teenage Opera", he handles the song with great care and skill. You can almost hear the respect he and the other performers have for the songs. No comment need be made about the quality of Bob Dylan's music. I am delighted that the performances do these numbers full justice.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands - Jon Anderson
2. Mama You've Been On My Mind - Steve Howe
3. It's All Over Now Baby Blue - Annie Haslam
4. Going, Going, Gone - Max Bacon
5. Just Like A Woman - Steve Howe
6. Well, Well, Well - P. P. Arnold
7. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Dean Dyson
8. Lay, Lady, Lay - Keith West
9. One Too Many Mornings - Phoebe Snow
10. I Don't Believe You - Steve Howe
11. Don't Think Twice It's All Right - Allan Clarke
12. Buckets Of Rain - Steve Howe

- GV -

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"The Man Who"

Travis

Independiente; ISOM 9CDX

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

I have a lot of respect for Travis and have been eagerly awaiting their second album, now available in the shops. Not only does it contain the hit singles "Writing To Reach You" (track 1) and "Driftwood" (track 4), but also PC and Macintosh viewable videos of these two songs. Yes, the enhanced-CD portion of the disk behaved impeccably on the PC and the pieces are not bad either!

Those two singles had well-deserved success, so I shall not dwell on them here except to say that in international territories where their release is still yet to be, you should be prepared for an onslaught on your charts. The album falls easily into the category of 'rock', and fairly soft-rock at that, but not so soft as to be mainstream pop. Listening out for their influences, I am hearing strains of Pink Floyd with some throbbing, humming bass-lines and some pretty dark chord-changes. And then there's some Harrison-esque sitar as a backdrop to "The Last Laugh Of The Laughter". I particularly like the way the fuzz-guitar is still clear enough to hear the individual notes on, for instance, "Turn", and I shall be recommending the album to some of my friends who appreciate the Lynne-like chord-progressions and string involvement as much as I do. I often hear criticism of late 1990s music, but here is proof - the future is safe.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Writing To Reach You
2. The Fear
3. As You Are
4. Driftwood
5. The Last Laugh Of The Laughter
6. Turn
7. Why Does It Always Rain On Me?
8. Luv
9. She's So Strange
10. Slide Show

- GV -

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"Bittersweet"

Clifford T. Ward

R P Media; CDRPM0052

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

Ever since the 1970s when Clifford T. Ward brought us that wonderful song "Gaye", I have watched out for any new releases. The only one I have been aware of was "Wherewithal", so it was a great pleasure to discover that this song has been included in a new album of songs by Clifford. Now, thanks to this new album from R P Media and to the really excellent sleeve-notes from Dave Cartwright, we are alerted to the reasons behind Clifford's relative silence over the years. Cliff's debilitating illness has left him unable to perform, so it is now too late for us to enjoy new material from this talented singer/songwriter. Or is it? Well, quite a few songs in unfinished or demo form have come to light, so, in a move echoing those two Beatles releases "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love", a rescue of love has brought us much to enjoy in "Bittersweet". In contrast with the two Beatles songs mentioned, which some have criticized as 'over-produced' (whatever that means), the bulk of these songs have a light treatment, allowing the original material to show through - 'warts and all'. With the assistance of a select group of musicians, including John 'Mitch' Mitchell on guitar, the assorted bundle of demos, alternative versions, and out-takes, has been turned into a fully-formed set of songs with a breadth of style and, I presume, date of writing/performing.

The earliest-sounding piece has a ring of The Searchers about it, "It's Such A Pity". And there are other songs with a Don McLean or Dean Friedman style about them. Take the charming love-song he calls "Somehow". It's gorgeous. There seems to have been great care taken over the lyrics. "This Was Our Love" and "Evening" have that heart-on-his-sleeve quality that makes Cliff's condition all the more poignant. The futuristic "Jayne From Andromeda Spiral" has a 'spacey' approach that I like, but I also feel attracted to the quirky "Yesterday In Parliament" and "Naughty Boy". But I shouldn't really pick on any tracks above others. The audio is as you would expect - pretty basic, though there is less of a contrast than you might expect between the 'added' parts and Clifford's tapes. The mix is perfect: "Escalator" is a fine example of crisp, stylish guitar dropping back to just the right level for the vocals to be heard as center-stage. The songs on this album range from very good to remarkable. They have interesting lyrics, well sung, strong melodies and arrangements and production to match. We should not mourn what we are missing, but just be grateful for what we now have available.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Wherewithal
2. End Of Time Tonight
3. Yesterday In Parliament
4. Mad About You
5. Somehow6 This Was Our Love
7. Jayne From Andromeda Spiral
8. Lady With The Book In Her Hand
9. Escalator
10. It's Such A Pity
11. Evening
12. Naughty Boy
13. Before The World Was Round
14. Last Train Tonight
15. Lost Again
16. Sidetracked
17. Thinking About You
18. Always Think About You
19. Snakes And Ladders

- GV -



© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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