Martin Leedham’s All Time Album Chart (A work in progress)


martinleedham


https://rateyourmusic.com/list/MartinLeedham/martin_leedhams_all_time_album_chart__a_work_in_progress__updated_19th_january_2014__now_including_reviews__/

UPDATE 20TH JULY 2014

As my ratings and reviews seem to have been included on some other sites (including Wikipedia) thought I would update the current chart. Remember it’s awork in progress so there are quite a lot still missing. 1-62 are all 5/5 ratings the next 90 or so are 4.5/5. Someone has been putting them on Wikipedia using the rating given for my review rather than my actual rating. Hope that clears things up.

***************************************************************************************************************************************

“So what’s all this reviewing about ?” is a question I get asked quite a lot. Well not quite so much now as most people seem to have got used to it (nearly 14,000 views so far). Anyway as I’ve reached a sort of milestone with the first 1000 rated and now over 300 reviewed including the entire Top 50 I thought I’d make the original point of it known to all.

View original post 815 more words

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Album Reviews: Jonatha Brooke – Back In The Circus (2004)


114832

First thing to point out here is that I am rating and reviewing the UK release of this album which is slightly different to the original US version. The differences are the removal of the three cover versions which have been replaced by older songs from her back catalogue, and a change to the running order. Quite why this was thought neccesary I don’t know and I for one would have preferred it to have been released in its original format. Especially as I already have the three ‘replacement’ tracks.

Despite the changes ‘Back In The Circus’ is another solid quality album from a much under rated performer. Those familiar with the works of Jonatha Brooke will know exactly what to expect here. Clever lyrics, good melodies and perfect vocals. Unfortunately they will also be unsurprised to find their attention wandering a little towards the end of the album as things do start to get a little samey on a Brooke album after a while. Of course the good side to that is that if you like her voice then you will enjoy them. It is just a shame that ‘Back In The Circus’ becomes one of those albums that doesn’t require you to actually sit and listen to it attentively. You will happily leave the room for a few minutes without pausing or may start writing a letter or shopping list or something.

For me, the better tracks are towards the beginning of the album, with the exception of ‘Steady Pull’ (one of the replacement tracks, and the title track of the previous album). In fact the two best tracks on the album are ‘Steady Pull’ and ‘Linger’ which are both replacement tracks from the aforenamed album. ‘It Matters Now’ ‘ Back in the Circus’ and ‘Better After All’ are easily the best of the new songs and although ‘Less Than Love Is Nothing’ has a nice vibe the remainder of the album is pleasant but nothing spectacular and the songs can become a little anonymous in retrospect.

In conclusion then I would suggest that this album is a little inferior to the previous one Steady Pull despite including three tracks from it and the follow up ‘Careful What You Wish For’. Newcomers to Jonatha Brooke may be better with Plumb which although being credited to Jonatha Brooke and The Story is to all intents and purposes her first solo album.

 
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM April 2010
Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: Babe Ruth – Kid’s Stuff (1976) or A rant on the demise of the record industry !


This was initially going to be a review of the album but it turned into more of a rant about the demise of record shops and god record companies. Given the way things have gone lately I think it is worth re-isuing in its original form. So apologies to anyone out there who was hoping for in depth analysis of the music

s11636

I may as well make it clear from the outset that this is easily my favourite Babe Ruth album. That will surprise and possibly disappoint many Babe Ruth fans as they mostly see it as the weakest with the main protagonists from the band departed.

A brief explanation of how I came to purchase the album in the first place may explain all however.

Those of you that are old enough to remember the good old days of ‘Record Shops’ will know what I’m talking about here. The poor youngsters among you will just have to curse your bad luck for being born in a time of muti-national corporations where every High street in every town is exactly the same.

You see back in the seventies and eighties, and into the nineties too just about, things were very different. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda (Wal-mart) etc sold bread and cheese. If you wanted records you went to a record shop or in some places like Woolworths and Boots (yes Boots the Chemist) you went to the Record Department. Okay there were some National chains still like HMV but Virgin was an Independent little place, which was great for imports I seem to remember, and every town had a couple of good privately owned little record shops, some even had massive ones. The majority of these had secondhand sections too where you could dig out all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff that someone else had grown tired of. How many of you reading this (that is of course if anyone is reading this) can remember, like me, wading through the endless racks of secondhand albums in the gloriously named ‘Record & Tape Exchange’ in Camden and Notting Hill Gate among other places filling in gaps in the beloved collection. It may have been more time consuming but it was much more fun than downloading them from the internet like people do nowadays.

The other thing is that in those days musicians paid their dues. They made an album every year, they played in countless bands before hitting the big time. Touring up and down the country in a beat up Bedford van. So subsequently you would find albums in the secondhand racks and be surprised by the names of musicians you knew playing in bands you’d never heard of. Because they were so cheap you bought them and thats how you got to build up a proper eclectic collection rather than 50 issues of Now Thats What I Call Music and the three albums your favourite band have released in the last 10 years that a lot of people call a collection these days.

So back to 1981 then (for that is where we were about to go before i went off on that little rant !) there I am in the aforementioned Record & Tape Exchange in Camden and I pick up ‘Kid’s Stuff’ look at the musicians credits on the back and see one Bernie Marsden. Crikey thinks the seventeen year old know all that was me, thats the guitarist out of Whitesnake I’ll buy that it’ll probably be good.

Well it was good, it still is good. Whenever I play it I think of afternoons spent in the secondhand record shop when I should have been studying. The smell of the cover reminds me of the shop and of carefree happy days when the only real concern you had was where to go on Saturday night. Twenty five years from now someone who is seventeen today isn’t going to be able to do that with a downloaded MP3 file, but if i’m still around I’ll still have all that vinyl and the memory of finding it.

This type of album wouldn’t exist today, it would never have been made in the first place. The record company would have pulled the plug and no-one would have paid to make it or promote it. There were literally hundreds of great albums like this made in the seventies if you can get your hands on them. It’s not brilliant, it’s not revolutionary but its also not manufactured music by numbers. It is where the people involved were at the time, the ideas they had in their heads. They recorded them and put them out in the shops before they had time to tinker too much or decided they didn’t think it worked. Subsequently the albums tend to be far more interesting and differ more from each other than modern day equivelants where they take three years to write an album and another year to promote it.

Short shelf lives meant it was easy to experiment. That’s what this album is like …….. it is like no other i have. It certainly isn’t like Whitesnake and it’s never bothered me one bit.

 © Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2007

 
Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Reviews: Alaska – Heart of the Storm (1984) / The Pack (1985)


s53318

Bernie Marsden left Whitesnake after (or during depending on who you believe) the Saints & Sinners album. That band were never the same again as they lost one of their three main songwriting forces. The fact that Bernie Marsden has never since then played in what you would call a top flight band is one of rock musics biggest mysteries and tragedies. Marsden is undoubtedly one of Britains best exponents of the blues based rock song, co-writing classics such as Here I Go Again and Fool For Your Loving to name but two. Yet he seems to have become one of those forgotten men of rock.

So on to this album, which is after all what I am supposed to be talking about, although I have got a three litre box of Californian red for company which may or may not excuse the rambling depending on your view of such things. I remember being surprised at the time when he resurfaced with this band of little known musicians on the lowly Music for Nations label. The whole feel of the release was as though it had been done on the cheap with the dodgy looking typed lyrics on the inner bag and the uninspired artwork. Musically and vocally the album is competent enough but you just feel that a man who had written Here I Go Again just a couple of years earlier was capable of much much more than this. Vocalist Rob Hawthorne was very much in the mould of a Rod Stewart wannabe and the whole album sounded as though it was geared up as a vehicle for him rather than for Marsden. The single Susie Blue is the best cut by far but overall the album is far too sodden in cheesy keyboards and MOR mediocrity.

 
 
s53319

As with the first Alaska album this ultimately disappoints. Marsden seems best in a twin guitar combo with Micky Moody when playing this type of music and that may be where the problem is with the Alaska releases. This is basically forgettable MOR radio friendly rock and the rating is more to do with respect for Bernie Marsden as a songwriter and guitar player than anything else. In places it is predictable and cheesy, in others it gets your foot tapping. Wondering what ever happened to vocalist Rob Hawthorn I’ve just googled him and all references are to the sky sports football commentator and a character in the soap Hollyoaks !!

All in all its a once every five or ten years album. Sorry Bernie.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2007

Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: The Butts Band – The Butts Band (1973)


In 1973 following the disappearance of Jim Morrison the remaining members of The Doors came to England in an attempt to find a replacement front man. Several vocalists were auditioned including Kevin Coyne and Jess Roden. However, the hot favourite and choice of Jac Holzman, the Elektra record label founder, was Howard Werth the former vocalist of The Audience. Werth remained with the band for around a week rehearsing before Ray Manzarek called the whole thing off and returned to America and declared The Doors as no more. 

John Densmore and Roddy Krieger though had been more impressed with Jess Roden than Werth anyway and decided to stay in London and form a new group, which they christened The Butts Band, with Roden, Roy Davies and Phil Chen. 

The Butts Band were a mixture of styles encompassing rock, soul, blues, jazz funk and even a smattering of reggae and calypso. They recorded their self titled debut album in two distinct parts during 1973, one in England and one in Jamaica with the album hitting the streets later that year. 

Side one of the original vinyl edition contained the tracks recorded in Kingston, Jamaica and are packed full of that laid back easy going feeling of life on the island. The opening track ‘I Won’t Be Alone Any More’ from the pen of Robby Kreiger is a mid paced rock track with some country and folk undertones as well as a jaunty west coast American style feel. A couple of tasteful solos and an easy vocal melody make the track a great launch into the album. An album which is as far removed from The Doors as you can imagine. 

‘Baja Bus’ is something of a classic amongst musicians who play and appreciate a jazz funk soul type of rock and has claims to be the classic that all music of that ilk should be compared with. Jerky jazzy beats, great bass, drums and some guest conga work from Larry McDonald all help to create a great laid back groove that Roden positively shines over with his faultless vocal. Once again the solos and musical passages are tasteful and help to form the feel of the whole piece rather than being just there to massage the ego of the soloist. 

Having waxed lyrical about ‘Baja Bus’ I am going to follow that by claiming the following track ‘Sweet Danger’, a Roden composition, as the highlight of the album. A wonderfully laid back bluesy soul track it features one of Roden’s best ever vocals, a sublime melody and some great instrumentation from the band. The dirty fuzzy sound of the main riff works perfectly in contrast with the careful picking of the jazz blues guitar solo. As a vehicle for Roden’s voice it is perfect but the musicians play their part from beginning to end in helping to create a track that should have been declared an all time classic. 

The Jamaican influence comes to the fore in the final track of the first half of the album ‘Pop-A-Top’. Co-written by Roden and Chinese/Jamaican bassist Phil Chen it is absolutely dripping with Caribbean feel. The calypso style intro and the funky reggae guitar, courtesy of Chen, blends perfectly with the more straight up jazz funk of the rest of the band. Once again Roden’s vocal is straight out of the top drawer. 

The second half of the album, which includes the tracks recorded in London starts with the funky soul number ‘Be With Me’. Despite being written by Robby Kreiger it has the feel of Roden’s later solo material. An easy laid back track with nice jazz undertones it has particularly pleasing laid back guitar and piano solos. 

‘New Ways’ is a slightly faster more up-tempo rocker than any of the others on offer here and despite being above average it is probably the weakest track on the album, even with the addition of Mick Weaver’s Wurlitzer. 

‘Love Your Brother’ gets us back to the more funky jazz feel and is something of a jazz funk soul fusion stomper. Ideal for Roden’s vocal style it also allows the musicians chance to shine with some great organ and guitar work. The solo jamming to fade is particularly impressive and gets you into a nice groove. 

The final track on the album is a bit of an oddity as it is a live recording of the Leiber/Stoller track ‘Kansas City’. There is no information on the sleeve to suggest where it may have been recorded but the performance in certainly full of energy and quality. It is probably the closest thing on the album to The Doors and could go a long way to explaining why Deep Purple considered Roden as a suitable replacement for Ian Gillan in 1973. 

“The Butts Band” was well received on its release and a low key tour and several TV appearances followed. However, Kreiger and Densmore had returned to America whilst Roden, Chen and Davies remained in London. This of course proved difficult logistically and the former Doors men jettisoned Roden, Chen and Davies the following year before making a second album. That was a great pity as it would have been very interesting to see how this line up would have developed. Roden of course went on to have a moderately successful solo career and is widely regarded as one of the finest singers of his or any generation, particularly in the eyes of his fellow musicians. Chen also continued to be in great demand as a session player and such is his contribution to this album that he can be forgiven for playing on Rod Stewart’s ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’.

The bottom line is that “The Butts Band” is something of a lost classic especially for people who like their rock music steeped in blues, full of soul, and with a huge helping of jazzy funk throughout. If you can track down a copy I can pretty much guarantee you won’t regret it.

 © Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2012

Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: Frankie Miller – The Rock (1975)


Unlike his first two albums Frankie Miller’s third album “The Rock” featured his own backing band so was marketed as being by The Frankie Miller Band rather than as a solo release. Recorded in sight of the famous Alcatraz prison during the first half of 1975 it still contains certain elements of those first two albums “Once In A Blue Moon” and “Highlife”. It is testament to Miller’s skill as a songwriter and vocalist that the basic pub rock of that opening album, the laid back New Orleans soul of “Highlife” and the country tinged rock and blues of The Frankie Miller Band all blend together so seamlessly on “The Rock”. 

The band itself featured Henry McCullough on guitar, Chrissy Stewart on bass, Mick Weaver on the keyboards and Stu Perry on the drums. All of whom already had illustrious CV’s to their name. The “Highlife” style soul feel was provided by no less a talent than The Memphis Horns and the Edwin Hawkins Singers of ‘Oh Happy Day’ fame. Add to that a backing vocal appearance by James Dewar vocalist with Robin Trower and it is no wonder “The Rock” is such a solid and consistent effort. The production duties were handled by Elliot Mazer who had been involved in the recording of Neil Young’s “Harvest” a few years previously. As he had been with the previous years album “Highlife” Miller was critical of the final mix and production sound, feeling that it lacked the real live feel that he desired. 

A couple of years earlier Miller and former Free bassist and songwriter Andy Fraser had attempted to put a band together but despite spending several months in the studio they never managed to get anything solid going. What they did achieve though was to form a lifelong friendship and a great song writing partnership. ‘A Fool In Love’ was one of the tracks that came from those sessions and that gets “The Rock” off to an explosive start. Miller’s vocal kicks in virtually as the track begins and the gritty delivery is reminiscent of the first album whilst the horns and backing vocals are more akin to something from the second album. The influence of Fraser gives the song a real feeling of being a band song rather than that of a solo performer and also adds a commercial flavour showing that he was never the junior partner in the main song writing team with Paul Rodgers in Free. It provided Miller with his first considerable success in America and was later covered by Delbert McClinton, Etta James and UK rockers UFO to name but three. 

Second track ‘The Heartbreak’ is a slower struttier track with a good mix of rock, blues and soul feeling in both the vocal and the musical backing. The piano underneath the vocal drives the song along nicely and a decent guitar and organ solo along with some typically classy horn work all blend together to make it a real stand out track. It is almost a precursor to Miller’s rockier albums of the eighties. 

The title track is next up and gets the toe tapping straight away with its country rock flavoured tinge. A twangy guitar, some bar room boogie woogie piano and gospel backing vocals all compliment Miller’s easy vocal and it really should have provided him with his first major hit. The song itself was inspired by the sight of Alcatraz from the recording studio and Miller’s belief that were it not for music he would probably have ended up in somewhere similar. Subsequently the album was dedicated “ …to the plight of prisoners ….”. The Frankie Miller Band actually played a gig in promotion of the album at San Quentin jail where Johnny Cash recorded his famous live album.

The second of the tracks resurrected from the Rumbledown Band sessions with Andy Fraser ‘I Know Why The Sun Don’t Shine’ slows things down considerably. A gradually building brooding blues it is a little slower and more of a stripped back basic blues than the original Rumbledown Band recording which featured Paul Kossoff on guitar and eventually surfaced on the Paul Kossoff compilation album “Blue Soul” in the mid eighties. Although Henry McCullough is a fine guitarist and puts in a typically classy performance it is difficult not to prefer the faster and more soulful Rumbledown Band version with Kossoff. 

The first half of the album ends with ‘Hard On The Levee’ which despite being one of the lesser cuts on the album is still a mighty fine piece of work. It was an integral part of the live set and gives a clear indication of the direction Miller would go in with his next album “Full House”. 

One of Miller’s most loved, and most covered, songs ‘Ain’t Got No Money’ gets the second half of the album off to the same high standard as the first. A live favourite it is classic Miller and has claims to be the best bar room stomp track of all time. The song has a no frills fast paced approach with some more great boogie woogie piano, frenetic drumming, another tasteful solo and even a bit of cowbell unless I am very much mistaken. Throw on top of that a dirty gritty Miller vocal and you have something which is impossible to fault. The track has been covered by such diverse acts as  Chris Farlowe, Bob Seger and Cher. Having never heard the Cher version I can’t comment on it but I would assume there were a few lyrical changes. The Seger version is pretty true to the original albeit with more of an American country feel. Segar is often compared to Miller stateside and openly cites Miller as a huge influence. 

‘All My Love To You’ displays Miller’s more soulful side and is very Otis Redding/Arthur Conley like vocally. A Miller composition it has the feel of an old time soul track and it is not difficult to imagine it being belted out by those soul greats Miller admired so much. The Memphis Horns give the whole thing a great authenticity and Miller’s vocal is as good as any of those he admired. 

Things quicken up again for ‘I’m Old Enough’ which features a typically well thought out Miller lyric over a bouncy fast paced rock beat. Some simple but effective guitar and more classy ivory tinkling add to the track nicely and the whole thing has a great sing-along feel. As with the earlier faster tracks Miller’s vocal is full of grit and attitude. An edited version was released as a single but failed to trouble the judges although that didn’t stop the French Elvis, Johnny Halladay, trying with his own version. 

The final two tracks of the album take us back to Miller’s roots in Scotland. ‘Bridgeton’ is named after the area of Glasgow he came from and is another slower brooding track which builds nicely and tells the tale of Miller’s days there. The guitar has a dobro or even steel feel in places and there is even something which sounds uncannily like bagpipes although there is no suggestion of either in the sleeve notes so I am guessing it must be an organ effect. Whether that is the case or not the more obvious organ work is one of the highlights., as is the very sing able vocal melody.

The title of the final track ‘Drunken Nights in The City’ is pretty explanatory and tells the tale of Miller’s nights of heavy drinking with Celtic footballer Jimmy Johnstone. Miller is an avid Celtic fan and often wore a Celtic shirt on stage. The track itself is a simple vocal over an acoustic guitar. On live performances Miller would often play the song alone and the guitar playing here sounds like it is Miller rather than McCullough. The vocal also has a feel of being recorded after a decent amount of alcohol had been consumed. This gives it a very authentic feel and is either a great display of vocal acting by Miller or totally authentic. Having seen a few live shows my money would be on the latter ! 

Despite being released to critical acclaim ‘The Rock’ like its predecessors failed to shift a huge number of units but the American tour to promote the album was a huge success and they regularly went down better than the acts they opened for. A UK tour with Rory Gallagher was not as successful though as guitarist McCullough was pre-occupied with recording his solo album and eventually the band began to fall apart. A disconsolate Miller went off to Holland to sing with old mates Procul Harum. 

For me “The Rock” is the album where the final pieces of the Frankie Miller sound and style came together. The basic pub rock elements of the first album and the smooth laid back vibe of the Toussaint collaboration are both evident throughout but have now been married together with a bluesy soulful band feel and a smidgeon of American country commerciality. This was very much the blueprint for his next venture “Frankie Miller’s Full House”, a band which encompassed the sound and styles of his first three albums into one tight unit and finally delivered the chart success he deserved.

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2012

Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album Review: Stephanie Kirkham – That Girl (2003)


The female singer songwriter market is a crowded one to say the least, my ever increasing pile of ‘to be reviewed’ albums is testament to that, and finding something to lift you above the ordinary is no easy task for a newcomer. That task is made even more difficult by the cut throat and cavalier attitude of some of the fat cats that sadly prowl the jungle that is the home to new and unsigned acts.

Sadly, Stephanie Kirkham was another victim of their lethal pounce. Signed to a subsidiary label of Virgin she was given a five album deal on the strength of some promising demos and ideas. The plug though was unceremoniously pulled after the first album. The label was closed down and Kirkham’s deal was no longer worth the paper it was written on. 

The one album she did manage to get out on Virgin/Hut, “That Girl”, released in September 2003 features ten nicely crafted tracks which all have lyrics and melodies written by Kirkham although the music has been composed by various collaborators. The overall feel of the album is quite lightweight, airy, ethereal and quirky although there are a couple of darker deeper moments hidden amongst the niceness. That may in truth be the only problem with the album as a whole as it could, for some, get a little too ‘middle class art student’ at times. 

It wastes no time letting you know what is in store as the title track and opening cut launches straight into a jaunty poppy rhythm and the chorus is pretty infectious. Kirkham’s easy to like light voice flits around the accompaniment and whilst it isn’t the strongest it has a certain other worldly feel to it. The second track ‘Stay Here Close To Me’ is a more stripped down folky affair and Kirkham comes across as delicate and vulnerable. Her almost child like tone gives the track a very pleasing feel. Things almost drift into power pop for ‘Inappropriate’ which I believe was released as the first single. Like the opener it has another jaunty mid to fast paced instantly accessible melody which is a perfect vehicle for Kirkham’s style of vocal. The three tracks ensure a great start to the recorded career of an artist who should be around for many years to come.

‘When You Were Here’ is the first of a couple of forays into Dido territory whilst “Monday Morning” is reminiscent of late seventies pop and again makes good use of the vulnerability and naivety evident in Kirkham’s singing style. ‘Garden of Dreams’ meanwhile manages to be upbeat and downbeat at the same time as the music is very bouncy whilst the lyric appears to be telling a tale of lonely but optimistic. It shouldn’t really work but it does and it is one of many growers on the album. 

Dido comes to mind again on ‘Somebody Else’s Girl’ which is another of those growers and has definite claims to be one of the albums highlights. The lightweight dreamy delivery of the vocal works perfectly with the musical backing, which is just a little bit too electronic sounding for my tastes. However it does give it an ethereal sound which works well with the vocal and leads nicely into ‘Heavy Boots’ which is a quirky pop folk tune which is difficult not to like. Something that can be said for most of the album actually. 

The mood changes considerably for the final two tracks. ‘Never In A Million Years’ is probably the most experimental track on the album and has an almost Celtic feel about it at the beginning. Kirkham’s almost spoken vocal gives the track a poetic feel and the background vocals set deep into the mix provide the other worldly feel of mystery. Like its predecessor, album closer ‘Blank White Sheet’ is another far more grown up and serious sounding song than the lightweight pop of the earlier tracks and Kirkham’s nice voice contrasts well with the darker feel of the music and lyric. 

Despite favourable reviews on its release “That Girl” soon drifted into obscurity due more to a lack of promotion on the part of the ailing record company than any fault on the part of Kirkham. As debut albums go it is well above average and well worth a listen for anyone with an interest in the poppier side of the female singer songwriter genre. There is certainly enough on offer here to justify a visit to her subsequent albums which hopefully will be plentiful. 

NB. More of you will have heard Stephanie Kirkham than you realise as her song ‘Easy As 1,2,3’ was used in the TV advert for the Peugeot 308. The track was finally released as a single in May 2012. Kirkham will also be appearing at this years MFest at Harewood House, Leeds on July 7th with Texas, Big Country and Bob Geldof to name but three. There is also a second album “Sunlight On My Soul” released in 2006 available from the artists website. http://www.stephaniekirkham.com

© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM July 2012.

Posted in Album Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments