Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 13

This Album Review Saturdays 2024 Episode 13 we are going to stay completely in the United Kingdom for all three bands and albums!  You truly can’t go wrong when doing so, and it’s not that we intentionally did so, it’s just how the albums came to us, and the feeling of their importance in the music multiverse at this very moment.  We had a completely unique jazz-rock fusion band that are not going to be on radio, and only certain (smart enough) record stores are going to be carrying this album and/or cd.  The second band is probably one of the most well known bands in the United Kingdom, and arguably one of the truest English alternative, rock bands to their native tongue and country-people that’s been able to maintain a fairly attentive national audience.  For our final talented blokes, we go to Warrington to see how a post-Brit-pop band is handling their second resurrection from the greatness and fame from 2000.  There’s no question that the United Kingdom continues to be a nurturing, explosive melting pot of interesting and tasteful musicians, but they are also dedicated to the cause and effect of music as well as its history in instrumentation, approach, and obviously valuing it in their own music.  Would love to spend a month, a week, even a weekender soaking it all in over there, but for now — let’s settle in on lovely Saturday for some great album reviews with a spot of tea and our headphones fully engaged.

 

LINK TO OUR YOUTUBE VERSION
[Mark Kuligowski & Panelist DAHM discuss these (3) albums + adds three (3) more reviews!]

 

 

Nataraja – Spirit At Play

Oh dear God!  When I was told to seek this band and album out, I did not know a few things about it and the personnel.  So, let’s not go there right away.  Instead, let me just prepare you for the jazz-rock Middle-Eastern fusion sound that’s going to take progressive possession of your mind, body, and soul.  The album, Spirit At Play, is not only a wonderful title for the spirit of the types of instrumental works at play, but it is deeply rooted within the spirit of Indian Classical (which leans heavily on sitar and probably other instruments that surpass my worldly instrument knowledge).  I am also not a scholar of the Ragas.  So let’s just go to the simplest definition we can find;  A melodic framework for improvisation in Indian classical music akin to a melodic mode.[3] Rāga is central to classical Indian music and a unique feature of the tradition: no equivalent concept exists in Western classical music.   There you go!  Right there!  This is the hit to your audio senses ladies and gentlemen of the music multiverse.  When these instrumental musicians derived this album, Spirit At Play, this is the intention and the non-confinement — yet somehow playing within (some sort of elevated construct like the Matrix for Christ’s sake) they have brought out one of the early favorites for album of the year!  Oh, fuck off!  We haven’t even scratched the surface of this album yet!

Each rāga consists of an array of melodic structures with musical motifs (yeah yeah yeah, you are all really smart and calculating, but yet you’re going to improve this bitch aren’t you?); and, from the perspective of the Indian tradition, the resulting music has the ability to “colour you mind” as it engages the emotions of the audience.  Oh, yeah.  I got colours all right!  Some I didn’t even know existed, and I’m pretty damn sure — some of you in this band are coloring outside the lines!  Let’s start with the master at the helm of neck and body of the guitar, Jack Jennings.  Who?  How is it this common place simpleton is the ring leader?  Is that not some Jimi Hendrix legionary, or a child of John McLaughlin?  No, just a well educated, guitar lovin’, British bloke with an engaging passionate musical affection for any type of stringed guitar-like instrument. A disciple of sitar virtuoso’s Roopa Panesar and Shakir Parvez Khan (no relation to Genghis or any Wrath thereof).  He has worked with the legendary Pandit Sanju Sahai, Omar Peunte, Manish Pingle and Gurdain Rayatt and many others. His previous band Ashowka fused Indian Music with Rock/Jazz and was signed to Geoff Barrow’s (of Portishead) label in Bristol.  Wait until you hear the sounds this man is creating, respecting, and improvising!

The drummer, well well well, if it isn’t Mr. Andy Edwards!  The hardest working man in the music and YouTube business maybe?  I mean, how does he have time to make albums, do provocative, education YouTubing, and decide to sit in on this unbelievable project?  It’s absolutely crazy!  No wonder he hasn’t gotten back to us on an appearance on our show!!  Fiddlesticks!  We are always enthralled with his unrelenting attention to music, as well as his quick absorption and overall kindness we’ve been first hand to.  But the real gift here, is his playing.  I’m not professional musician or producer, but I do understand that something of this nature is not for just any drummer!  Incredible.  We didn’t forget about that bass!  John Jowitt, 17 times, best British Classic Rock Society’s bass player! Progressively with IQ and Frost, which we assume is where he and Andy conspired to take over the universe.  He also recorded and played live with Arena, Ark and Jadis, as well as playing bass live for John Wetton, Uriah Heep, Peter Banks (of Yes), Tim Bowness and John Young, to just name a few of note (apparently David Gilmour was busy–kidding he probably played with him, too).  Not to mention, the progressive keyboard/synthesizing going on, added wonderfully by Richard Charles Boxley (Wave Tenet), who takes inspiration from artists like Brian Eno and Aphex Twin. On the bandcamp page he definitely brings out some “Beautiful haunting sounds…” and has great ways of bringing about “Pure tonal and textural beauty.”

Now, are you ready for the shocker of all this!?  Did you listen to it yet?!  No.  No.  You go and listen to the entire album.  Download it or buy it.  Then, you come back for this next and final sentence that will allow the microphone to be dropped as to why this is an early favorite for album of the year.  You couldn’t have listened to it that fast!  There are two songs that are over 15 minute each themselves.

Okay, you’re finally ready!  This album was recorded live in one take.  [that sound you here is the microphone dropping, echoing as these marvelous musicians leave the stage].
This is a legendary fusion album that will probably not sell millions of copies, although, it should probably be in every music teacher’s, music offiando’s, and collector’s possession — not to mention at every respectable record store in the world.  Absolutely, incredible!

The Band

  • Jack Jennings – Electric Guitar
  • Andy Edwards – Drums
  • John Jowitt – Bass Guitar
  • Richard Charles Boxley – Analog Modular Synthesis

Spirit At Play Tracklisting

  1. Raag Sarang – Soul Shard
  2. Raag Jog – Ganges Delta
  3. Spirit At Play
  4. Raag Malkauns – Dark Sacred Night
  5. Raag Hansadhwani – Vinayaka

 

 

 

ElbowAudio Vertigo

There is just something very English authentic about Elbow and the creative process and song writing of Guy Garvey.  Despite the exclusivity of the lyrics to his native side of the world (most of the time), I still love the story telling, and the fact that I have to work at it like downloading a Thesaurus when reading Koontz.  There are always lovely anecdotes and pub-in-the-wall descriptive moments that make you, not only want to be there, but make you want to be British (like Gillian Anderson and Madonna — no offense, I get it).  This is higher education in the hands of laymen and his magical band of merry English alternative instrumental magicians.  The can bend a chord, flip a loop, or as is stated in there latest,  Audio Vertigo, “Give it fat wide wheels!”  Boom!  And then the song, ‘Balu’ is off and running!  This is Elbow, and this is another music-stopped in their catalog (one that very rarely ever disappoints).

We are now ten studio albums deep, and Elbow continues to come out of the studio still creating all kinds of audio textures, clever and cunning lyricism that is staggeringly catchy, groovy, and no doubt — all their own (even when it’s completely out of left field).  While ‘Lover’s Leap,’ a definite Elbow track has that signature of distortion, it’s the horn line that bleeds their signature, followed by the tale of lovers as only can be spun by Garvey.  There albums are always smart to worldly turmoil but even more intelligent to package it with slight-of-humor and mucho gusto in melody and vocal power-wit (which I reserve only for him as a song-writer-one-of-a-kind).  This is evident on the blistering ‘Knife Fight,’ which is pretty much the signature of this vocalist’s ability to capture a moment and make it everlasting, impactful and alternatively classy in a flabbergast of alliteration.

Audio Vertigo is near perfect.  A near perfect 10 on their 10th album!  Another feather in the musical cap of the United Kingdom this year, and an album for which the lyrical awareness and little Easter eggs will still be coming all year-long.  This is another prime contender as 2024 moves on.

The Band

  • Guy Garvey – vocals, horn arrangements
  • Craig Potter – keyboards, producer, mixing
  • Mark Potter – guitars
  • Pete Turner – bass
  • Alex Reeves – drums

Additional Musicians

  • Additional personnel
  • Sarah Field – trumpet, saxophones
  • Carol Jarvis – trombones
  • Victoria Rule – trumpet
  • Ella Hohnen-Ford, Kianja, Eliza Oakes – additional backing vocals
  • Jack Heyworth, Elvin Reeves, Otto Simpson, Jack Stirling Garvey, Martha Turner, Ted Turner – kids choir

Beyond Your Radio Album Review Saturdays 2024 - Elbow Audio VertigoAudio Vertigo Tracklisting

  1. Things I’ve Been Telling Myself for Years
  2. Lovers’ Leap
  3. (Where Is It?)
  4. Balu
  5. Very Heaven
  6. Her to the Earth
  7. The Picture
  8. Poker Face
  9. Knife Fight
  10. Embers of Day
  11. Good Blood Mexico City
  12. From the River

 

 

StarsailorWhere the Wild Things Grow

This post-British Pop band from 2000 really had a hold on me, with their debut, Love Is Here (2001), and their two follow-up albums, Silence Is Easy and On the Outside.  It was that kind of time in the music multiverse for me where the dynamic ballad and minimalistic pop-chord structure was king to my ears.  The vocal and song writing of James Walsh just made…silence easy.  The voice was distinctive, and beautifully woven into the musicianship, as well as being in the wheelhouse of the music scene which featured the likes of the very early Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and Keane.  So, it’s great music and lyrical company.  Where are we today, though, as the band moves in from a long hiatus in 2015, and now eight years later a new album, called Where the Wild Things Grow?

Well, when you’re a listener like me, that first track on an album better bring me back to that place I was and then some.  Well, “here come the laughing Hyenas,” and I know that this is not a contractual agreement fulfilling construct.  No, they are going for it, and ‘Into the Wild’ certainly showcases that, especially the incoming knock-out harmonica and background vocals and heavier blues guitar ending!  Kudos, boys!  This is what we love about long-standing bands in the music multiverse that come back from the depths of obscurity, having maybe a minimal audience overall, but the tenacity and musical guise to realise that you are almost, nearly starting over again!  So, Where the Wild Things Grow, is doing exactly that…putting their roots in the ground and letting it grow — organically and wildly (this time)!

I think the growth might have been a bit too much on my first listen!  I’m not kidding.  It’s like Walsh was sort of lost, but that second listen and a louder third listen just opened up the audio file on Starsailor 2024!  While I don’t think they’ve left the post-British Pop arena, I do think they added on to their house of musical experience, reaching into a heavier pop and even an alternative punch here and there.  The production is just as it has always been, very definitive to every inch, and put together track by track from start to finish with not a moment of quick cut or fall off.  There’s even some clever alt-country swagger in ‘After the Rain’ which again I took note of Walsh’s different vocal range.  But, ‘Where the Wild Things Grow’ brought me back to that familiarity just enough again and again for me to truly enjoy the record for the future Starsailor that it is.  This could be a catalyst record that will invite new listeners to the live venue, and  from there they can find the 2000 catalog, and enjoy the rabbit hole, like most of us have done discovering bands in the same fashion that go through times like these.

The Band

  • James Walsh – guitar and lead vocals
  • James Stelfox – bass
  • Barry Westhead – keyboards
  • Ben Byrne – drums

Where the Wild Things Grow Tracklisting

  1. Into The Wild
  2. Heavyweight
  3. After The Rain
  4. Where The Wild Things Grow
  5. Flowers
  6. Better Times
  7. Dead On The Money
  8. Enough
  9. Hard Love
  10. Last Shot
  11. Hanging In The Balance
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