Category Archives: Album reviews

Jeff Beck: Faith in the good things

Jeff Beck | Loud Hailer | 8/10

Jeff Beck has become increasingly synonymous with the highly technical guitar virtuosity that elicits prosaic pontification on the letters pages of ‘Record Collector’. So it’s easy to forget that, with The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group, one of the greatest musicians of the past 50 years began his career playing what were essentially pop songs.

In that regard, the follow-up to the Grammy-winning ‘Emotion and Commotion’ is a return to his roots. Certainly there’s no mistaking his signature tone, that nimble finger work on the fretboard, and the programmed beats favoured since 1999’s ‘Who Else’. But, on his first album in six years, Beck’s cut back on the effects pedals and, even more significantly, returned to traditional song structures – complete with verses, choruses, and even vocals.

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Biffy Clyro: A chemical rush

Biffy Clyro | Ellipsis | 7/10

There’s only one way to follow up a double LP: go to the other extreme.

So, just as Pink Floyd went from the epic ‘The Wall’ to the muted ‘The Final Cut’ or Springsteen moved from the widescreen drama of ‘The River’ to the lo-fi home recordings of ‘Nebraska’, Biffy Clyro have followed the expansive concept album ‘Opposites’ with the concise ‘Ellipsis’.

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Bat For Lashes: devil hearts explode

Bat For Lashes | The Bride |  8/10

‘The Bride’ is what might be called a “concept” album. There’s a central narrative: a woman, whose fiancé dies in a crash enroute to their wedding, takes their honeymoon trip alone. The artwork and song titles like ‘Widow’s Peak’ reinforce the theme of self-discovery. And, yes, there are sound effects and spoken-word interludes.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: A love hallucination

Red Hot Chili Peppers | The Getaway | 8/10 

Want to insult a rock band? Just call them “predictable”. But, by 2011’s ‘I’m With You’, that’s exactly what Red Hot Chili Peppers had become. Even without longtime guitarist John Frusciante, their 10th studio album sounded, at best, like business as usual.

So, for its follow-up, they’ve shaken things up. Rick Rubin, in the producer’s chair since 1991’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magic’ is out, replaced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton and, with him, a new approach to writing and recording. Encouraging the group to create and record in the studio, the man who’s worked with everyone from Norah Jones and Adele to A$AP Rocky and The Black Keys has helped them craft an album that sounds fresh and relevant without ever trying too hard.

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Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock: On A Mission

Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock | On A Mission: Live In Madrid

Michael Schenker has, over the course of almost 45 years, written, recorded, and played with multiple line-ups of multiple bands. But what’s remained throughout are his uniquely melodic playing style and ability to craft gargantuan hooks – which unite the four decades of music presented throughout this hot, sweaty, in your face Madrid show.

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Joe Bonamassa: This train don’t stop for no-one

Joe Bonamassa | Blues of Desperation | 9/10

 How, more than 10 years in, do you create a career-defining album? Have an affair with someone in the band who’s married to someone else in the band while you’re already sleeping with someone else in the band, then record songs about the fallout while doing huge amounts of cocaine? Spend three years writing and recording, and another three months mixing, 60 minutes of music, while coming to terms with the $4.5-million in studio bills and your drummer losing an arm?

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