Wendy and Lisa – Eroica

Wendy and Lisa are Prince’s greatest collaborators and with him are responsible for wlesome of his greatest work, whether credited or not.  It was always going to be difficult for W&L to step out of Prince’s shadow but I don’t think fame and fortune were necessarily their goal.  W&L are musicians at heart and Eroica, their third album, has a more mature feel about it as they seemed to have grown into their sound.  It really is a listenable album from the view that there is depth to the music. Whether its the layered guitars on one track, or layered vocals on another or the little guitar licks that hop between the stereo channels there is always something interesting to listen to.

Standout track:  Why Wait For Heaven – those guitars!

Bastille – Wild World

Dan Smith has such an unmistakable voice. It seems that whatever the song his vocals just lift it, whether its an Wild_World_album_coverupbeat dance track or lower key song.  Maybe its a result of Dan writing all the songs himself, a possible subconscious attitude with an air of positivity seeping into each one. Bastille have a great sound combining a synth sound with guitars and drums creating songs that are meaningful rather than just throwaway pop.  Some albums can sound too repetitive if the band has a particular style, but I don’t feel it with Wild World.  I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to today and just scrolled through my recently added albums, and it wasn’t a bad way to suffer the trains after a long weekend.

Standout track :  Good Grief, mainly for the “Weird Science” soundbites!

Harry Styles – Harry Styles

Harry was always the 1D member with a wild glint in his eye, exhibited in his many tattoo’s that hinted at a grittier side than his boy band membership HarryStyles-albumcovermight allow.  That’s What Makes You Beautiful is actually a brilliant pop song but his new solo album is not quite pop, having a more indie-rock sound.  I am surprised how much I am liking this album.  Thankfully Sign of the Times is not a Prince cover but it is a pretty good song. Some have slated Sweet Creature for sounding too much like McCartney’s Blackbird, but I am sure there are other acoustic guitar songs that do too. The album kind of tails off a bit towards the end for me but after a few listens it’s a pretty good debut, although I could have done without the hotel room imagery. Thanks for that, Harry!

Standout track : Carolina , but Only Angel is great too!

Various Artist – Blues Brothers Soundtrack

bb ostI was too young to be able to reference the film when it came out in 1980 but by the mid 80’s the legacy of the Blues Brothers was still going strong ( and still is!), not only with the film which we watched on VHS (yo kids, go look that up…) but with loads of tribute bands.  It was they who introduced me to Atlantic RnB and classic soul tracks.  I think this soundtrack still holds up as a great collection of music in its own right.  The music is fantastic, particularity the horns and bass, played by some of the musicians who worked on the original tracks back in the 60’s.   Of course the supporting cast including Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles bring their great performances, but John Belushi’s vocals stand up well amongst the Kings and Queens of Blues and Soul.  A great album to start the day to!

Standout track: She Caught The Katy  – easily overlooked as the opening track.

Various Artists – Classic Funk Mastercuts Volume 1

MC funk 1The bass line, drumbeats or breaks from a few of these tracks might seem familiar because they form the base of many hip hop tracks.  As much as I like funk its that element that attracted me to this CD as I am a big fan of old school hip hop, but I mean proper old school – 1986 and older.  A good funk track just finds its groove and takes you with it, and when it does you happily succumb.  There is a good mix of loud funk with some smoother mellow tracks. I like collections like this where the tracks aren’t all well know and Mastercuts albums are great for this, particularly the original releases.  If you fancy dipping your toe into any genre and there is an MC collection for it then its worth picking up, and you can usually get them pretty cheap too.

Standout track: Fatback Band- Wicki-Wacky – I love anything with a cowbell sound!

Alexander O’Neal – Hearsay

hearsayProduced by Minneapolis-based Jam & Lewis, Hearsay is Alexander O’Neal’s magnum opus and the source of his biggest singles in the 80’s. Hearsay was my first “concept” album,  set at Alex’s party with “Interludes” in between the songs playing out events. Hearsay combines funk and soul in a pop package and there are some classic tunes on here. As with most parties you get the upbeat tracks at the beginning and the mellow stuff near the end, but it’s kind of the wrong way round for commuting into work!  Alex just has one of those powerful voices and 30 years later (yes, 30! Can’t believe it!) its still a great listen from start to finish. I have seen him live a few times, and I remember seeing him walking to Hammersmith Apollo because the of the traffic jams.  Awestruck, we snapped a photo but his minders presence dissuaded us from saying hello personally!

Standout Track :  Never Knew Love Like This (with Cherrelle) – Yeah, there’s Fake and Criticize but this is a classic.

Haim – Days Are Gone

Haim_-_Days_Are_GoneI missed seeing Haim last time they were in the UK as they sold out pretty quickly.  Not surprising as their live shows are notoriously great!    I think Haim have a very distinctive sound and whether they like it or not there is a touch of Fleetwood Mac in some of their songs.  Their varying style and vocal harmonies are what makes this album work so well.  You can tell their influences stretch wide, with RnB, Rock and Pop sounds running through.  Some tracks are great pop tunes while others go in other directions.  The prospect of a new album might mean they come back to the UK soon and this time i’ll be looking to book earlier.  On an unrelated note, I did my first proper street run this morning (ie: not in a gym).  Picking today when I was very tired might have been a mistake – it was.

Standout Track :  If I Could Change Your Mind does it for me every time.