Review: Fela Kuti among the greats

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MOST people who carve out a career in music don’t ever justify a Greatest Hits compilation being released – even fewer deserve a second Best Of being put together.
You can count them on one hand, for the most part – Prince, The Beatles, Queen, err, Meat Loaf?
But the late Fela Kuti’s Best Of The Black President II, despite the African artist largely only being known in mainstream consciousness as the man behind Zombie, proves he was up there with the best of the best.
This collection, over two discs, demonstrates that Kuti was as political as Bob Dylan, as experimental and fearless with his art as Miles Davis, as funky and furious as James Brown, a pioneer and leader of his Afrobeat genre and to his larger cultural heritage as Bob Marley was to reggae.
And, most importantly, he is as enjoyable to listen to now as in his 1970s, 1980s heyday – long live the Black President’s music, you really cannot argue with this collection.

Review: Stereophonics enjoying the ride with Graffiti On The Train

IT’S tempting to describe a band with such a long and illustrious career as The Stereophonics as maturing like a wine or a cheese, but I like to think of them more like honey – there’s is a sound which just doesn’t spoil.
I’ve been a fan of the Welsh rockers since Kelly Jones was wee, and not a lot has changed since then.
Graffiti On The Train, their eighth album, sees the group’s rocky, trademark sound take a classic turn, with Rod Stewartesque heartwrenchers like Been Caught Cheating and No-one’s Perfect, epic tracks like Violins And Tambourines and We Share The Same Sun, and vintage ‘Phonics pop rockers like Indian Summer and Catacomb all perfectly balanced out over the course of the LP.
Graffiti On The Train does not signal a band reinventing the wheel and why should it?
It’s the sound of a band carrying along the right track, at their own speed, enjoying the ride.

Review: Bastille’s Bad Blood is flawed

LAST year, upon discovery of Bastille’s storming single Flaws, I played that sucker to death.
“If only there was more of this,” I thought, at the time.
Turns out Bastille, the moniker of singer-songwriter Dan Smith, was beavering away creating just that – tune after tune after tune along the same formula.
Bad Blood is in fact Bastille’s ‘Symphony in Flaws’ – variations on the theme of Owl City-meets-Mumford & Sons pop, with emotions pumped up to Florence And The Machine-high levels.
It’s undeniably cracking and well-crafted indie pop, and the obvious single choices such as Icarus and Pompeii, stand up alongside Flaws.
The flaw is that given the monotony of production throughout, even with a full album’s worth of work under his belt Bastille is still in my mind’s eye, a one hit wonder.

From the archives: Barrowman all on show

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DO YOU like musicals?
Are you a fan of John Barrowman?
No, I’m not questioning anybody’s sexuality, the reason I ask is ‘entertainer’ John Barrowman’s self-titled new album sees the ‘personality’ covering a selection of songs from the shows.
There are covers of tracks from Copacabana, Cats, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! and more – although the only cover I’d like to see here is the final curtain fall.
Because these overproduced, pointless recordings are so cheesy they should come with a warning for the lactose intolerent – you can visualise Barrowman’s smug face churning these out in the studio as you listen.
So basically, if you like musical theatre and Barrowman’s smug face, this is the album for you.

Download: Mary At Midnight covers Elton John

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IT’S bewitching hour here at Sound Advice – London-based singer songwriter Mary At Midnight has covered Elton John’s Tiny Dancer and you can grab one here.
A spokesman for Mary At Midnight – whose debut single Heads Will Roll was released this week – said: “A little bit Indian, a little bit English, Mary at Midnight couples live instruments with dreamy sampled beats, blending them with words often born from the chromosomes of too little sleep and an over-active imagination.
“The odd tabla beat or harmonium drone is wrapped up in a comforting blanket of satisfying electro beats and ethereal vocals.”
To get your free download of the Elton John classic click here – Mary at Midnight – Tiny Dancer

Soundcast: Bearded Theory Festival Anthems

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THE Bearded Theory music festival in Derbyshire has put together a bill bristling with talent for 2013.
A spokesman said: “Main Stage Additions include Stiff Little Fingers, New Model Army, The Farm, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Ruts DC and current Mercury Music Prize Nominees, The Hummingbirds.
“Other notable additions to the festival’s line up include Magical Sounds Dance Stage Headliners The Egg, A Guy Called Gerald and Subgiant.”
And fresh from unveiling a truckful of new acts to brush shoulders with the likes of headliners Asian Dub Foundation, The Levellers and Reverend And The Makers, Bearded Theory has put together a Festival Anthems Soundcast playlist for Sound Advice to showcase the sounds that will be rocking Kedleston Hall this Summer.
Listen below, and visit for more information.

Review: Get lost in Mazes

MANCHESTER band Mazes’s latest LP Ores & Minerals is an unpolished gem that’s easy to get lost in.
The group’s sound is akin to a halfway house between indie acts Clor and Built To Spill – but deceptively, despite their name, they are much, much simpler in approach than either of those.
The guitar hooks here are catchy and crisp, while vocally Mazes again keep it basic – but instead a labyrinthine feel is built through the repetition, the slow building up of a vibe rather than the complicated structuring of a song.
This could on paper verge on infuriating, but the group exudes so much charm that getting lost in their sound is actually more fun than you might imagine.