Monday, 15 September 2014

My Top 10(ish) albums of 2013

I didn't buy many albums in 2013, but interestingly five of the albums that appear here are Pledge CDs. I was only going to post a simple list of my favourite albums of the year, but it somehow turned into a long rambling bunch of pseudo reviews. Like last year, these albums appear in no particular order.

The Loyalties - Death Of Rock & Roll
This offshoot of the Yo-Yo's (a band who burned so briefly but brightly before exploding. Twice) put out their second album after appearing to quietly split up. They had previously released an EP 'One Take Wonders' and debut album 'So Much For Soho' in much the same vein (no pun intended) as the Yo-Yo's - not surprising as one of the principle songwriters is the same. The Loyalties first album was arguably better than the Yo-Yo's second one - probably due to not being so rushed, and not having a junkie in the band making it liable to self-destruct. After appearing to quietly slip away the Loyalties made a surprise comeback in 2013 with a really strong second album - a marked progression from their previous one. The production is a little more polished and the songwriting better - particularly of the absolutely fantastic opening track which gives it's title to the album. This song is real cracker - a really lively shot of rock 'n' roll that's right up there with anything on the Yo-Yo's first album. This set of songs is also a progression in that it is that most unlikely thing from a punk 'n' roll band - a concept album! Green Day ripped up the punk rulebook (something which shouldn't even exist but does) ten years ago and made the brilliant 'American Idiot' album. The concept here is dark and involves a failing relationship, quitting smoking  and a suicidal musician - cheerful stuff huh? The story that unravels (as does it's star) as you listen may tell of darker things but there are a bunch of cracking tunes here. To take the concept even further, the album was originally issued with an accompanying book telling the tale in a rather expensive package. I just bought the cheap CD only version at the launch party gig BTW. Unfortunately it appears that the band may have since split up...

Eureka Machines - Remain In Hope
This is a remarkable album in more ways than one. This band have been in my opinion the best live act on the UK rock scene for several years now. They have doggedly slogged away on the underground scene for some time, gigging and releasing two excellent albums before this one. The band's three album titles 'Do Or Die', 'Champion The Underdog', and now 'Remain In Hope' actually tell the band's story... Fronted by the lively and very funny Chris Catalyst this band are brilliant live! Chris has certainly 'paid his dues' over the years having been active touring and recording with the band Catalyst as well as his remarkable and imaginative solo project Robochrist, playing bass briefly in AntiProduct and more recently as part of the Ginger Wildheart Band. Eureka Machines are very much a band in their own right, and after several years of slogging away on the live circuit and releasing two clever and witty pop/rock albums for very little return they were seriously thinking about calling it a day. With the conventional record company model is dying on it's arse they decided on taking a chance with the new 'Fan funding' model - not really thinking they had enough fans to make it work and seeing it as their last chance. Their campaign on Pledge Music went far better than they ever imagined it could! The result is an album of witty and inventive songwriting in their established and unique catchy pop/punk style, but with better production values than their previous recordings and taking the concept a stage further. If you have followed the band though their earlier albums and struggles then the pathos in a song like the album closer 'Eternal Machines' is incredible and genuinely moving.... Like the Loyalties album, this was launched with a show at The Borderline - the venue was sold out and the atmosphere was incredible. Chris later remarked that is was of their best ever gigs - both the show and album itself were outstanding.

Obsessive Compulsive - Seculo Seculorum
Like the Eureka Machines album this was also the result of 'Fan funding'. After putting out EPs and albums over the years to critical acclaim as was as travelling the country over the years to gig I don't think they were sure they had enough support to make their Pledge Music campaign succeed, but they made it happen. Instead of struggling to fund the album out of their own pockets through their day jobs Obssessive Compulsive got enough support from their loyal fans to make their best set of recordings yet - this album really sounds great! The band's sound mixes punk and metal, plus intelligent lyrics with a strong message, delivered with passion and anger - the song 'No Logo' is a furious attack on corporate sponsorship. I think most record labels would have tried to get them to tone down the song's message a bit, but fan funding enables a band like this to be totally uncompromising - as true punk rock should be. Like the above two albums, this was also launched with a gig in London - also using the Pledge system to sell tickets and delivering one of the gigs of the year at London's Black Heart.

Black Sabbath - 13
Going a bit more mainstream here, Black Sabbath have come back after many years of 'will they?/won't they?' and at least one false start. They have made an album that both surprises, and doesn't. It surprises because it's actually very good - which isn't what many people were expecting. It doesn't surprise, because it sounds exactly like you would expect a Black Sabbath album with Ozzy Osbourne to sound. It's very much a return to the classic Sabbath sound of the first few albums, although not as imaginative and creative as the band were back then. Fortunately, this album featuring Ozzy's return is far far better than the last two albums he made with the band - which only had one good song apiece in my opinion. Ozzy had lost interest in the band by then, and apparently wasn't that into it during the band's other recent and aborted attempt to make a new album - the two new songs which made it onto the recent compilation album weren't up to much and I think the band knew it - hence them abandoning that attempt at a new album.... Maybe Ozzy needed to get something out of his system before committing to Black Sabbath again? If that was the case then I guess he has. He gives a good vocal performance on '13' - by his standards of old anyway. The songwriting on this album is pretty much 'Sabbath-by-numbers' - I think it's the band simply trying to give the fans what they want and deliver an album that sounds like 'classic' Black Sabbath, and in that they have done a very good job. But don't expect any great spark of imagination or creativity. The Rick Rubin production is deliberately raw and basic like the early albums - if you like those them you are going to like this too, which I'm sure is exactly what they were aiming for. No keyboards or masses of layered guitars and vocals - the guitars sound raw with little in the way of effects. Geezer's bass sounds fantastic! In that respect they have certainly delivered the goods, but back then the band were being original and creating their own sound and style - now they are simply recycling it and going over old ground. In spite of his recent struggles with cancer Tony Iommi is still 'The Riffmeister' but some of this sounds rather familiar. The band's individual performances are excellent and up there with anything else they have done - if anything they are better. The songs are dark, gloomy, and menacing as you would expect - vocals aside it's very similar to the excellent 'The Devil You Know' album Tony and Geezer made with the late great Ronnie James Dio under the band name of 'Heaven & Hell' - which was effectively a Black Sabbath album under another name. This album is deliberately more raw and basic in it's production though, and although Ozzy gives one of his better vocal performances he is no Dio - but no one is. It's a great sounding album with classic Sabbath doom laden riffs, but lyrically it is a bit weak and corny in places - I guess that is true to the early Sabbath template too. Apparently some of the lyrics were re-written as Ozzy's original stuff was all about death and as Tony was battling cancer at the time this was considered a bit much. Like many people, I have a bit of a bee-in-my-bonnet over the absence of Bill Ward on this album - it's difficult to believe Sharon O. and the other band member's individual managers aren't to blame for this - of course you get a different story depending on if you listen to Bill himself or the other band members - I'm sure there is a lot more to this story than anyone involved is letting on.... For recording the album and playing live shows they took the easy option and used the drummer from Ozzy's solo band, and to be fair he does an excellent job. If this is to be the last ever Black Sabbath studio album then at least it's a pretty decent one and far from their worst. In fact I'd say this is the best album by (a band called) Black Sabbath since 'Mob Rules' and the best Sabbath album featuring Ozzy since 'Sabotage'.

Hey Hello! - Hey Hello!
This is yet another project by Ginger from the Wildhearts. Does this guy ever take a holiday? This is the third album he has released this year! I've got to say I didn't really enjoy his previous efforts from earlier this year - the Mutation albums 'The Frankenstein Effect' and 'Error 500' although they had good cover artwork. They were a bit too near the Wildhearts infamous 'Endless Nameless' album for my liking - lots of noise and shouting, but not much in the way of tunes or catchy songs. Although I have never been keen on 'Endless Nameless' at least I can (just) hear some good songs somewhere underneath all the noise and distortion - I couldn't say the same of most of the Mutation material. However, Ginger has since bounced back with the rather brilliant 'Hey Hello!' This is a mostly pop/rock side project - just two people in the band, with Victoria Liedtke and Ginger on vocals, while Ginger plays all the instruments - including drums! This album has everything that Mutation lacked - a complete (and no doubt deliberate) contrast. Catchy bouncy pop tunes, but loads of guitar and a dirty rock edge - but totally unlike the Wildhearts. Whereas the Mutation albums both died a death as far as radio airplay went even on the proper rock stations (in spite of a modicum of critical acclaim) Hey Hello! got a lot of airplay on several stations - mostly for the extremely catchy 'Swimwear' single. The BBC seemed to pretend it didn't exist and like with the Wildhearts chose to keep their collective stations heads in the sand as they do with the Wildhearts - for reasons only known to BBC insiders. Even BBC 6Music didn't play it. One can only assume Ginger has at some point massively pissed off the BBC since the band's early days when they managed to get on Top Of The Pops more than once... The other big song from this album is the much less poppy 'How I Survived The Punk Wars' with it's message to new bands on how to survive and succeed in the much changed modern music business - there is a good low budget fan made video to accompany this song. With material like 'Black Valentine', 'Why Can't I Be Me Without You', and 'I'm Gonna Kiss You Like I'm Going Away' Ginger is back to his tuneful and catchy best - this is the album that has done by far the most to get him noticed in 2013, with many favourable reviews, plenty of radio play (apart from the BBC) and a nomination for the Classic Rock Awards. This is another Pledge Music fan funded album and this campaign went well enough to provide enough funds to commission some top artists for the cover artwork: Joe Petagno of Motörhead fame for 'The Frankenstein Effect' and Frank Kozik for the brilliant and highly colourful (but dark and twisted) cartoon artwork on 'Hey Hello!' which I absolutely love - worth every penny!

ZZ Top - La Futura
Like last year's 'DLR comeback' album from Van Halen, this really is surprisingly good. Like the new Black Sabbath comeback album this is also produced by Rick Rubin and he has gone for the same dirty and raw 'back-to-basics' sound. I have found Rubin's work a bit hit and miss in the past - I absolutely loved the sound he got with The Cult on their 'Electric' album when he made them sound dirty and raw like early AC/DC - that 'Gibson guitar plugged straight into a Marshall stack and everything turned up as far as it will go' sound. But when AC/DC later worked with him they hated the experience and vowed "Never again!" - although I thought the resulting album 'Ballbreaker' sounded good enough... And I was really excited when I heard he was going to produce those Tamworth terrors the mighty Wolfsbane back in the day, but he totally ruined their out and out metal sound and made them sound really tinny and lighweight - which they definitely ain't - as they proved later with their crushingly heavy self titled album produced by Simon Efemy. Fortunately, with the new Sabbath and 'Top albums Rubin has got it right. Like with the latest Van Halen album the first track released to radio was a real curveball; Van Halen's 'Tattoo' doesn't sound like Van Halen, or anything else on the album. The first track from 'La Futura' to be heard on radio was 'Gotsta Get Paid' - a number which actually started out as a song by a hip-hop artist about a drug dealer! This is the opening track,  but does not set the tone for the rest of the album. Except it does - sonically but not stylistically. ZZ Top started off as a loud and dirty blooze band from Texas - their earliest recordings were clean sounding in the studio, but when they played live it was a different matter - Billy Gibbons famous 'Pearly Gates' Les Paul guitar plugged straight into a Marshall stack and turned up as loud as it will go - yes, it's that classic sound, as heard in early AC/DC (with different guitars), Paul Kossoff  in Free, The Black Crowes (listen to their cover of 'Hard To Handle) and also The Cult's aforementioned 'Electric' album - speaking of which; listen to ZZ Top's 'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers' (from the Tres Hombres album) then listen to the guitar solos on 'Love Removal Machine' and 'Lil' Devil'. A bit similar huh? ;-) Sorry, my train of though has become derailed... By the time ZZ Top got the their classic 'Eliminator' album they had lost that dirty and raw edge - their sound had become all distortion pedals, drum machines, and synths. Very commercially successful, but they seemed to have lost their mojo along the way. Don't get me wrong, I loved 'Eliminator' and it remains a big influence on my own guitar playing to this day, but there was something missing. Amidst all the over-production ZZ Top had lost their soul. They stuck to their newly discovered winning formula and the next few albums sounded virtually identical - one was even called 'Recycler' - who said Americans don't 'do' irony? So I wasn't expecting much to change even though this is their first album for a few years... How many times have to heard a band banging on about how their are 'going back to basics' with their next album and they are going to keep it simple and raw like their first records? And then the album comes out and it's just like the last few. Same old same old... So I take that sort of band and record company PR bullshit with a very large pinch of salt - in fact I swallow the whole little blue bag. Guess what? This new ZZ Top album really does sound like a dirty and raw old record of theirs. It sounds 'live' -  just like three blokes jamming in a small room. Well OK, there is an extra guitar track to fill out the sound a little with some rhythm guitar behind the solos but that's about it - four blokes in the room but two of them are Billy Gibbons. Real drums, no keyboards or synths or effects - it sounds like they are playing live in a tiny club or rehearsal room with the most basic equipment possible. The Billy Gibbons guitars don't sound just dirty - they sound absolutely filthy! Against all my expectations, ZZ Top have made exactly the album I wanted to hear - for once, all the 'going back to our roots/getting back to basics' hype actually turns out to be true. Aerosmith did a better than expected job of this a few years ago with their 'Honkin' On Bobo' album which was mostly very good, but this sounds less 'produced' and more natural and organic - no doubt modern technology was used, but this album really sounds like it was recorded in the old fashioned way and is all the better for it. The guitar sounds dirtier than Sid James's laugh! Musically it sticks to the old blues rock formula, apart from the aforementioned opening hip-hop cover (which still sounds filthy and raw), and also 'Flyin' High' which sounds a lot like AC/DC! The album's second track 'Chartreuse' has a riff and shuffle rhythm very similar to 'Tush' - if you like the rough and raw live feel of that song from the band's 'Fandango' record, and the same album's live tracks 'Thunderbird' and 'Jailhouse Rock' (the meanest, heaviest, loudest, dirtiest Elvis cover ever that totally shits all over Mütley Crüd's version) and the really mean sounding 'Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers' from 'Tres Hombres' then you really need to check this album out - it's easily their best for a long long time. There is some slow gritty blues as well as the louder and more up-tempo numbers, , but the slower songs bluesier songs are in the minority, overall this album rocks. And it grooves - it has more grooves than a vinyl LP. I'd go as far as to say ZZ Top have never sounded as raw or dirty in the studio as they do on 'La Futura'.

Jelly - Troubadour, Wizard, The Queen and The Machine
This is another album who's launch gig I attended, and very good it was too - as is the album itself. The record starts with the appropriate 'Say Hello' and it's meaty guitar tones. This is very much a guitar led rock record, but there are many interesting flavours to be found amidst it's eleven tracks. The band are all experienced musicians who have 'paid their dues' in various bands over the years, and it shows in this well crafted record. I suspect this was recorded on a pretty low budget, but it sounds really good. Jelly aren't a band that fits into any particular category - after all, jelly is too squishy. There is a bit of a 1970's classic rock sound, and a 1980's alt-rock feel, but the music doesn't sound dated at all. There are some stand-out songs here - 'Kill Me, Thrill Me', 'Best Of Us Yet', and 'Get Out Of Jail' probably wedged even more firmly in my head after hearing them played at various gigs over the last year or so. Which is most likely why they sound so polished on CD as these songs have been well honed at shows. Check out the rather brilliant stop motion animated video for Say Hello.

The Dead Daisies - The Dead Daisies
In early 2013 I'd never heard of the Dead Daisies, but by November I'd heard them countless times on the radio, was in possession of their debut album and been to their first ever UK gig. Suddenly they seemed to be everywhere. They are a sort of low level supergroup featuring past and current members of G'N'R, INX, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and the Rolling Stones. They seem to have a lot of money behind them and could afford to gave their debut album away free with Classic Rock Magazine. The album itself is quality as far as the songwriting and standard of musicianship is concerned - as you'd expect. It's well produced, but sounds somewhat of a generic 'classic' rock album and is lacking originality in places. The first song I heard on the radio was 'Lock 'N' Load' and my immediate thought was 'Slash has joined Lynyrd Skynyrd?' The song does actually feature Slash on lead guitar but his playing sounds a bit 'G'N'R-by-numbers' and the song sounds more than a little like Skynrd's 'Ballad Of Curtis Loew'... The album's opening track 'It's Gonna Take Time' sound's like it has a vocal melody owes a lot to Wolfsbane's 'Broken Doll', but to be fair it's unlikely anyone in this US and Australian based band has ever heard any Wolfsbane songs... The overall feel of the album is on the slightly more rocking side of AOR, but bluesy in places - 'Bible Row' being the most good time rock 'n' roll song on there. I heard the whole album played live at The Underworld in November (another album launch show) and the band were pretty good, with G'N'R's Richard Fortus being outstanding on guitar. It will be interesting to see where the band go from here and if they can break out of the generic 80's/90's rock band rut and carve out an identity of their own...

Motörhead - Aftershock
It's been a longer between album gap than usual before the latest Motörhead record appearing. In my opinion the last two or three 'head records have been a bit 'Motörhead-by-numbers' - they had the classic fast and raucous sound, but the songs sounded like they were written in a hurry at the last minute. They weren't bad albums - just a bit forgettable. The band have taken longer to work on 'Aftershock' - and it shows. The sound is much the same, but them it would be wouldn't it? That's half the point. You want Motörhead to sound like Motörhead. And guess what? They still do. Only a bit better. This band have shown over the years that they are not just a one trick pony, and they have been known to surprise us with the odd ballad, maybe some blues now and then, some more old school rock 'n' roll, and even acoustic songs. Not many surprises on their last few albums, just more of the same old same old. This album is a bit different, but every song is still unmistakeably Motörhead. It's got more songs than the usual ten as well - fourteen in all. After being caught out in the past by a record company releasing extra unused and sub-standard songs left over from album recording sessions Lemmy had a policy of only writing/recording ten songs for an album. With 'Aftershock' we are being spoiled. To be honest I wasn't expecting much from a new album from this band, just more of the same - I bought the last three albums but didn't listen to them that much as the songs didn't really grab me - it seemed a bit like they were just going through the motions. When I heard the first song from this album on the radio it seemed to confirm my suspicions - 'Heartbreaker' (how many songs have that title?) sounded to me a lot like 'Get Back In Line' from the previous album - probably the best song on 'The World Is Yours'. However, the song has grown on me eventually - not that I actually disliked it in the first place. After that opening track this album kicks you in the teeth with 'Coup De Grace' - normal service is resumed and Phil Campbell is cranking the riffs out like nobody's business. Next it's some slow blues, but with this band's distinctive growl, but the pace and volume are kicked up before the end of the song - Lemmy ain't going to allow you to fall asleep! 'End Of Time' is powered by a supercharged shuffle beat with Mikkey Dee showing why he is the only drummer good enough to be in Motörhead. There is a reflective but edgy ballad midway through the album in the form of 'Dust And Glass', but Lemmy obviously thinks one ballad on a rock album is enough - unlike some other frontmen. *Hello Mr Coverdale - yes, I'm talking to you* The volume and speed are cranked back up for the rest of the album - with the odd change of pace. 'Keep Your Powder Dry' is one of the catchiest things the band have done in years, and 'Crying Shame' is probably the best song the band have done in twenty years. After me initially being a bit lukewarm about this album before hearing it, it has become probably my most listened to album of the past year and the soundtrack to many of my bus and train journeys on night's out. Unlike the last few Motörhead albums I keep wanting to listen to 'Aftershock' over and over again - I reckon this is the best record they have made since 'Inferno' back in 2004. This really is everything you want a Motörhead album to be, from the cover art to the cracking riff on 'Do You Believe'. Welcome back lads.

Healthy Junkies - The Lost Refuge
This is the second album from these regulars of London's underground rock 'n' roll scene. Their debut was packed full of catchy pop/punk tunes with a hint of grunge and this continues in much the same vein. The production values are probably a little higher this time round, but the memorable hooks are there right from the album's opener 'Resistance'. The band's earlier Queen Adreena influence is tending to get left behind as the band find their own identity. The tunes seem familiar from the first time I play this CD, but that's probably because I've already heard many of them played live over the last few months - this is another band who's album launch gig I've been to in 2013. 'Play Me' is another song which has stuck in my head after hearing it's bitchy wordplay at gigs. 'If You Talk To Her' has also managed to lodge itself in my head after hearing it live a few times - another song about how tricky relationships can be. This seems to be a re-occurring theme in Healthy Junkies songs and crops up again in 'Sex War'. A bit of variety is added on 'La Vie En Rose' when Nina sings in her native French. Things quieten down a little and the pace slows with 'Shine A Line' before kicking the volume and temp up again with 'Witches Of Lust' - no chance of getting bored here. The album finishes with the female/male spoken word interplay of 'Sex War' and it's references to troubled relationships and the local area. A varied and entertaining album.

Jonny Cola & The A-Grades - Spitfire
Calling your album 'Spitfire' is a sure way to get my attention, and the album opens with the sound of a lone aircraft which we have to presume is a Spitfire flying overhead - and that's the last we hear from that particular bird as there is no song of the same name on the album or any other reference as far as I can tell... So as the sound of the Spitfire fades into the distance the opening track 'In The Woods' kicks in with a meaty guitar tone and a solid riff. The sound is harder than you might expect if you are used to this band's earlier stuff. This album is quite varied in texture though, and after the more full on rock of the first song things take of a more indie/pop feel which is more typical of the band. Many of the lyrics are deliberately ambivalent -  Suede. Placebo and The Smiths also appear to be an influence, along with classic punk, New Wave and a strong Bowie vibe. Things get rather more strident with 'Rain Stopped Play', and slow down with the somewhat sleazy 'Blow Up'. This band are very good live, and like Healthy Junkies have improved greatly by getting out and playing a lot. This album has a couple of things in common with several other in my 'Best of 2013' list - it's another album funded by a Pledge campaign, and I also attended an 'Album Launch' gig for it - these shows have a habit of turning into virtual album reviews when I blog about them, but maybe that's the whole point of these gigs? Jonny Cola & The A-Grades come into their own live, and their Glam rock and Manic Street Preachers influences come to the fore.. I certainly think albums tend to benefit from having their songs road tested and fine tuned in live performance before being recorded. The collection of songs on 'Spitfire' are well crafted and interesting, with keyboard flourishes on some songs, although they are mainly guitar led. This album is an interesting and varied listen.

Ginger Wildheart Band - Albion
No one can accuse Ginger of sitting on his arse. Some artists take four years to make an album - sometimes a lot longer. This is Ginger's fourth full album of 2013! Once again it's the result of a Pledge campaign - something this musician has been making work very well for him. No two albums by this artist are the same, the feel and the lineup of musicians is constantly changing - don't ever expect it to sound like a Wildhearts album without The Wildhearts, although fans of that band will always find something in there that sounds at least slightly similar. What's different about this album is that it has been made with 'The Ginger Wildheart Band' - the musicians that normally play at Ginger's solo live shows. The twist is that as well as just playing on this album they were also involved in writing it. The record was originally going to be called 'Practical Musician' - which initially seemed fitting, but before it was finished Ginger announced that it would be called 'Albion' instead as this had become a far more natural title as the album evolved. And the album has evolved into a bit of an epic - the also rather epic closing track has given the album it's name. The cast of characters will be familiar to fans of Ginger's solo recorded and live work and are all very talented in their own right: Chris Catalyst is the frontman for the rather brilliant Eureka Machines (see earlier in this post) as well as playing guitar in the current version of Sisters Of Mercy. Also on guitar is Rich Jones of The Loyalties (also see earlier) Yo-Yo's, Amen and Black Halos - he also did the cover art for the the Mutation 'Error 500' album Ginger released earlier in 2013. Everybody's favourite loon the ridiculously talented Jon 'Random' Pool (Wildhearts, Silver Ginger 5, Cardiacs, etc) appears on bass (mainly), while the amazing Denzel (also on most of Ginger's solo live and recorded stuff) plays drums. Keyboards are supplied by the American Bryan Scary - he's a bit clever too. And also from the other side of the pond we have the lovely Victoria Liedtke (also from Hey Hello! and Ginger's live shows of recent years) on vocals. The songs on 'Albion' are pretty varied - as you'd probably expect. Ginger's stamp is present of both the music and the vocal melodies although the whole band were involved in the creative process. This album's influences are all over the place! There is less hard rock and punk flavour than much of Ginger's work. It's quite poppy a lot of the time, but generally guitar based. Not much so 'classic rock' or rock 'n' roll influence either, but lots of BIG tunes and catchy melodies - plenty of stuff you can sing along to. Maybe it's more New Wave/Power Pop at times, with lashings of vocal harmonies - I think maybe Ginger's Cheap Trick influences are showing more on this than any other record he has made. Things get off to s good start with 'Drive' and it's cleanish guitar intro that makes me think of AC/DC - but that's where the similarities end.. It's a good tune with one or two unexpected twists and turns - like an unfamiliar country road. Things get a bit heavier next with 'Cambria', but again it's quite a varied song. 'Body Parts' features Ginger at his catchy tuneful best with a song that has you singing along the first time you hear it. 'Grow A Pair' is interesting as well as catchy with a message behind it. This fifteen song album closes in epic style with the title track - a long and sprawling song which meanders all over the place.This album is fresh, entertaining, interesting, and FUN! With Ginger releasing several very varied albums in one year it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next...

Those who know me may think there are one or two glaring omissions from the list. Yes, there are at least a couple of albums that you might expect to be in there that are missing. The reason? I haven't got them yet - it's as simple as that. And I don't feel it's fair to include albums that I don't own, haven't heard properly or at all. It's just a question of time and/or money - I just don't have enough of either to buy every CD I want or go to every gig I want to. There are also some recent gigs I would not normally have missed but had to for similar reasons.

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