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BRITISH LIONS -
Live At The Old Waldorf
Angel Air 2010

How the West was won, or some beer spilling in San Francisco in 1978.

If the combination of three MOTT THE HOOPLE musicians and the head of MEDICINE HEAD might look strange, there was common denominator to it - their pub-stenched roughness and the devil-may-care attitude. And, of course, the best situation to project both features was on stage where the songs from the band's only studio album would be executed in all their glory - even in California. Why not, then, if the opening romp of "One More Chance To Run" could please bikers as well as hippies, and the marriage of "So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star" with "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" and "Pretty Vacant" shows the quintet tuned in to the sybarite past and the nihilistic (no) future via the sneer of their day?

The ensemble deliver their hard rock sharp with Ray Major blistering guitar licks that run Berry in "Come On" and, together with Overend Watts' bass, go Diddley in "Break This Fool", while Morgan Fisher gets all organ-proggy in "Fork Talking Man" and splices the "Money" riff and a bit of Beethoven onto "Eat The Rich". The straight-faced fun and straitjacket energy ooze out of every note here, John Fiddler speeding up his erstwhile blues wail for the angular modernity of "Love Now", with it's "Love Story" cosmic quote, and going the "Young Dudes" way for the anthemic "International Heroes" where each of the players shines individually and in harmony. Live, there an extra vivacity to the band's only hit "Wild In The Streets" which acutely addresses America.

The audience clearly likes it so, with three demos augmenting this life-affirming show, it's a great coda to the LIONS' short story.

****1/2
BEGGARS OPERA -
Lose A Life
Ricky Gardiner Songs 2010

The most personal of all the band's albums emphasizing the leader's valorous courage.

The band's third release of 2010, "Lose A Life", subtitled "nano opera based on a true story", follows its looking-forward predecessors with an inward-peering collections of songs that deal with Ricky Gardiner's electromagnetic hypersensitivity that makes his existence a nightmare, what with the electric nature of the veteran's instrument of choise. The more impressing is the dignity it's all laid out in "Electrofire Invasion" where the tension builds supreme with Gardiner's riff ridges and his wife Virginia Scott's piano blizzard, and in the sonic Jacob's ladder and nervous chant of "Cosmic Tango". Then there's a guitar orchestra taking "Dr. Carlo" to the crystal highs, and a solemn Irish motif of "Electro Half Light" shining bright in the chordal sky. More so, "Tango For The End Of Time", a heavy kind of the dance, comes full of optimism to prove all the wrongness of the album's title.

****
COLD RIVER LADY -
Better Late Than Never
Angel Air 2010

The third coming of a British rock's secret gem. Old band, new album out of archive.

It's banal but there could be no more fitting title to the debut record from an ensemble who formed in 1970 and could have laid out their wares side by side with the likes of STEELEYE SPAN but, despite their countryside touring and full support from the famous lyricist Pete Brown, failed to pen a deal and produce an LP. Guitarists Phil Weaver and Paul Cheshire, keyboard player Will Wright and vocalist Helen Hardy managed to do so only in 1992, with Brown's persuasion and money, yet the era was wrong for such a style, so the album sees the light of day only now. And not that it mattered much, for the songs sound quite modern - or timeless if you like.

Electric enegry oozing out of the tone-setting "English Graffiti" feels pop-savvy enough to bite the charts, as there's no age-edge to its rippling guitar-web and summer-lite melody, while "Something" takes a lead from Santana's school of heat, and the sunshine funk flowing under "The Promise" can make Avril Lavigne blush from envy - such captivating is the track's embrace and such strong is Hardy's soulful delivery. And that's just the first three pieces. Towards the center of the album its serenity jars a bit, yet the rainbow color and vocal harmonies of "The Travellers" update the '60s idealism, and the classic rock aficionados will have their body shaken to the organ roll and Weaver's soft vocals in "Routing Through The Quagmire" that sees the folk motif threaded through the pop motions.

Two tracks re-cut from the group's classic period demo, including the enchanting "Far In The Fields", blend seamlessly with the rest which means the ensemble had stayed true to their roots whilst contemporizing their silver lining. The record was more than worth waiting for.

****1/3
RELOCATOR -
Relocator
Relocator 2009

One progressive ambition's fulifilled - dream on of another places with a DREAM THEATER connection.

Launched in 2004 as a unit, four years later RELOCATOR folded, but, while for the lesser mortals that would be the end, guitarist Stefan Artwin and bassist Michael Prudnicki revitalized their brainchild as a studio-bound project in 2009, with Dutch drummer Frank Tinge and Polish violinist Bartek Strychanski, to come up with the goods alluring enough to rope in Derek Sherinian to supply keyboards. Sounds nice, the only problem being the music's predictability - not in the way the melodies flow but in the shape it is, although "13 Seasons" could have turned out much greater if it was a song rather than an instrumental showcase just like the rest.

It's all highly charged yet smooth, even on the fusion planes of the title track, so the satisfaction kicks in when the goings get rough like when the raga colors the "Proxima" drive, or the guitar and bass snatch some funk in "Red Vibes": that's where the fingers' prowess lets emotions to the fore. For the most part, though, it's art for the sake of art, with influences proudly worn on the collective sleeve, and it takes some stamina to stand the epic scale of "Biosphere" which is saved only by the Hendrix shadow. "The Alchemist", meanwhile, packs all the CRIMSO beauty in its 11-plus minutes. Fun surely have been had recording it, as for the listening... some will be bored to death and wish to relocate to something less sophisticated.

***
TONIGHT -
Drummer Man
Angel Air 2010

The resurfacing output of the original power poppers with a wonder bigger than their sole hit.

Over the years, the term "power pop" got somehow twisted, as did the definition of pop itself, but initially that was how Pete Townshend described his rifferama; that's why it should come as no surprise, the punky spikeness of TONIGHT, a band with regard to which, together with THE RICH KIDS, the aforementioned two-P phrase was first used a style depiction. Bearing the title of their highest score achieved in early 1978 and even taken to "Top Of The Pops", this CD holds most of the tracks the quintet laid down for the album that wasn't to be due to the Essex lads' dire financial situation and, dug out now, shows what a fiery proposition they were.

"Drummer Man" the song still flies like a vital slab of the Mod-infected rock 'n' roll of mass appeal, and the '60s soul is smeared all over the guitar crunch and vocal harmonies of "Hold On Me (TV)", but the relatively "I Can Play Faster Than You Can" positions TONIGHT as the safety-pin pin-ups of the "No Future" era with "City Shit" places the group alongside THE CLASH in the shouters stalls. As for the audience reception, the live rendition of "Spilling My Drink" is a fine reflection of the band's ability to engage: here's your pop credibility for the sneering times - just try not to crack a smile at the kaleidoscopic rhythm-and-blues of "Jumpdown Turnaround".

Even tonight TONIGHT could have gone down well - their power still feels glorious.

****
GERRY McAVOY -
Can't Win 'Em All
Angel Air 2010

The best Irish four-stringer dusts off his criminally unreleased tapes to do the opposite to what the title says.

Well-known for his work with Rory Gallagher and NINE BELOW ZERO he's still a part of, Gerry McAvoy isn't one of those bassists who stand stone-faced behind the main man, which makes it even more strange that the master's second solo album remained on the shelf for so long. The record was committed to tape in the late '70s - early '80s during the gaps in Gallagher's schedule, with Rory's sidekicks and future NBZ members Brendan O'Neill on drums and Mark Feltham on harmonica, plus other friends such as Manfred Mann's guitar foil Davy Flett, so it's a strong blues set featuring both original compositions and classics.

Ending with one those, "Help Me Through The Day", starting with McAvoy's own airy "Misunderstood" and including a slow take on Del Shannon's "Runaway", the mood of it all is surprisingly upbeat, Gerry in fine voice and the sound with no vestige of its vintage. Of course, there's much more sway in old faves like the brass-awashed Junior Wells' "What My Mamma Told Me" and Uncle Ray's "Chose To Sing The Blues", and on-stage Gerry's band should've been a killer so effortless they play, but here they seem to reign in their inner beast. So "Troubled Heart" has a slight coldness about it, like U2 have, yet overall it's a warm album, especially when McAvoy lets rip on the heavily throbbing "Midnight Man", the rockabilly of "Oh What A Shame" or the funky title track, the only number where the bass comes forward to show off.

It's not what you expect from the bass player's record, it's letting the steam off for all to get scorched - and to like it.

****
ANGELFIRE
Steve Morse
& Sarah Spencer -
Angelfire
Radiant Records 2010

It takes a special woman for the DEEP PURPLE guitarist to show his soft underbelly - and a special musician to make a young beauty shine.

It might be a little dangerous to follow own's predecessor's route, but Steve Morse has too many different beasts in him, after serving time with KANSAS, DIXIE DREGS and those classic hard rockers the guitarist's with now, that's why any BLACKMORE'S NIGHT comparisons must be left at the threshold of this exquisite work. And, as for every a beast there should be a belle, there's the talented miss Spencer, a real mastermind of ANGELFIRE, whose songs enthrall and enchant, so Morse, always a secret romantic, allowed his inner minstrel come out and play gently. "Far Gone Now", the title of the opening song, can be a fine depiction of his approach, taking the back seat for Sarah's warm voice to shimmer in the adorable acoustic cocoon that wraps around the listener's ears and never goes away and reaches the glory in the prog-tinged hymn of "Omnis Morse Aequat".

The music is mellifluous and sometimes it's hard to tell one number from the other, yet that contributes to the wholeness of it all, with the depth of ballads like "What Made You Think?" almost unfathomable, but here's an electric flight in "Take It Or Leave It", and "Get Away" does rock delicately, bluesy way. This well is as rustic as Renaissance gets, and pop-savvy at the same time: the cosmic "Terrible Thing To Lose" flows radio-friendly and remix-inviting, while the countrified "Here Today" and the silky "Everything To Live For" are sharp enough to dent into the charts. Deceptively simple, the lace is being woven mesmerizingly, multi-tracked vocals floating in the six-string (safety) net. So much for the advice Morse was originally invited to give Spencer! The fire that two burn is a treasure to cherish. Here's hoping there'll be more of its light.

*****
HURRY HURRY - Life
Substantial Brothers Productions 2010

The Australian auteurs give their film music more vitality for all the art rockers to slide into bliss.

Just when you started to think they don't make it like this anymore, out comes "Life", the pilot album in a series telling the story of evolution on our planet - not in Darwinistic terms but spiritually, through the music that should get the old Oldfield fans awestruck. But the cinematic feel of the song cycle linked with spoken word, by Mother Earth itself, comes from Wayne and Rob Hurry's experience in composing for various films, none of which is so serene in its mood. It's a cosy art rock symphony that doesn't shy away from the dance beat as the opener, "A Million Stars - The Virgin Planet", shows, and it's a right buzz with cosmic synthesizers and orchestral wave drawing the listener in the very vortex of joie de vivre that triumphs with the rich tapestry of "Homosapien"

There's a lot of guitars, too, but save for the hard rocking "Chaos" and highly harmonic "Fish", they delicately embellish the keyboard-driven whole which bursts with emotions without exploding into space but close to it, especially in the grandiose "Thunder" and "Amphibian" which are as large-scale as only the likes of Rick Wakeman dare to deliver. It's even more impressive in contrast to the acoustic guitar in "Wings", a flute in the bass-throbbing "Trees" and the pure piano amidst the electronica of "From The Murk". One of the most enjoyable journey you can embark on these days, "Life" shouldn't be escaped by any progger there is but deserves a much wider audience.

****3/4
THE RUBETTES -
21st Century Rock 'n' Roll
Angel Air 2010

The Bill Hurd-led fraction of the original woppers-boppers serve up dishes old and new and let down nothing but their hair.

You can give your own explanation as to what the "futuristic retro" means yet for the likes of SAILOR, whose legend is kept alive by Angel Air, and THE RUBETTES it takes giving their burlesque sound a modern gleam. The original incarnation of the latter faded away in the late '70s, and then got resurrected some years later for the almost two decade run before splitting in two. Here's the line-up with organist Bill Hurd as the captain with a couple of their old hits stitched seamlessly with a fresh material resulting in a pretty whole album.

It's much rockier than before, as the "Dancin' The Night Away" bluesy swirl and the crunchy beat of "Ain't No Surprise" suggest, and it'd better be that way for the covers such as "Kiss You All Over" make the ensemble shed their identity to get close to the Chinn and Chapman stable. Still, the orchestral sweep of Hurd's own "Good Lovin' Gone Bad" can make the SMOKIE fans swoon, while "Tarzan's Birthday" mines the Chuck Berry seam with an enviable panache. It's the same old glam jive so adorable in the title track which could have easily been written and gone to the top in the genre's golden era: doo-wop harmonies, sparkling piano, twinkle in the eye... The song arguably holds more vim than the band's classics "Sugar Baby Love" and "Tonight", still dreamily sweet but as relevant in the new millenium. So if you think about nostalgia, factor it out!

****
THE STORYS - Luck
Angel Air 2010

The Welsh heroes' last, but still hushed, hurray. The third album as a final bow.

After seven years together, THE STORYS bow out, and the title of their latest album shows the amicability of such a strange step. Having been Elton John favorites and supporting many a huge name, the band could have hit it big time, but with so much music on the individual minds - guitarist Rob Thompson's "Dust" is out at the same time as "Luck" - they won't. Still, while others could have taken some risks in these circumstances, the sextet don't leave their West Coast-sunkissed comfort zone and, after the thunderous drums and wailing harmonica of "Everybody Wants You To Make It", play too safe.

Yet, with the blues never too far and the harmonies always tight, it's all bitter-sweet, never more so than in the almost painfully pleasant "California" and the more upbeat "Please Come Home", but in many places, like in the mellifluous "Before I Fall", somehow too familiar. And if the jangly guitars fill the less wistful "Long Way Up" with vim, "Daylight Calls Again" outstays its welcome at 6 minutes plus. Those with penchant for the rustic Arcadia will find much to enjoy here; the rest will stick to their "Deja Vu", though.

***3/4
THE TYGERS -
Second Album
FairTone Records 2010

The Milwakee legends serve up the follow-up to their late '60s debut, with the vigor intact.

While many moan about not having another chance, precious few take the reins in their own hands. This band belong to the latter category. Lauded by Les Paul and signed by Herb Alpert, the teenagers notched a small hit with "Little By Little" in 1969 but their debut album flopped, and soon the group broke up... to get back with the bang now. For the lead singer Tony Dancy, who fell ill when they were laying down that old longplay, it's the first album in the company of another two original members, keyboard player Craig Fairchild, his partner in writing music for such popular TV fodder as "The Brady Bunch" and "The Flintstones", and guitarist Lanny Hale, so the trio's fervor is understandable, and quite pulpable.

It's like they've never been gone, and if nostalgia pervades the steel-guitar-awashed country rock of the opener "How Long Does It Take", for the most part the adult experience is well hidden behind the youthful sunshine swirl so prominent in the surf-ey "Girl Like You" twist, with "Never Too Late" taking an infectious foray into the music hall territory thanks to its piano strut. Harmonies reign here, but there's also the predatory "Night Walker" with its ominously plonking bass and a creepy crunchy pace of the brass-oiled "Voo Doo" that are impossible not to love, too. Always tongue-in-cheek but never going for pastiche, it's one of the most adorable records of 2010.

****
JEFF BERLIN -
High Standards
M.A.J. Records 2010

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Buy the CD

The bass savant reads the textbook of jazz in his own style and in an impressive company.

More often than not raiding the rock fringes of improvisatory genre and getting closer and closer to its elusive heart, it seemed only a matter of time that Jeff Berlin would come up with a pure jazz album one day. And the day has come: with Richard Drexler on contrabass and piano and Danny Gottlieb on drums, the four-string virtuoso swings through the time-tested classics, so the record's title is a testament to both the musicianship and the content. With four cuts associated with Miles Davis, the bassist totally re-imagines the tunes most famous for their brass tones without overplaying it a bit, whether his runs flow in unison with piano and propel the trio forward like in Dizzie Gillespie's "Groovin' High", the mood-setting racy opener, or take the back seat to the original melody as in "Nardis" that Berlin plucks from Cannoball to make it essentially his own.

Yet Jeff's beloved fusion is never far away, what with the old-chest vaudevilian curves of "If I Were A Bell" and the toe-tapping, bottom(-end)-shaking jive "I Want To Be Happy"; while with Ravel's "Valse Nobles et Sentimentales no. IV" Berlin explores the other modern classical domain in under two minutes, maybe too humbly for his usually widescreen approach. Still, drums swaying wild in "Solar" and ivories roaming free in the chordal cage of "Body & Soul", it's more about ensemble playing rather than a solo show, but it's pretty obvious who's leading who - in such an elegant way that, after this CD, mentioning his refusal to join VAN HALEN mustn't be in Jeff Berlin's CV anymore.

****4/5
ROB THOMPSON -
Dust
Angel Air 2010

The STORYS guitarist meets his group's end with a quiet big bang that'll launch the solo career ball rolling.

The Elton John-endorsed Welsh ensemble fall apart amicably, with their six-stringer releasing a record of his own on the same date that the collective's good-bye effort sees the light of day and having his yet-to-be-former bandmates color this deceptively gray gem. It's an instantly immersive widescreen opus that, unlike Thompson's cimema work, doesn't need visuals to create the mood: from the dramatic woo-woo's and desperate guitar solo of the title track to the delicate orchestration of "The Ending Credits", the soft songs and hushed tones wrap themselves around your soul to keep it warm in the chill wind that Rob's words sometimes bring on.

If "I Can't Tune In" rises only when the piano motif lifts the song above the mundane, the country-tinctured easy roll that carries "Could You Come Around?" feels irresistible at once: there's the kind of road dust that measures your progress on the way to the end of the rainbow which, in "The Director's Cut", soars higher and higher on fantastic guitar solos. Not as rustic and homespun as "Pink House" this album might be, but it's such a beautiful little edifice that THE BAND aficionados and the like must stand and adore it.

****4/5
EARNEST WOODALL -
Sphere Acid Burn
Earnest Woodall 2008

Information overload as seen from the wishing well of hushed ambience.

Following the shadows-and-light cycle of his previous works, the American post-modernist comes up with the most shimmering opus of them all, its fabric all the more gentler in juxtaposition against the media shiver which is this album's subject. Snippets of TV coverage of various events and kitchen sink sonics might ram it towards musique concrete, yet, from "In The New World Order" rallying cry on, Woodall goes for making the impressionistic whole of the overlapping piano runs and delicate electronic buzz that tends to intensify and slide back in a sligthly vertiginous way.

But then, there's always a calm place such as the hypnotizing synth motif of "Mystic Feline" or "Port Authority" which ebbs and glows under the Eastern melody like an oasis lake before the clipped guitar in "Domestic Insanity" brings in some discomfort again, while the exquisite acoustic lace of the closer "Call Waiting" welcomes serenity back. A very life-like and, thus, compelling listening.

****
FOGHAT -
Not Live At The BBC
Angel Air 2010

The veteran rockers rip the radio joint Stateside to give many a youngster run for their money.

FOGHAT have always been a British heavy blues institution, but England preferred to pronounce their name as "forget", while America took the band to her heart, although not on the ZEP scale. Led today by the original drummer Roger Earl and still relying heavily on blues standards and the late guitarist Dave Peverett-penned material, live, the foursome are still awesome as this 2007's 75-minute radio session proves.

It's a footstompin' stroll from the "Home In My Hand" boogie which boasts a slide guitar solo from the former MOLLY HATCHET axeman Bryan Bassett to the classic jive of "Slow Ride", with a helluva exciting moments in-between, including the harmonica-adorned sprawling instrumental "California Blues" authored by the current line-up and spliced with "Spoonful" that flows into another Willie Dixon's staple, the sped-up and funked-out "I Just Want To Make Love To You". The fallen Rod Price's shoes fit Charlie Huhn nicely; the warbler effectively makes the twin-barrel "Drivin' Wheel" his own and leads the band into the frenzied "Shake Your Money Maker" with the swagger you rarely face these days. Altogether, a fantastic set from the bunch who know how to energize and be energized.

****3/4
IVAN MIHALJEVICH -
Sandcastle
Ivan Mihaljevic 2009

Young shredder from Croatia stands at the crossroads wondering which way to go.

These days there's no shortage of skilled musos trying to impress with their mastery of speedy playing, and Ivan Mihaljevic joins the race with enviable vigor, it's just that "Sandcastle", his first solo effort, captures the guitar-slinger trying to tread several roads at the same time. While the title track is a beautiful piece of hard and pleasant rocking, with the lyricism and attack measured equally, and "Hi-Tech Orient" melds tapping to techno in the Jeff Beck way, "Spring" simply jars. Giving Vivaldi and other popular classics the metal shine must be prohibited once and for all! And where the vocals enter the smooth instrumental run, the tension sags. Thus, "Distant World", an exquisite folk ballad, gains a roaring, radio-friendly chorus that ruins everything and its snippet mars otherwise classy "Friend"; much better works "Empathy" where the melody rules supreme and the harpsichord chimes in, and the closer "Raindrops" where piano shares the spotlight with guitar. A good effort but some decision, direction-wise, should be made here.

***
DOUbT -
Never Pet A Burning Dog
MoonJune 2010

An understated, if stately, fusion with the Canterbury ghosts abound.

Their immense talents notwithstanding, a chance of Alex Maguire, Tony Bianco and Michel Delville - respectively from the U.K., USA and Belgium - getting together was slim, and the three couldn't have met if not for the late great Elton Dean who joined the dots. Well-versed in jazz, the three prefer to go beyond the tradition, though, the opener "Corale Di San Luca" starting with a solemn bells peal which gives way to the equally murky Richard Sinclair's voice that spreads over Bianco's cymbals with the veteran's bass adding blackness to Maguire's piano. The drums speed up the run, and once the momentum's gained, there's no way back from the boiling pot of "Laughter" where Delville's guitar's all the rage and Fender Rhodes the crest of the ever-tidal wave to the synth flute-wielding "Beppe's Shelter" that nods to maestro Crovella's Italian domain where this live-in-a-studio shenanigan took place.

The closer the band come to the classic fusion a la MAHAVISHNU is when they re-imagine Terje Rypdal's "Over Birkerot" as a pseudo-chaotic golden fish bowl for the instruments to mingle in the most beautiful way - always on the verge of tripping over each other. But then, "Cosmic Surgery" sees the ensemble enter the heavy prog realm with much panache. A whole album in this style would serve them well, but meanwhile Sinclair makes another ethereal appearance in "Passing Cloud", his co-write with the keyboardist, to slide along with Maguire's light electric passages while Bianco peppers the drift with economic strokes. It's sparse and deep, with understatement of it all giving the result its due grandeur.

***
BABYLON MYSTERY ORCHESTRA -
The Godless, The Godforsaken And The God Damned
Babylon Mystery Orchestra 2010

The battle rages on but the art of one-man's quest against organized religion fades.

Sidney Allen Johnson is unstoppable, and why should he if the religious institutions that in the past held the world together tear it apart now? The singer-guitarist took a hook at Christianity on "The Great Apostasy" and then, on "Axis Of Evil", at Islam, but his next effort draws no line belief-wise and comes frontal against all the hypocrites who spread their word the wrong way. Sadly, now SAJ's own words take precedence over the music that rages hollow for its own sake.

The riffs aren't catchy tgis time, solos faring safely in the BLACK SABBATH terrain, from the opening "Catspaw" to the closing "The Twelfth Imam", while the Ancient Egyptian gods and Judaic theme enter the picture alongside the anti-anti-abortion diatribe which is "Jesus Save...". The only cut with a different, Eastern, tone is acoustic-tinged "Hate Crime", and "You're On Your Own... This Time" flows well as a gloomy doomy ballad, plus there's impressive choral bits in "Viva Cristo Rey", yet for the most part the album feels like a depressive demos collection.

**
IRON KIM STYLE -
Iron Kim Style
MoonJune 2010

From the grunge hub and martial position, a tight but loose grip of a different, jazzy kind.

With Kim Il-sung on the cover and the portrait of Kim Jong-il inside, one would be forgiven for thinking there's some heavy thunder in between but no, a new venture for the MORAINE leader Dennis Rea, as famous for his guitar wizardry as for expertise in modern Chinese music, possesses too many nuances to feel moulden as metal. The opening salvo of Jay Jaskot's drums and Ryan Berg's bass throws a listener into the purely improvised swirl of "Mean Streets Of Pyongyang", although Bill Jones' trumpet and the leader's funky licks give the jive a Cuban rather than Korean feel which is supposedly the name of the game with no rules. It's the unpredictability of the ultimately urban - with cars' signals, trains' chug and radio modulations - adventure that makes this record a riveting drive.

And the humor, too: the fervent "Jack Out The Kims" bubbles in fine fashion as any great punk jam should, where everyone pushes for space, while the tranquil "Dreams From Our Dear Leader" plays out the dictatorship card in reverse - quietly. And if the central part of the journey, from "Don Quixotic" to "Amber Waves Of Migraine", float serenely too, on the fusion six-string waves with brass lightnings on the horizon and low-range hints on storm to come, while "Po' Brief" offers a serious avant-garde tangle of numerous instrumental threads that somehow cohere into a racy whole with Rea's luquid runs calling the shots. The bellicose nature of it all drive is dictated by the fact there is one more Kim, a master of martial arts, but with such a velvet glove over the album's fist, this is a battle to join time after time.

*****
BEGGARS OPERA -
All Tomorrows Thinking /
Suddenly Ahead Ahead
Ricky Gardiner Songs 2010

Each subtitled "a collection of surreal songs created from Ricky Gardiner's guitar archives", the twin barrel shot aims at the indie heart.

Long ago the obscure protagonists of art rock, in the last decades BEGGARS OPERA - now featuring Ricky Gardiner and Virginia Scott from the classic line-up, and their son Tom on drums - have been increasingly pushing the left-field border of the out-there genre, and now seem to have reached the peak of it with these two albums, released simultaneously. Both, as their titles suggest, are pointing forward, while the gist of them hark back to Gardiner's stash of instrumental sketches, with Scott's vocals making it all songs.

"All Tomorrows Thinking" is the deepest of the two, starting with "How She Swam" and rounding off with the racy "Faces In You", filled with the six-string harmonies and pure prog keyboards; in between, the sparseness takes the lead, despite all the riffs and vignettes. It's a paradox in the very spirit of the band so, while "Catching On To You" flows heavy, etching itself in a memory, in "Those Echoes", the '80s plastic pop rears its head along the glittery, if understated, melodic lines. But it's on "Suddenly Ahead Ahead" that ethereal surrealism takes over, right after the fantastic, Spanish-hued liquid guitar of the title track soars into invisibility, and if "Towers Falling" rocks the joint in bluesy vein, the tremulous "Sad Songs" booms with echoing twang of good vintage.

At the same time "Dance To Me" would have felt in place on the other album, which only goes to show they're in fact not two but a single record split for the best digestion; that's your thinking ahead!

***1/2 / ****
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