Penguins Go Pop: 20th Century Popo

This is an album we wished we’d heard 30 years ago — it’s one of those albums you love in your youth, and ever more it remains a musical comfort blanket. It’s not quite garage rock and it’s too layered to be called DIY, but there’s an endearing homemade quality to it. This is not […]

New Vic: Wind In The Willows

The latest Christmas production at the New Vic, Newcastle, is a re-telling of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows — 110 years old this year — the tale of anthropomorphised animals in a pastoral version of ye olde England as progress, in the form of motor cars, arrives. It’s the best Christmas show the […]

Julian and Roman Wasserfuhr: Relaxin’in Ireland

The emphasis here is on the relaxin’ not the Ireland, so expect no fiddles or jigs. It’s the Irish attitude that inspires the Wasserfuhr, and it’s a nice album for those who like chilled jazz. We often complain about ill-judged covers of popular songs but the Wasserfuhrs manage cool covers of songs that shouldn’t work […]

Lindsey Buckingham: Solo Anthology: The Best Of

Another boxset, this time from the guitarist fired by Fleetwood Mac; he’s so good they needed two players to replace him on tour, Mike Campbell and Neil Finn. Buckingham’s solo albums have always been gems, his voice good and his guitar work (obviously) outstanding. Unlike the Mac, it always sounds intimate and personal, as if […]

Engelbert Humperdinck: Warmest Christmas Wishes

Hump’s first Christmas album in almost 40 years (since A Merry Christmas With Engelbert Humperdinck, but you knew that) is so sweet it’ll make the brandy butter taste as bitter as the tears of Bambi’s mother. His last album The Man I Want to Be was pretty good (it’s Engelbert Humperdinck, we’ll never play it […]

Cilia Petridou: The Mystery of Christmas Greek Kalanda (carols)

This is a collection of songs for the festive season although, as it doesn’t sound “festive”, you get year-round value. The lyrics are Christmas-related but sung in Greek (translations provided). The sleeve/Press notes say that there is a tradition among the Greek people of the singing of carols (kalanda) on Christmas Eve. The notes reference […]

Phil Collins: Plays Well With Others

Who knew he’d played with so many people? And himself — by the definition of the title he counts playing with himself as worthy of inclusion, with half a dozen or so Collins songs, including In The Air, live. He did once say drumming was all in the wrist action. The CD is like Collins’ […]

Calendar Girls The Musical

  (Photo: John Swannell). Extraordinary tales about ordinary people make the very best stories and Calendar Girls The Musical is no exception. Showing at Hanley’s Regent Theatre this week, the show shines a light on the ubiquitous story of a group of WI members who bravely bared all for a fundraising calendar in memory of […]

John Smith: Hummingbird

Smith has always seemed to be the musician’s musician: the people we know who like him are musicians. We tried one of his albums once, but it was a little too workmanlike (sorry, “critically acclaimed”). This new one is much better, evidenced by the fact that we’ve been sent a review copy. They must be […]

Naji Hakim: Embrace Of Fire

This CD features works by Naji Hakim, revolving around organ and harpsichord. The main soloist is Simon Leach, joined for two works by a violinist and for one each by recorder and tenor. Opener Salve Regina (there are two versions) starts with lone vocal that’s melodic plainchant. A few toots on the organ and mournful […]