double-take-scrollerThe promotion campaign for “Double Take” features some of the artists involved (Rod Stewart, Paul Carrack and Huey Lewis) talking about the first time they saw Frankie Miller. Now, that’s a great idea.

Freshers’ Week, Dundee University, 1976 and the first gig of the year was Frankie Miller’s Full House. I went to the gig with my new mate Steve (still a mate and writing great reviews for MusicRiot). The band were superb and we left the gig raving about Ray Minhinnet’s guitar work, Chrissy Stewart’s bass playing, but most of all about Frankie’s stunning soul voice. He started the ballad “With You in Mind” a cappella, and with perfect pitch, before the band dropped in underneath the vocal; I was completely hooked from that moment. I’ve seen an awful lot of gigs since then, but I’ve never heard a band that nailed it so completely, song after song.

So let me put “Double Take” into some kind of personal and historical context. As Frankie slowly fought back from the brink after a brain haemorrhage in 1994, you would hear occasionally from friends on the Scottish music scene about his progress; not frequently, but often enough to know that things were gradually improving, and it carried on like that until 2012 when word started to leak out that a project with Frankie’s old demo tapes was in progress. It’s taken over four years and probably a few unexpected twists and turns, but the final result is “Double Take”, nineteen unreleased Frankie Miller originals reconstructed from demo vocals, and all but one reimagined as duets with singers that wanted to be involved with the project. Although Frankie’s biggest chart hits (“When I’m Away From You” aside) were interpretations of other people’s songs, he also wrote a shedload of great songs for himself and other artists.

The nineteen songs on “Double Take” are pretty representative of Frankie’s songwriting output, covering soul, blues, rock, country and ballads. And that’s the staple diet of Scotland, right there; forget your deep fried Mars Bars. All of the songs have been arranged around the original demo vocals (with Frankie involved in quality control), but the quality of the voice is so good that almost everything sounds like a full-scale production. To be honest, given the choice, I’d rather listen to Frankie Miller demos than most singers’ finished product.

The guests on “Double Take” are a mix of megastars and people that Frankie knew and worked with in the past. Without listing the whole lot, how about Joe Walsh, Elton John, Kid Rock, Delbert McClinton, Kim Carnes and Willie Nelson. Add those to the ones listed at the top of the article and you’ve got a huge amount of respect across musical styles for Frankie’s work. Great news for fans of Frankie from the mid-seventies is that Full House appear on three songs in the middle of the album. “When It’s Rockin’” (with Steve Dickinson) is a horn-driven rocker, “Beginner at the Blues” (with Delbert McClinton) is a slow blues and “To Be With you Again” (with Kim Carnes) is a mid-tempo ballad. For a while there, I was back in that night in1976.

With so many songs and such a variety of arrangements, it’s difficult to pick standouts, but the gospel choir of “Where Do the Guilty Go” (with Elton John) and the country ballad “I Want to Spend My Life with You” (with Willie Nelson) are hard to beat, while the hauntingly simple “I Do”, with only Frankie’s vocal over a sparse arrangement is the perfect closer for the album.

This has been a long journey for some very dedicated people, culminating in an album that can only add to Frankie Miller’s legacy by bringing those powerful vocal performances to a wider audience and unearthing so many unreleased songs. This is a classic.

“Double Take” is out on September 30th on Universal.

Here’s a sneaky little peek for you:

Matt Andersen ScrollerYou barely make it past the intro of the album’s opener, “Break Away”, before it hits you; Matt Andersen has a phenomenal voice. It’s a rich baritone from the same mould as the great Paul Carrack and it’s the perfect vehicle for this set of songs harking back to the glory days of Stax and Atlantic. Matt’s previous work has been filed under blues, but there’s no doubt at all that this is a soul album (with a few detours into reggae rhythms and a hint of seventies rock). The album has a lot in common with last year’s Southside Johnny classic “Soultime!” in that they’re both inspired by the glory days of sweet soul music; you can find little references to all sorts of artists and styles throughout the album, but it’s ultimately held together by that superb voice.

The album opens with the Hammond-led gentle reggae feel of “Break Away” which hints at “Graceland”-era Paul Simon and The Staples’ “Come Go with Me”, moves into the slow and subtle soul of “The Gift” with its beautiful cascading guitar before the title track throws a whole bunch of influences into the blender. “Honest Man” opens with a riff that’s not a million miles from “Crossroads”, develops with some Memphis Horns-style brass (including the trademark rasping baritone sax) and drops into a chorus with backing vocals which could have been inspired by Don Henley’s scathing “Dirty Laundry”.

So, you get the picture; the album pulls dozens of influences into the blend without ever sounding derivative. “All the Way”, with its hint of a reggae beat, languorous vocal and wah-wah guitar has a hint of seventies Clapton, “Last Surrender” has echoes of Sam Cooke and “Who Are You Listening To?” suggests late seventies Bob Seger, both musically and lyrically. It’s a celebration of some of the classic stylings from our musical history combined with a bunch of well-constructed contemporary songs.

There are a few political and social references, but the songs cover a variety of lyrical themes including love and friendship. “I’m Giving In” is a haunting piano ballad with an intimate, late night vocal while the album’s closer, “One Good Song”, describes the things that a songwriter would suffer to create the one song that makes an audience stop and listen. It’s fair to say that he’s done that a couple of times on this album with the title track and “Last Surrender”. “Honest Man” is a joyous piece of work placing a superb soul voice in settings which demonstrate its quality to perfect effect.

Honest Man” is released on True North Records (TND612) on April 1st.

 

Product DetailsI may have said this before, but I love an album that opens with a statement of intent and “House in the Woods” does just that.  The title track opens with a huge guitar riff backed by a smoky Hammond and you know exactly what you’re going to get, particularly when the lead vocal drops in on top of the guitar/organ interplay.  The arrangements on this album lean quite heavily on the late 60s/early 70s power trio tradition of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and even Rory Gallagher with guitar riffs and fills punctuating the vocals; the addition of the Hammond of Moritz Fuhrhop to this powerful mix offers extra textures and another layer to the sound.

There’s one thing which makes this album stand above the rank and file of blues/rock albums and that’s Henrik Freischlader’s voice; it’s raw, powerful and, at times, incredibly emotional.  Normally you expect singer/guitarists to excel in one discipline, but Henrik Freischlader is a great guitar player and a great singer and he’s equally convincing in all of the styles on offer here.  “House in the Woods” and “Sisters” are blues riff-driven, while “Nowhere to Go” and “1999” are much more funk -influenced, but the first real revelation comes with “Breaking My Heart Again” where Henrik’s voice, rather than his guitar work, dominates for the first time.  The first time I heard this song, I was convinced that it was a Paul Carrack lead vocal, and that’s not a comparison I make lightly.  There are thousands of guitarists who can belt out high tempo blues tunes but, for me, the real singers are the ones who can perform well on the slower, more laid-back tunes as well.  Henrik Freischlader is one of the real singers.

The second half of the album carries on in the same vein, with the funky “Take the Blame” and riff-driven “Hear Your Talking” leading into the ballad “Two Young Lovers” before the brooding menace of “With the Flow” and the closing slow blues of “Won’t You Help Me”.  The album is a well-rounded collection of songs from ballads to fairly hard blues riff-rock; the band sound convincing throughout, but the vocals really shine on the two ballads “Breaking My Heart Again” and “Won’t You Help Me”.

If you’re into the great blues-rock players like Gary Moore, Johnny Winter and Joe Bonamassa, then you’ll love this album; the playing is always superb and there’s a song for everyone here, whether you want a heartfelt ballad, a riffmonster or something with a backbeat, they’re all here.  Listen to this in the car at maximum volume.

“House in the Woods” is out on February 4 2013 on Cable Car Records.

And the next one please.  Steve Jenner is Managing Director and weekday drivetime presenter on Ashbourne Radio in Derbyshire (one of a handful of genuinely independent commercial stations left in the UK).  Steve has been a broadcaster for over 20 years and a DJ for much (much) longer and he knows a good tune when he hears one.  He’s also a bloody good bloke who doesn’t mind getting his round in.  As a man who knows about Phonographic Performance Licensing, he’s helpfully added the label information for each of the albums; and he’s ranked them 1 to 5 which none of the rest of us dared to do.

The Beach Boys – “That’s Why God Made the Radio” (Capitol)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A cynical last go at topping up the retirement fund by a bunch of coffin dodgers who ought to know better, or a hauntingly nostalgic and melancholy – soaked slice of harmony magic. Ok I’ve put it as my number 1 of the year so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if the title track doesn’t have you referencing back to summers long past and cars long gone to the breaker’s yard, you have no right to have been given ears. From the achingly beautiful opening sequence to the final track’s ode to transience, it is enchanting.

Paul Carrack – “Good Feeling” (Carrack UK)Product Details

This is either one of two things. A perfunctory and never less than professional run through of a handful of songs of varying quality, or a varied, extremely well performed set of well written and well chosen songs performed with love for the material, respect for the intended audience and a sure – footedness and confidence which only comes from year upon year of recording and touring with the very best. Ok I’ve put it as my number 2 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but from the second the searingly optimistic title track folds into the live tour de force “Marmalade Moon” to the point when it finally puts you down, you’re travelling alongside one of the best popular musicians this country has produced. And that’s ever. It’s an album that smiles at you – and means it.

Sandi Thom – “Flesh and Blood” (Guardian Angels)Product Details

This is either one of two things. An Americanised watering -- down of a once feisty and original Scottish songwriter and performer and her work, or a compelling and never less than sumptuous piece of work which has moments of incredible tenderness and beauty. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 3 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you come across a more moving and despairing rendition of a song than the towering “Big Ones Get Away” (Featuring Buffy Saint – Marie on spooky vocal enhancement) or the swaggering Rickenbacker of “Sun Comes Crashing Down”, buy me a copy of whatever it is and I’ll call you a Big Fat Fibber. Gorgeous.

Deacon Blue – “The Hipsters”Product Details

This is either one of two things. A gauche attempt by a bunch of 90’s burnt – outs to recapture the glory days and trying hard but not quite making which is worse than not bothering at all or an out – of – nowhere, died – in – the – wool, very pleasant surprise. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 4 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if there was a better summer FM choon than the title track this year outside of the Beach Boys album I’m afraid it passed me right on by. “The Outsiders” is pretty damn tidy too. As is the first track….oh, just stick the whole thing on. It’s real Deacon Blue. Says so on the tin.

Seal – “Soul 2”Product Details

This is either one of two things. Yet another of those awful rob – a -- genre albums artists who are struggling a bit due to reasons personal or professional insist on releasing (or their record company shamefully leans on them to do so) when they run out of ideas or it is a masterclass in how it should be done by an expert practitioner at the top of his game. Ok, I’ve put it as my number 5 album so it’s pretty clear what I think and you can think what you like but if you hear a better version of “Wishing On A Star” – and I include Rose Royce in this – or the criminally underplayed  Smokey and the Miracles “Ooh Baby Baby”, (which isn’t quite as good as the original but hey, we’re tickling the toes of the angels here) I’ll refuse to buy you a copy of the new Rod Stewart Christmas Album. You have to be an exceptional talent to carry this sort of thing off. Well done, Mr Seal.

Many thanks to Steve for that great selection.  There’s another selection coming tomorrow; I wonder who that could be?

We’ve heard and read a lot this year about the death of the album as a format.  Well, we’re having none of that at Riot Towers; as far as we’re concerned the album is still alive and kicking (and none of your download nonsense either).  The site contributors have all put together their favourite fives of the year and we’re sharing our choices with you as a little festive thank you.  As the most senior (oldest) contributor, I get to open the batting for the Riot Squad 2012 favourites.  I can’t even attempt to rank these so here we go, in alphabetical order by title.  You can find reviews of all of these albums on the site.

“Devil in Me” – Natalie DuncanProduct Details

This is one of two debut albums in my Top Five for 2012.  Natalie’s a superb singer and a great piano player but the songs are something else.  Some are observational such as the superb “Old Rock” while others appear to be very personal (“Uncomfortable Silence”); what they have in common is that they are all superbly-crafted songs which work equally well when orchestrated on the album or played live with a smaller drums/bass/guitar/piano set-up.  You should really make the effort to see Natalie Duncan live in 2013.

“Good Feeling” – Paul CarrackProduct Details

Paul Carrack has been one of my favourite singers for longer than I care to admit so I approached this with a bit of caution; there’s always a chance that an album like this can disappoint.  I didn’t need to worry because this blend of originals, songwriting collaborations and covers is absolutely superb.  His voice is as stunning as it was 40 years ago and he’s great keyboard player and good guitar player; it’s sickening really.  It’s worth buying for the voice alone, but there’s so much more to admire here, particularly the Nick Lowe song “From Now On” and Springsteen’s “If I Fall Behind”.

“Lilygun” – LilygunProduct Details

Another debut album, this time from a band that defies classification.  I still don’t know whether this is indie, goth, rock, emo or any combination of the above.  What I do know is that it’s melodic, inventive, dynamic and original and the band is great live as well.  My first contact with Lilygun was a review of the single “Moonlight” and I’ve seen quite a lot of the band since.  This is an album where you don’t shuffle the tracks; it’s programmed to tell a story from the first to the final track and that’s how you need to listen to it.  Also featured on the album is the live favourite “Scum”.

“The Hipsters” – Deacon BlueProduct Details

This seemed to come out of nowhere in the autumn of this year.  All of the band members have been doing their own thing for years and the only motivation for this project was love of the music.  Ricky Ross provided the strongest set of songs he’s written in years and they were recorded live in the studio; the result was an album which was fresh, immediate and memorable.  I know you can’t rewrite history, but I wish this had been the second Deacon Blue album rather than the slightly bombastic “When the World Knows your Name” (and I’m not saying that’s a bad album).  The songs here are much more personal; “Is There No Way Back to You?” and “Laura From Memory” are written in the first person and the ironically- titled “The Hipsters” (the best summer song of 2012) is neatly counterbalanced with the more accurate description of “The Outsiders”.  However you look at it, it’s a great album.

“Words and Music” – Saint EtienneProduct Details

This was the soundtrack to my summer this year.  I’ve always loved Saint Etienne but I hadn’t really expected to hear any significant new material from them; This was quite a surprise.  It’s the perfect package; great songs which are nostalgic but never mawkish with enough references to satisfy any pop trainspotter and the best artwork of the year.  From the scene-setting opener “Over the Border”, the album explores the soul of the music obsessive through the great settings of Wiggs and Stanley and Sarah Cracknell’s perfect voice.  As with every other album on this list, there isn’t any filler here but, if I have to pick a few standout tracks then “Tonight”, “Answer Song” and “Popular” should do nicely.

Ok I said Top 5, but I also need to give a mention to Dean Owens who released 2 great albums this year (“New York Hummingbird” and Cash Back”) which were both reviewed as 4-star albums.  Nobody else managed that particular feat.  So, does anyone still want to tell me that the album’s a dead format?

Product DetailsQuick bit of background for you; Tinlin is made up of Alex and Rolf Tinlin and Jake Carrack (son of Paul Carrack); they also get a bit of help on this album from Eleanor Tinlin (oboe and cor anglais) and Steph Bloor (cello).  The Tinlin brothers write the songs, play a variety of fretted string instruments (guitars and mandolins mainly) and sing (beautifully).  There’s also some tasteful electric piano here and there as well.

“Shade of the Shadows” is the second studio album and is a pretty good snapshot of Tinlin in 2012.   There are a lot of things I like about this album, but there are also a few things that I’m less certain about.  Let’s start with the positives.

The playing on the album is very impressive; lots of nice guitar finger-picking and interesting chords, all of which gives the album a bit of a 70s troubadour feel.  After the opener “Do I Deny”, which is fragment from the closer “After the Rain”, “In These Arms” is reminiscent of Al Stewart at his least pretentious, making effective use of a cello to provide some extra bottom end and counterpoint to the melody.  “Steal” immediately reminded me of the quieter side of Extreme (anyone remember them?); lovely guitar work, melodic and with beautiful harmonies.

Play the Game” demonstrates the brothers playing at their best  with an intricate guitar and mandolin arrangement and perfect harmonies, while “Find a Way” is the most uptempo song on the album, the guitar chords creating a jazzy feel  in the intro and verses before a great chorus (complete with the usual harmonies).  “Haunted” opens with a typically understated, but very effective, keyboard riff which underpins the verse before another perfectly-harmonised chorus, and so the album goes on.

Northwest Light” is an acknowledgement of folkier, more traditional, influences in the instrumentation and lyrical themes (with just a little nod to Randy Newman) and is a delicate and fragile little gem.  The final track “After the Rain” includes the fragment “Do I Deny” from the beginning of the album as a coda to the song before a false ending leads to a “hidden” version of “Red Wine State of Mind” (imagine a polite acoustic version of “Mama Told me Not to Come”) which works surprisingly well; and another Randy Newman link for you.

I can’t criticise any of the playing or singing on the album; it’s all excellent and the songs are all well-crafted.  Lyrically, I would love to hear a move away from the traditional singer/songwriter themes of unrequited love, lost love and lack of worth; a bit less diffidence and a bit more bite would work better for me.  While the arrangements are always interesting, there might be a case for simplifying some of them and substituting a bit of attack for subtlety at times.  As a great example of effective interpretation of a Tinlin song, Paul Carrack’s version of “Make it Right” on “Good Feeling” is perfect.  He simplifies the riff to create a vaguely sinister feel while giving the vocal a soul interpretation and creating a cover which more than holds its own in a collection of great songs by great writers.

It’s understandable that Alex and Rolf want to play to their strengths and on “Shade of the Shadows” they have produced a really good set of songs played and arranged well but I’m sure we haven’t heard the best of Tinlin yet.

A few weeks ago we reviewed Paul Carrack’s new album “Good Feeling” here on MusicRiot and we loved it.  If you haven’t listened to it yet, you really should.  If you want to hear the songs live, Paul and his band are just about to start a UK tour running through October and November.  Support on all dates will be the excellent Tinlin.

If you want to see Paul before that, BBC4 are showing an hour-long profile on Friday October 12 (10 pm) as part of an evening of Squeeze-related shows.

Tour dates

October

Tuesday 16 October                                              Derby, Assembly Rooms

Friday 19 October                                                  Worthing, Assembly Hall

Saturday 20 October                                             Bournemouth, Pavilion

Monday 22 October                                              Northampton, Derngate

Thursday 25 October                                            Scunthorpe, Baths Hall

Friday 26 October                                                 York, Barbican

Monday 29 October                                              Southend, Cliffs Pavilion

Tuesday 30 October                                              Ipswich, Regent

Wednesday 31 October                                        London, Indigo 2

November

Wednesday 7 November                                      Llandudno, North Wales Theatre

Thursday 8 November                                          New Brighton, Floral Pavilion

Sunday 11 November                                            Eastbourne, Congress Theatre

Monday 12 November                                           Swindon, Wyvern Theatre

Tuesday 13 November                                          Swansea, Grand Theatre

Friday 16 November                                              Preston, Charter Theatre

Saturday 17 November                                          Leamington Spa, Royal Spa Centre

Thursday 22 November                                        Crawley, The Hawth

Friday 23 November                                              Southampton, The Brook

Wednesday 28 November                                    Harrogate, Royal Hall

Product DetailsIf there’s one thing that I really admire in musicians it’s the ability to survive; to come through the periods when you’re terminally unhip and still want to play, write and sing.  It needs incredible self-belief and, sometimes, sheer bloody-mindedness (before we even talk about talent) to keep going in an increasingly tough business.  If you’ve been writing, performing and recording for over 40 years and you’ve had a hand in songs as diverse as Ace’s “How Long”, Squeeze’s “Tempted” and Mike & The Mechanics’ “The Living Years” and The Eagles have covered one of your songs, then you deserve at least a fair hearing.  So, Paul Carrack’s back again in 2012 and he’s sounding better than ever.

There are no bad, or even indifferent, tracks on “Good Feeling”; they’re all good and there’s stacks of variety in the in the styles and arrangements of the songs, but one thing makes this collection essential listening.  Paul Carrack still has an astonishingly soulful voice; my good mate Steve J reckons he could sing the telephone directory and you would pay to listen and I don’t think he’s far off the mark.  On top of that, he’s a great Hammond player and there aren’t many better instruments to accompany a great soul voice.  The songs on this collection are a combination of Paul Carrack originals, collaborations with other writers and covers of songs by writers as diverse as Nick Lowe, Bruce Springsteen and Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  It’s a great tribute to Carrack’s songwriting that his own songs are as strong as the covers although the best song on the album (my opinion here) isn’t one of his own, although it’s a great pick from a relatively unknown band.

The album opens with the Sam Cooke-tinged “Good Feelin’ About It” which, unsurprisingly, is a feelgood song and it’s followed by the Chris Difford collaboration “Marmalade Moon” bursting in with a horn section which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Southside Johnny album.  The album flits effortlessly between musical styles, from the laid-back funk of “Nothing Without You” to the early Motown feel (including Stevie Wonder style harmonica) of “Time to Move On” to the pure 60s pop of the Goffin/King cover “When My Little Girl is Smiling”, which is very reminiscent of his 80s cover of the Jackie de Shannon classic “When You Walk in the Room”.  The Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen covers (“From Now On” and “If I Should Fall Behind” respectively) both evoke the original performers while bearing the stamp of Paul Carrack’s incredible voice.

In my (almost) humble opinion, there are 2 songs which define the album and push it out of the Paul Carrack comfort zone.  “Make It Right” is a cover of a lovely Tinlin brothers song with lots of minor chords and a slightly discordant riff, while “Long Ago” (a collaboration with Swedish songwriter Chris Antblad) could be a Brian Kennedy boy band single, but with grown-up lyrics.  Any album of songs by Paul Carrack is going to be worth listening to, but these 2 songs take “Good Feeling” in a slightly different direction, introducing a hint of atonality on the one hand and a pop sensibility on the other.

If you’ve never heard of Paul Carrack, this is a cracking introduction and if you’re already converted, “Good Feeling” might just give you a few surprises.  Great album.

Release date 24/09/12.

We’ve got some exciting things going on in the near future with some exclusive reviews and releases from some of our favourite artists. Here’s the Riot Towers guide to what’s happening over the next few weeks.

September 10 – Lilygun album release date.  Review here.

September 10 – Amanda Palmer “Theatre is Evil” release date. Review here.

September 10 – David Byrne & St Vincent “Love This Giant”.  Review here.

September 17 – Nelly Furtado “Spirit Indestructible”.  Review coming soon.

September 24 – Dragonette “Body Parts”.  Review coming soon.

September 24 – No Doubt “Push and Shove”.  Review coming soon.

September 24 – Deacon Blue “The Hipsters” album release date.  Review here.

September 24 – Paul Carrack “Good Feeling” album release date.  Review here.

September 30 – Lilygun live upstairs at The Garage.  Review coming soon.

October 8 – Ellie Goulding “Halcyon”.  Review coming soon.

November 2 – Billy Walton Band UK tour starts.

And more pix soon as well.