NightlifeOK, so just to save a bit of time, we all know about Eddie Manion, yeah? Whaddya mean, no? Where have you been for the last forty years? You really should get out more. If you want the whole nine yards, check out his Wikipedia entry, but, just for the moment, his first major gig was with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and since then he’s played with Dion, Dave Edmunds, Diana Ross, The Allman Brothers, Willy De Ville, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan and many, many more. He was part of the E Street Band for Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” tour and, more recently, he’s been touring Europe with the Light of Day Foundation raising money for Parkinson’s Disease research. His motto is ‘Have Sax, Will Travel’.

Eddie Manion plays tenor and baritone sax (mainly baritone when working as part of a horn section) as well as having a pretty good voice, which you can hear on his first solo album, “Follow Through”, released in 2004. At the end of the gargantuan “Wrecking Ball” tour, Eddie started work on his second solo album “Nightlife”, opting this time for instrumental interpretations of standards and not-quite-so-standards, rather than his own compositions. It’s a double-edged sword. Both ways you’re going to be judged; one way you’re compared with others’ songwriting, the other way you’re compared with previous versions of the same songs. So how does “Nightlife” shape up?

I guess it’s natural for anyone who’s spent their entire adult life as a professional musician to want to do their own thing once in a while. Eddie Manion’s spent a lot of time playing in horn sections in big bands where nuance isn’t always too high on the agenda, so when the window of opportunity opened, he pulled together a superb bunch of musicians to make an album placing his sax playing firmly stage centre against a backdrop that allows him to interpret songs with style and subtlety. From the album’s opener, a gorgeous version of the theme from the 1961 movie “Town Without Pity”, with its piano triplets and wah-wah trumpet, to the closer “”The Only One, from Roy Orbison’s final album, the album demonstrates Eddie’s ability to create flawless interpretations of jazz standards such as “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Stardust” whilst also combining Springsteen’s “City of Night” in a medley with King Curtis’s “Soul Serenade”.

Throughout “Nightlife”, Eddie Manion combines a jazz-styled finesse with a rawer rock edge to create a satisfying and varied set of instrumentals that embody great musicianship and sympathetic arrangements. If you value musical skill and the ability to pick a good tune, then you’ll love this; Eddie’s a superb player and he’s surrounded himself with like minds to produce a real musician’s album. As an added bonus, Eddie’s also a very good photographer and the CD packaging includes some of his own fabulous photos taken mainly on the “Wrecking Ball” tour; it’s the icing on the cake of a lovely album.

You can order it here.

 

Into the SeaIt’s always been a bit of a mystery to me why Dean Owens hasn’t been more widely recognised as an outstanding British singer-songwriter. Despite a career with his band The Felsons and several solo albums which provided a couple of classic additions to the Scottish songbook (“Raining in Glasgow” and “Man from Leith”), before the release of his new album “Into the Sea”, Dean still wasn’t widely known, even in Scotland. It looks like this is the album to change that. In the run-up to the album’s release Dean has had well-deserved coverage across the media in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in England.

Maybe there’s a bit of truth in the cliché about suffering for your art; 2014 was a difficult year for Dean for a variety of reasons but he’s used his work to weave the pain, the joy and the memories into an album packed with songs of love and loss; the stories of the people lost forever and the ones who are lost but still with us. “Into the Sea” is the work of a songwriter with experience of real life looking backwards to help make sense of the present, creating a lasting work of art as a result.

Some of the album’s reminiscences are triggered by objects, while others are triggered by events. The opening track, “Dora” is rooted in a family tree and a circus poster and tells the story of Dean’s grandmother and her circus background; “Closer to Home” was inspired by a letter written by a soldier on the way home from The Great War and “Kids (1979)”, a poignant story of diverging paths, is kicked off by an old photo of a school football team, while “Evergreen” starts from a holiday photo. All four songs are mixtures of happiness and sadness, reflecting the lives that most of us live.

The majority of the album’s songs are inspired by situations; “The Only One” (with Will Kimbrough’s vocal harmonies creating a nice Everly Brothers feel) and “Days Without You” both relate to the terminal illness of a friend’s partner, while “Sally’s Song (I Dreamed of Michael Marra)” combines teenage memories with a tribute to one of Scotland’s greatest songwriters. “Virginia Street” is the story of a friend’s nostalgia for happier days while “Valentine’s Day in New York” is an autobiographical piece dealing with the loneliness of spending time away from loved ones. “It Could be Worse” was the album’s problem child, coming together at the last possible moment with a bit of help from Will Kimbrough and also features as an instrumental reprise. The album’s final song (or special bonus track) is a duet with Suzy Bogguss on “I’m Pretending I Don’t Love You Anymore” featuring a bit of whistling from Dean and a nice Roy Orbison “Blue Bayou” feel.

It’s easy to underestimate the quality of an artist’s work when you see and hear a lot of them (and the Riot Squad have seen and heard a lot of Dean Owens over the last few years) so “Into the Sea”, as the first album of original material since 2012’s “New York Hummingbird” was an opportunity to take a step back and refresh the perspective. The songs tap into a rich seam of melancholy memories which work perfectly for Dean’s voice; the lyrics tug at the heartstrings while the band (Will Kimbrough, Evan Hutchings, Neilson Hubbard, Jen Gunderman, Michael Renne, David Henry, Eamon McLoughlin, Joshua Britt, Suzy Bogguss, Kim Richey and Heather Donegan) provide varied and sympathetic settings throughout. This album, for me, is the most complete and rounded piece of work that Dean Owens has produced and should be a part of any music-lover’s collection.

If you’re in the South of England and you want to see Dean playing songs from the new album, he’ll be playing at these venues in June/July:

Monday June 29         The Greys, Brighton

Wednesday July 1      Green Note, Camden

Thursday July 2         Green Note, Camden

Friday July 3               Venue TBC, Twickenham

Saturday July 4           The Hat Club, Beaconsfield

If you can’t get along to any of these gigs and still want to support Dean, why not have a look at the Kickstarter campaign for the video for his next single “Up on the Hill”? There are loads of ways to contribute and lots of goodies available.

“Into the Sea” is out now on Drumfire Records.

 

 

Well, we’ve had a couple of guest contributions from blues players so far; this one’s from someone who’s a big blues fan.  Steve Jenner is a director and drive-time presenter with  two radio stations in the North Midlands, High Peak Radio and Ashbourne Radio.  He also does media work for the Plain English campaign (defending the apostrophe, now that’s rock’n’roll) and loves messing about in boats.  He’s also someone with a great ear for a tune.  Steve was persuaded to contribute this piece by regular application of single malt whisky.  Over to Steve…

Now I’m quite happy to do this High Fives Album review for Music Riot but be warned, ye music industry at large; this has not been a classic year. There have been some great singles; some amazing live gigs; some very good songs, even, but it has not been a classic year for The Album. In a good year, some of these wouldn’t have made it. But you can only play the opposition who turn up.

So…..

Goin' to the Delta HFNumber 5 --  “Going to The Delta” SAVOY BROWN (Ruf Records)

Up until this morning this was “Magic Honey” by Cyril Neville (Ruf Records) but it has been pushed aside at the very last moment by another Ruf offering, Savoy Brown’s “Going To The Delta”. It probably isn’t as good an album as the Cyril Neville offering which does have some very sticky, sweaty moments like the title track and “Blues is the Truth” but the Savoy Brown offering just has The Swag about it; it’s a bit more nimble, a bit more bite where you want a bit of bite. It is almost entirely predictable, but if you’re a sucker for this kind of Brit R’n’B goes Stateside, it will probably cast a longer shadow over your CD player than it deserves. He’s been doing this sort of thing since 1965 but this album does sound quite fresh, in a rather dated and predictable sort of way. I love it.

Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da DaNumber 4 – “Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da” MADNESS (Cooking Vinyl)

It’s sort of like an old – stylee Madness album, this, with larger -- than -- life -- characters, London Beat type Skasville with a daft smile and too much to drink.  “My Girl 2” is an interesting one with what for all the world is a straight lift from The Fine Young Cannibals “Good Thing”, “Powder Blue” is an intriguing song and “Misery” is a stand out; Ooops -- have -- a – banana style good time music with fruity, nay, saucy brass and a greasy sense of fun. Releasing a new album when you’ve just attained “National Treasure” status must be a bit of a risk but, hey, the nutty boys pull it off. Repeatedly.

The Shocking Miss EmeraldNumber 3 – “The Shocking Miss Emerald” CARO EMERALD (Dramatico)

I’m with Mr Lister re Ms Emerald (Aynsley Lister chose a Caro Emerald album as one of his High Fives -- Ed). It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure this one; you just know if there was still Woolworth’s, it would be the pick to click for about 6 months on the instore moozak. As retro as a Lockheed Constellation and almost painfully contrived, it is also massive fun, just what you want to hear early doors on a decent night out, packing wonderfully naughty songs like “Liquid Lunch” and “I Belong To You” with the sardonic “Coming Back As A Man” and the absolutely splendid “Completely”, you’d have to be seriously serious not to crack a smile while this was on your radio. A very clever album, it steadfastly refuses to beat your head in with its own cleverness. Which is cool.

In TimeNumber 2 – “In Time” THE MAVERICKS (The Valory Music Co.)

Look! He’s picked the album by that line dancing mob, etc etc…well.yes. And no. This bunch suffer from Procol Harum Disease; unable to escape ‘The Big Hit’, they are doomed to live in its shadow. Look, you either get Roy Orbison or you don’t and if you don’t, don’t see why I should waste my time talking to you. This is great, sentimental, on occasion almost operatic, country rock’n’roll. Go on, listen to “Born to be Blue’. And you’ll either get it or you won’t.

And finally…the undisputed champion…

Same Trailer, Different ParkNumber 1 – “Same Trailer, Different Park” KACEY MUSGRAVES (Mercury Nashville).

“Same Trailer, Different Park”……..this woman is too young to sing of these things. “Merry Go Round” has to be song of the year -- it is so knowing, so battered by life, so damn tired by it all. And yet it manages to be witty, funny, beautifully observed and played with sumptuously understated perfection by a cast of angels. And that ain’t all; try “Silver Lining”, the album’s opening track for a whole truckload of emptiness, or “Follow Your Arrow” which wins the Rick Nelson “Garden Party” award for ‘do what you like ‘cos you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ Delicious. Would have made top five even in a classic year. Which to be fair, this ain’t.