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Reviews of the latest music releases
Jon Cleary, Occapella ****
British born singer and pianist Jon Cleary has been based in New Orleans for more than three decades now, immersing himself in the vibrant musical culture which first captured his heart when he was a young boy living in the Kent village of Cranbrook.
Jon's latest solo project finds him breathing new life into the back catalogue of one of the Crescent City's finest songwriters as he re-shapes some of Allen Toussaint's more interesting musical creations.
Dr John and Bonnie Raitt chip in on the soulful opening track, Let's Get Low Down, but the rest of the set is very much a one man show as Cleary applies his distinctive imprint to classic ditties such as Southern Nights and What Do You Want The Girl To Do.
Out now (FHQ004 : £11.23)
Rod Demick & Herbie Armstrong, Little Willie Ramble ***
This likeable duo were already veterans of the Belfast club scene by the time that Little Willie Ramble was released by MAM Records in 1971.
Their beguiling collaboration was deservedly showered with critical acclaim, but distribution problems meant that sales figures were relatively minimal,and the vinyl version of the album has since become a highly sought after collector's item.
Demick and Armstrong's minor masterwork is now finally available in CD form,giving a whole new generation of listeners an opportunity to savour their subtly arranged fusion of singer-songwriter pop and rootsy country blues.
Out now (RETRO 908 : £7.13)
Various Artists, Doo Wop : The Rock & Roll Vocal Group Sound 1957-1961 ****
Another interesting 3CD set from the good people at Fantastic Voyage,this time highlighting the vocal exploits of some of the performers whose careers flourished in the touchingly innocent musical climate of pre-Beatles America.
The contents offer an interesting blend of hits and obscurities for your entertainment,including infectious gems such as Dion's The Wanderer and Runaround Sue alongside tuneful contributions from the likes of Danny & the Juniors, The Teddy Bears and Canadian r&b cover specialists The Diamonds, of Little Darlin' fame.
Released on July 16th (Fantastic Voyage FVTD129 : £9.30)
Van Der Graaf Generator, Alt **
Anyone who invests in a copy of this CD in the expectation of being assailed by some of the darkly cacophonous Peter Hammill songs which have become VDGG's trademark is ,I'm afraid, going to be sorely disappointed.
Alt features a selection of fairly cerebral instrumental workouts which were apparently recorded almost as an afterthought at some of the band's recent soundchecks,and the finished product is most unlikely to win over any new converts to the prog-rock veterans' cause.
Out now (Esoteric EVDGCD 1003 : £9.69)
Hardy Rittner, Chopin- Complete Etudes ****
Hardy Rittner's latest MDG recital finds the highly regarded German virtuoso exploring the delights of Chopin's keyboard repertoire using a Conrad Graf piano made in 1835.
Rittner showcases the composer's entire etude repertoire in the process, bringing his impressive technique to bear on these diverse and technically challenging pieces with the sparkling sense of verve and vitality which has become his trademark.
Out now (MDG 904 1747-6 : £12.43)