Kevin Bryan reviews this week's latest album releases, from traditional Christmas songs to Schubert.

John McLaughlin: My Goal's Beyond ****

THIS Yorkshire-born guitarist's musical career was given a new lease of life when he decamped to America in 1969 and this stunning acoustic album was recorded there a couple of years later.

The influence of Indian classical music was never too far from the surface as John joined forces with violinist Jerry Goodman and top notch jazzmen Billy Cobham and Charlie Haden to reinterpret much loved pieces such as Miles Davis' Blue in Green and Charles Mingus' Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.

Out now (Wienerworld/Douglas AD-03: £11.69)

The Albion Band: Another Christmas Present ***

THIS seasonal offering from the good people at Talking Elephant was recorded live during The Albion Band's Christmas Tour in 1986.

Cathy Lesurf, Phil Beer and Ashley Hutchings take care of the vocal duties as this folk-rock institution serve up a particularly eclectic Yuletide menu, blending fine traditional songs and evocative spoken passages with rustic covers of Chuck Berry's Run Rudolph Run and Michael Jackson's 1972 hit, Rockin' Robin.

Out now (Talking Elephant TECD 169: £8.95)

Peter Harvey: Schubert: Winterreise ****

THERE'S precious little evidence of sweetness or light in this, the second of Schubert's three great song cycles, but this performance of the composer's Winterreise supplies a wealth of bleakly compelling listening nonetheless.

Baritone Peter Harvey has striven to create a historically accurate atmosphere throughout this absorbing new Linn CD.

His sterling efforts are underpinned here by keyboard accompanist Gary Cooper, utilising an early 19th century fortepiano to lend an added aura of authenticity to the proceedings.

Out now (Linn CKD 371: £13.99)

Latin Quartet: Modern Times ****

THIS mid-80s band provided a relentlessly tuneful outlet for the socially aware musings of non-performing lyricist Mike Jones, who joined forces with vocalist Steve Skaith to pen songs which passed judgement on many of the burning political issues of the day.

Latin Quartet's sound delivered an agreeable blend of folk, pop and reggae and Modern Times was arguably their finest album, blessed with classic cuts such as America For Beginners, Radio Africa and No Rope As Long As Time.

Out now (Cherry Red CDMRED 216: £7.99)

Charlie Siem ****

YOUNG British violinist Charlie Siem makes his Warner Classics debut with a package which finds the London born virtuoso tackling many of the most popular and technically taxing works in the instrument's repertoire.

Compositions by Kreisler, Paganini and Wieniawski are all given an airing and Charlie also pulls out all the stops with stunning performances of Waxman's Carmen Fantasie and Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen.

Out now (WCJ 2564 678047: £9.99)

David Byron Band: On The Rocks **

TROUBLED rock frontman Byron's solo career suffered several false starts after his ignominious departure from Uriah Heep in 1976 and On The Rocks represented his final attempt to recapture former glories, recorded four years before David's untimely death in 1985.

This collaboration with guitarist Robin George also boasted some fine work from saxist Mel Collins but it failed to establish a distinctive musical identity for Byron and his newly recruited band despite the best efforts of all concerned.

Out now (Angel Air SJPCD 335: £11.99)