The Moody Blues: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival

This is going to make a small group of people very happy. Taken from the last of the original Isle of Wight Festivals before its resurrection 22 years later – the crowd that attended was estimated to be over 600,000 – the 1970 concert was videotaped for posterity, and now, nearly three decades later, comes an audio recording of the set from Moody Blues, who were as big as any band in England at the time. It’s a fascinating listen, both from a sonic perspective and a historical one. “Minstrel’s Song” explains the origins of half of the Stone Roses’ debut album, and it’s fun to hear a band known for its pristine studio recordings let rip on songs like “Tuesday Afternoon” (where singer Justin Hayward forgets the words) and “Question.” In retrospect, the Moodys weren’t much different from their harder-rocking peers when it came to playing live. As for the overall sound quality, well, it’s 1970 and it’s live, which means it’s really, really tinny. It’s a sweet dose of nostalgia, but for completists only. (Eagle)

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Johnny Flynn: A Larum

Combining a sturdy stance with a penchant for swagger and sway, newcomer Johnny Flynn borrows heavily from Brit folk forebears like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch through his authoritative debut. Relying mostly on the strum of an acoustic guitar, an occasional fiddle, hints of brass and a melodious vocal that commands attention on first hearing, he’s too trad to be labeled nu-folk, but too much of an upstart in attitude to be classified as old school, either. Mainly he’s an artist that gravitates towards piercing melodies and an affecting delivery, one whose songs reflect a somber stance. “Tickle Me Pink,” as its title implies, reveals a rare moment of giddy delight, while the driving tempo of “Eyeless in Holloway” will likely entice the pub crawlers. Mostly though, this a steady, unwavering set of tunes, one that reflects a workingman’s outlook and approach. Indeed, Flynn sounds wise beyond his 25 years (“A Larum” is middle English for “Alarm” it turns out, a bow to scholastic aptitude no doubt), but his rollicking rhythms hint at a youthful zeal that’s barely repressed. (Lost Highway)

Johnny Flynn MySpace page


Inara George With Van Dyke Parks: An Invitation

A reconnection in ways more than musical, Inara George’s collaboration with the legendary Van Dyke Parks takes her into new terrain but, in a sense, brings her back home. Parks was a pal of her dad, the late Lowell George and was even there at her birth. Still, the biographical details will likely get less attention than this current outing, a swirling collage of orchestration, pop opera vignettes and contemporary classical motifs. Consequently, the sound checks proved equally ample, given influences that name check Kurt Weill, Edith Piaff, Aaron Copeland, Gilbert and Sullivan, Annette Peacock and Carla Bley. The lack of distinctive melodies and an overall flow that finds sets of strings dominating the musical landscape makes passive listening a bit of a challenge, at least for those who like their songs simple and succinct. Still, those looking to hear more from the man who helped bring Brian Wilson his Smile will find this Invitation worthy of an RSVP. (Everloving Records)

Inara George MySpace page


Red State Update: How Freedom Sounds

Say this for Jonathan Shockley and Travis Harmon, the two men behind Red State Update: they are walking as slippery a slope as you will find. Pretending to be what is traditionally thought of as blue-collar Republican voters, without either pandering to blue-collar Republican voters or having fun at their expense, is not an easy feat, but Shockley and Harmon do the balancing act quite well. The problem with not taking sides, though, is that you deny yourself the opportunity to do something extraordinary, and that is what ultimately prevents How Freedom Sounds, Red State Update’s debut (and likely swansong) album, from being something special. The songs won’t reinvent the satire wheel, but some genuine smarts are lurking within the redneck accents; “If I Was You” recommends that the subject of the song should just start drinking heavily in order to forget how miserable their life is, while Dunlap (Shockley) daydreams about the elusive “Stripper without a Kid.” Best of the bunch is “Get the Hell Outta My Store Hippie,” where Jackie (Harmon) complains about the Bonnaroo crowd freeloading in his store. It’s cute, but it’s just that: cute. The best humor is incendiary, not cute, and Shockley and Harmon are clearly capable if doing something incendiary. (Dualtone)

Red State Update MySpace page


Pork Pie: Transitory

Packaged in a cool mini-LP sleeve replica, complete with gatefold cover, liner note insert and a CD that looks like a tiny vinyl record (even the plastic is black), Promising Music’s MPS reissue series takes some cues from those collectible (and pricey) Japanese LP-sleeve reissues in feting the catalog of the German jazz label. Dutch keyboardist Jasper van’t Hof has one of the more obscure titles in the series, with his Pork Pie group’s Transitory album, though any ‘70s fusion head will be glad to hear it. Recorded and released in 1974, the music reflects much of what was going on in jazz at the time – the rock and world rhythms that supplanted the swing of old, the appropriation of rock guitars and funky electric pianos, and compositions that defied categorization. The “world rhythms” truly are international here – each member of the collective hails from a different country (the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, the United States, and a guest percussionist from Brazil round out the collective), culminating in a sound that, when not venturing into ambient territory, provides an interesting window into a time when “fusion” was not yet a dirty word. (MPS/Promising Music 2008)

Jasper van’t Hof MySpace page


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