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The Ones That (Almost) Got Away: Bryan Ferry- Angel Witch- Phil Manzanera- Emilie-Claire Barlow- JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys

by Kevin Wierzbicki

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No matter how hard we try, there's so much new music being released every week that it's just impossible to write about all of it. That means that a lot of worthy stuff from both newcomers and established acts alike tends to fall through the cracks. Here's a listen to some 2010 releases that we almost missed that are definitely worth checking out.

Bryan Ferry
Olympia

Astralwerks

This latest solo effort from the former leader of Roxy Music isn't quite solo; guesting are Nile Rodgers, David Gilmour, Flea, Jonny Greenwood, Groove Armada and the Scissor Sisters. Olympia also finds Ferry reuniting with Roxy members Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay. Ferry though, remains the star among the stellar cast, using his golden tones to play the ultimate hipster on club burners like "You Can Dance," suavely accepting that love doesn't last on "Me Oh My" and channeling the early Roxy sound on a cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." Definitely Ferry's best work in a long time.

Phil Manzanera
The Music 1972-2008

Expression

There's an endless list of bands, still expanding to this day, that have derived their sound from the oeuvre created by Roxy Music, and not just based on the dulcet vocalizations of Bryan Ferry. Guitarist Phil Manzanera also played a big part in shaping Roxy and this excellent 2-CD compilation reflects that fact with the inclusion of 7 Roxy tracks including early cuts "Amazona," "Out of the Blue" and "Prairie Rose." Manzanera also played on Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets and included here from that album is "Needles in the Camel's Eye;" rounding out disc one are tunes from Manzanera's days with 801 and "Diamond Head" from his 1975 solo debut of the same name. Disc two is made up of songs from Manzanera's jazzier solo works, done primarily while Roxy was on hiatus. Also included is a bonus DVD holding a short documentary and half a dozen performance videos.

Emilie-Claire Barlow
The Beat Goes On

Empress Music

Barlow is a Canadian jazz singer who is also very well known at home as a voice actress, having "appeared" in dozens of television episodes. She's been putting out albums for over a decade, but mostly in a chanteuse style that has limited her exposure in the States. This album changes that, as Barlow delves into a selection of well-known pop songs, like the Sonny Bono title song and chestnuts like "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" and Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." The singer makes each song her own though; these are not just run-throughs. Barlow's take on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" finds her building vocally on the song's earthy funk, cooing knowingly over a clicking bass line and leaving room in the arrangement for tight sax and guitar solos. And when was the last time you heard a cool version of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"?

Angel Witch
Angel Witch-30th Anniversary Edition

UMe

If you are not hip to this hard-rocking British band, and there's a good chance that you're not, now is the perfect time to become enlightened. The band came up in 1980 as part of the so-called NWOBHM, or New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but they don't really sound like and didn't experience the success of any of the big NWOBHM bands like Priest or Maiden. They are melodic and occasionally speedy and the speed factor is said to have influenced the American thrash movement but they don't sound like Metallica, Slayer or Megadeth either. Bonus tracks include lots of demos, live performances from BBC radio, obscure B-sides and two versions of fan favorite "Baphomet." The band broke up for awhile and has seen lots of members come and go but they are currently still working so this album serves not only as a historical document but also a tasty introduction to a still-evolving sound.

JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys
Fidelity!

La Mina

Here's one that snuck by the masses that definitely should not have; in fact this is one of the more interesting albums to arrive in 2010, period. The Chrissie referred to in the group's name is no other than Chrissie Hynde, singer for the Pretenders. Despite the heyday of the Pretenders being long gone, Hynde continues to put out quality albums and this first with JP Jones is the best she's made in decades. The album's strength likely comes from the fact that Hynde is happy for a change; she's in love with Jones and the joy is palpable in the recording. Hynde's voice here is incredibly strong, instantly familiar and all the songs are very well written. Fidelity! has not yet gotten the exposure it deserves but it is only four months old; Hynde, a true rock'n'roll survivor, has rewarded her fans here with an amazing work. Now it's time for fans to return the favor and make sure that this gem is heard before it slips into obscurity.


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