Reviews

Review: Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters Rating 68%

Review: Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters

It has been five years since the release of Caramel on Erol Alkan’s Phantasy Records and Connan Mockasin is at it again, releasing the much-anticipated Jassbusters, but that’s not all he has been working on. Having created the melodrama, Bostyn ‘n Dobsyn, he is evidently demonstrating his filmmaking capability, as well as the song-writing and performing. Having acquired great acclaim for his previous work it is always exciting to hear of a new release and my intrigue got the better of me, I was keen to hear this one.

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Review: Swan Lake Rating 95%

Review: Swan Lake

My knowledge of ballet begins and ends with an episode of The Goodies where football hooliganism has got so bad that it is banned and all the fans turn to ballet instead. The episode features Wayne Sleep and, nostalgia withstanding, was hilarious and its final scenes contained moments from Swan Lake where ballet hooligans became incensed by the performance.

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Review: Seasick Steve – Can U Cook? Rating 76%

Review: Seasick Steve – Can U Cook?

The unusually titled Can U Cook? is the ninth studio album and title track of Seasick Steve’s most recent release. I vaguely recall his debut, Cheap in 2004 which scares me, nine albums in. Can U Cook? sees Steve serve up his experience amidst dirty guitars, big drums and a gnarly vocal and is out via BMG, a fine new release from the Americana-Blues musician.

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Review: Karine Polwart – Laws Of Motion Rating 95%

Review: Karine Polwart – Laws Of Motion

For her seventh solo album, Laws Of Motion, Karine Polwart has produced another captivating and absorbing combination of music, storytelling and insightful commentary on a wide range of universal themes and issues. Assisted by regular collaborators, Inge Thomson on accordion, percussion and vocals and brother Steven Polwart on guitar, piano, percussion and backing vocals, Karine Polwart has delivered a collection of songs of rare excellence, with a series of imaginative, ambient soundscapes providing the backdrop to her poetic, evocative and uncompromising lyrics.

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Review: They Might Be Giants Rating 85%

Review: They Might Be Giants

From the outset, if we can agree to refer to They Might Be Giants as ‘TMBG’ then it would be as tight, efficient, slick and punchy as the band’s stage show. Tonight they are warmly welcomed by a fanatical following who sadly only half-fill Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. Therein we are treated to two sets; “an hour of the songs you love and later some more of the ones you hate…followed by a blues jam until everyone leaves”.

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Review: Calendar Girls Rating 90%

Review: Calendar Girls

There’s a particular joy to be found in films, TV and theatre pieces that celebrate the relationships, determination and humour of womankind. Calendar Girls captures the essence of this with gusto and alacrity. Its upbeat, yet poignant portrayal of a bunch of WI members experiencing life beyond youth, brings us fun and laughter, but importantly, a sense of hope and worth.

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Review: Rebus, Long Shadows Rating 60%

Review: Rebus, Long Shadows

Rebus: Long Shadows hit the news this week. A new incarnation of the Rebus story from local and internationally famed writer Ian Rankin, was bound to attract some attention – along with a loyal fan base. But it was when the lead actor and star draw, Charles Lawson (previously of Coronation Street), took ill and had to leave the stage during the press night, that the drama got real. It was understudy Neil McKinven who finished the show that night and played the title role throughout. On the night I was in, (the following one) McKinven’s valiant performance would have been barely distinguishable as a last minute swap-in, were it not for the script in his hand and subtley referred to, for the last quarter of the piece. A classically trained actor (RADA no less), McKinven certainly impressed as a realistic and authentic Rebus, despite the huge strain of being thrust into quite such a bright limelight, so soon into a run.

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Review: The Macbeths Rating 81%

Review: The Macbeths

Dominic Hill is known in theatre circles for stripping down the set of a play, making it about the relationship between not only the characters but also that between the cast and audience. Succeeding in previously secreting a voyeuristic feeling with his critically acclaimed production, The Libertine, am I surprised to walk out of the Paisley Arts Centre feeling violated, affected, almost like the madness of The Macbeths has projected onto me? Not really. Having already re-interpreted the play in 2017, it is interesting to note that this time Dominic has replaced Keith Fleming as Macbeth with Lucianne McEvoy, making it an all-female cast for this new incarnation of the Scottish Shakespearian play.

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Review: Hell, Dante’s Divine Trilogy Part One by Alasdair Gray Rating 95%

Review: Hell, Dante’s Divine Trilogy Part One by Alasdair Gray

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) was written over eight years and completed in 1320, a year before the author’s death, and is considered to be a classic of world literature. It describes the author’s imagined journey through Hell in the first part, followed by Purgatory in the second part, and the third concluding with his eventual arrival in Heaven. It is well known for its vividly imaginative portrayal of the afterlife, and has seen many translations and interpretations throughout the years. The latest one is courtesy of Alasdair Gray, famously described by Will Self as “a creative polymath with an integrated politico-philosophic vision”.

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Review: Villagers – The Art Of Pretending To Swim Rating 89%

Review: Villagers – The Art Of Pretending To Swim

The Villagers have done it yet again, releasing yet another astonishing album with their fourth release, The Art Of Pretending To Swim, which as the title suggests focuses as much on life’s obstacles as those finer times. Whilst making songwriting sound like a fluid and simple process, Conor O’Brien has more of a progressive sound to this LP, following more of a multi-faceted approach. The Art Of Pretending To Swim, for it’s new-found soulfulness, and aural instrumental builds, emitting emotion, possibly has to be my personal favourite of the Villagers catalogue of releases. Nuanced, as we note lyrical themes of fear and hope in a formidable age, there are always new layers to peel when listening to this album, with further hidden meaning to be got at.

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Review: Carla J. Easton – Impossible Stuff Rating 90%

Review: Carla J. Easton – Impossible Stuff

Carla J. Easton is a singer-songwriter from Glasgow. Having released one album with all-girl band TeenCanteen and another under the alias of Ette, both to critical acclaim, the release of Easton’s first solo album under her own name has been eagerly awaited. Largely written and recorded in Canada, and co-produced by the distinguished Howard Bilerman (who has worked with artists of the stature of Arcade Fire and Leonard Cohen), Impossible Stuff has been a labour of love for Carla J. Easton. The result is a veritable feast of exuberant and intelligent indie-pop songs, overflowing with killer hooks and bold, imaginative and multi-textured arrangements, Easton’s unique take on a Spector-esque ‘Wall of Sound’, if you will. The sheer quality and class of the songs is maintained throughout the album and each one is a potential single.

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