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This article was published 28/8/2009 (2764 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE virtuosity of musicianship and variety of material in this amazing four-disc box set should persuade anyone of the British folk-rocker's high place in the pantheon.
Thompson's 40-year career has had three distinct periods. He spent five years leading the English folk band Fairport Convention, then a decade as half a duo with his then-wife Linda Thompson. For the past 20 years, he has worked solo.
Thompson was "boxed" once before in the early SSRq90s on a collection of out-takes and obscurities. This one contains the seminal tracks from some 30 albums, a few of them live and others up to 10 minutes in length. It will take months to absorb the breadth of it.
When all is finished, Thompson has done for traditional British folk balladry what the Band did for backwoods Americana -- electrified it and brought it into the 20th century. The brightness of his muscular guitar work contrasts vividly with his chocolate baritone, and the economy of his lyrics in such story songs as Beeswing and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is something to behold.
Winnipeggers who saw Thompson's concert at the Garrick last spring know what the man can do with just a microphone and a guitar. Backed by a full band (not to mention being supported by the late Sandy Denny and Linda's lead vocals), he is occasionally overwhelming.
The package includes a photo-studded booklet with a fine retrospective essay by Patrick Humphries and a detailed chronological discography.
Be damned, iTunes! For a certain type of music-loving boomer, a better Christmas gift this year could not be found. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö
-- Morley Walker
EVERYBODY'S favourite reggae-loving, rap-spewing Hasidic Jew returns with his third studio effort, 13 tracks of positivity and spirituality filled with everything from skittery pop to dub and featuring appearances from members of Fishbone and Sublime.
Light might be his least reggae-influenced album yet, but there are still traces of his love of dancehall on Smash Lies and One Day. So Hi So Lo has more in common with the sunny California grooves of Sublime than traditional Jamaican music. I Will Be Light is a dub-heavy jam. Oh Nature is a straight-up hip-hop track, climaxing with uplifting gang chorus vocals. Motivate brings out the rock guitars and Darkness and Light is a mishmash of everything that came before.
After five years on the scene, Matisyahu has proven his music isn't just some gimmick. Light is an honest, diverse offering from an artist who seems to know no musical boundaries. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
-- Rob Williams
American Classic (EMI/Blue Note)
IT'S an almost unbelievable statistic, but iconic songwriter Willie Nelson's most successful album was his 1978 American standards collection Stardust, which sold more than five million copies.
Now, after more than 30 years, he delivers something of a followup, donating his strangely appealing nasal vocals to 11 loungey jazz standards. Most of the regular suspects are here: The Nearness of You, Fly Me to the Moon, Ain't MisbehavinSSRq and Baby, It's Cold Outside, featuring Norah Jones. Diana Krall also turns up on If I Had You, a song she could sing in her sleep. Nelson also reworks his most famous love song, Always on My Mind, into a piano-tinged number that sounds tailor-made for your next karaoke cocktail party.
Backed by a group of jazz session men, Nelson barely breaks a sweat crooning out these laid-back oldies. It's another wonderfully odd twist in his insanely prolific career, but will probably only appeal to hardcore fans who always wondered what it would be like to hear Nelson cover a swinging version of On the Street Where You Live. Well, at least it's better than that reggae album he released a few years ago. 'Ö'Ö1/2
FOR album No. 3, fun-loving British pranksters Arctic Monkeys turn down the spaz and turn up the groove.
Producer Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) could have something to do with the change of direction, or it might simply the band's natural evolution, but the energetic rock freakouts, spiky post-punk and funky dancefloor filler has been tempered this time, replaced by darker mid-tempo songs that chug and lurch instead of kick and scream. The band still borrows heavily from groups like the Libertines and the Strokes, but adds its own twist -- in this case, some guitar twang that pops up occasionally and an added emphasis on atmospherics.
Vocalist Alex Turner is still at the top of his lyrical game, with acute observations about everyday life and love. The Humbug of the title must refer to his view on the state of his life, which doesn't seem very rosy these days. Fans of the band's first two excellent releases might agree with the album's title on the first listen, but with each spin they will find fewer humbugs and more ah-has. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
La Roux (Polydor/Universal)
THE tweaked synthesizer soul of the latest U.K. buzz band harkens back to the glory days of British bands like Yaz and Blacmange -- and that's a compliment. With her red quiff of Flock of Seagulls hair and older-than-her-years attitude, 22-year-old singer-songwriter Elly Jackson is a natural frontwomen, and she and co-producer/writer Ben Langmaid strike a nice balance between woman and machine on their debut full-length.
Tigerlily is an insidious electronic tango that finds Jackson sounding menacing (there's a Vincent Price-esque spoken-word interlude à la Thriller) even as she promises to be her lover's "light in the mist," while the so-catchy-it's-silly Bulletproof finds her putting a jaunty spin on a sneering kiss-off.
These are dancefloor-ready tracks, no question, but you can hear Jackson's acoustic-folk roots in the melodies. That blend of irresistible beats, bleating keyboards and drill bit choruses is seductive -- though the NME hype overlooks the several dull, repetitive songs and the fact that, unlike Yaz singer Alison Moyet, Jackson's high, cool voice often mimics the chilly computerized sound of her instruments, lacking an earthiness that might connect us more emotionally to the music. 'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2
-- Jill Wilson