After two albums with singer Jack Bruce, Robin Trower brought back original vocalist James Dewar for his 1983 release Back It Up. Longtime fans surely hoped for another Bridge of Sighs, but by this time the songwriting had been reduced to pedestrian hard rock, with only occasional flashes of the old cosmic brilliance. Both "The River" and "Benny Dancer" have some of the old edge, and the instrumental "Island" is one of the most beautiful songs Trower ever did. Unfortunately, however, this record was ignored by the old fans (many of whom were now busy starting families and toting briefcases), and it was hard for him to win over a new audience when haircut bands like Culture Club flooded both the radio and the latest media sensation – MTV.
Australia is not the first place you think of as a crate-digger's paradise. But these 20 slices from the country's early-Seventies season in commercial R&B and pop-jazz fusion are a lively lesson in the ingenious adaption of imported trends over an extreme distance. This is overwhelmingly white funk: "Back on the Street Again," an Etta James cover by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, and the ID's "Feel Awlright" are examples of hot shots from Australia's Sixties-beat and heavy-rock scenes finding their dance-floor feet; a track by the progressive-rock band Tamam Shud comes from the soundtrack to a 1971 surfing documentary. But it is all robust fun with intriguing sampling prospects.
Can it get any better? If aliens came down needing to know what funk was all about, in all its talented, embrace-anything-and-everything, screw with your head and get your butt down glory, then this is a prime candidate for what to give them. The man, his voice, his bass, the backing of a prime core band including his guitarist brother Catfish, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker leading the brass – beautiful, hilarious, and just plain great. This one-disc collection could easily be a two-disc or more if one wanted to include every last highlight from Collins' up-down-all-around career – his work with James Brown alone is beyond the bomb – but when it comes to solo work, this is as perfect a place to start as any. Drawing mostly on the albums done with the active help of George Clinton in the late '70s, Back in the Day is a model for what a good compilation should be. Sound is excellent throughout, while full details on who plays what and where, along with where everything came from in the first place, all appear in exhaustive detail. The liner notes, meanwhile, come from longtime funk road manager (Brown, Prince, plenty of others) Alan Leeds, explaining every step of Collins' wonderful story.
The Rumble Man was recorded and filmed during Link Wray's UK tour of March ’96, the CD features Link rockin' his leathers off live, while the DVD is a mix of live footage and documentary, featuring an extensive interview with the man himself. What you now hold in your hand is a piece of Rock 'n' Roll history. In his own words and music you are about to witness the greatest guitar player this planet has ever seen. So sit back, hit that volume control to distortion and listen to The Rumble Man.
With a Ray Davies-like vocal delivery, mountains of songwriting credits, Clair's gritty and provocative tunes are kicked into high gear with the muscular and stirring chops of the mighty Pushbacks. "It takes balls, literally and figuratively, to sing so knowingly about a vasectomy. But in the swaggering, amped-up title track to Love Makes Us Weird, Stephen Clair does just that, turning a four-syllable word into a tight rhyme with the line 'Who are we?'"
Superb double CD from the vastly underrated Korgis. You might remember their tender, atmospheric 1979 hit "Everybody's got to learn sometime", three versions of which are included. There are many similarly appealing songs on this double CD set, which actually includes, in total, the entire contents of each of their three albums, plus four worthwhile extras. This music really should have reached a greater audience than it has so far managed to, since it's of genuinely high quality and the main influences on it (Beach Boys, Beatles etc) are not exactly esoteric.