Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s CD releases.
Nigel Kennedy - Kennedy Meets Gershwin (Warner Classics)- Nigel Kennedy’s adamant refusal to allow himself to be pigeonholed as a purely classical performer has always been one of the most appealing features of the former child prodigy’s approach to music-making, and Nigel’s latest offering breathes new life into some of the signature compositions of the great George Gershwin. His two great mentors Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli have both immersed themselves in Gershwin’s work in the past and Nigel’s enduring passion for the free-flowing delights of jazz fuels his splendid re-imaginings of timeless creations such as Summertime, The Man I Love and They Can’t Take That Away From Me.
Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing (Legacy Recordings). Willie Nelson may have celebrated his 85th birthday a few weeks ago but the old creative spark still seems to be burning as brightly as ever on the evidence presented by the venerable country balladeer’s latest Sony/Legacy album. His latest batch of 11 freshly minted songs radiates wit, wisdom and laconic charm as Willie serves up memorable musings on mortality and the vagaries of the human condition such as Something You Get Through, Last Man Standing and She Made My Day for your listening pleasure.
Sky - The Studio Albums 1979-1987 (Esoteric/Cherry Red). This eight-disc set brings together all seven studio albums released by classical guitarist John Williams’s stylish Sky outfit, along with a bonus DVD recorded by a later incarnation of the band for Central Television in 1990, some years after musical mainstay Williamss’ amicable departure from their line-up. Sky’s repertoire blended mildly esoteric self-penned pieces with souped-up versions of classical compositions such as Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1 and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to surprisingly commercial effect, and Cherry Red’s new anthology offers a definitive overview of their hit-making exploits during the early 80s.
Grace Slick & Paul Kantner - Sunfighter (Retroworld). This 1971 collaboration from Jefferson Airplane stalwarts Slick and Kanter was the second release on the band’s newly formed Grunt label and boasted contributions from a whole host of West Coast rock luminaries, including Messrs. Crosby and Nash and Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Devotees of Airplane’s fairly unstructured brand of strident acid rock should find that it provides an invigorating listening experience, although style does tend to outweigh content from time to time.