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Recent album review #1
What Trevor Lucas brought to Fairport Convention, was a creative sparring partner for Dave Swarbrick, which - to be fair - he needed. Swarbrick is the kind of musician who always works best in a group or a duo, although that’s not to take anything away from his virtuosity as a player.

The problem (if it can be considered as such) with the Lucas/Swarbrick era of Fairport is that their respective styles simply don’t meld together well. Lucas plays and writes songs that don't much resemble folk, whilst Swarbrick is rooted in the stuff. There’s little meeting in the middle, and even singing together seems to prove a problem.

Having said that, Nine is arguably their best effort within Fairport Convention. Like Rosie, it’s not an ambitious record, but its charm lies in that very lack of artful ambition. At least Swarbrick gets his speed back on "Hexamshire Lass", a see-sawing delight that Monty Python surely ripped-off for their "Knights of the Round Table" song in The Holy Grail movie. That's followed by Lucas singing "Polly on the Shore", then a delightful instrumental medley called "Brilliancy".

Swarbrick also delivers one of his finest-ever vocals on "To Althea from Prison", a slow-moving ballad with a few classy touches that raise it above mediocrity towards heavenly bliss, with its wonderful coda of a solitary guitar picking out notes, echoing loud and clear, like a church bell chiming in slow motion. The entire song has a very hymnal quality, and is a surprise to find on what is after all one of Fairport’s less-regarded albums.

Other highlights are the sterling instrumental "Tokyo", and the wonderful vocals on the Lucas-led "Pleasure & Pain". Suffice to say that - even in the absence of the shining moments of Denny-era Fairport Convention - the band still manage to turn out an excellent quality album.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning

Posted: Friday 9th Dec 2016 1:40 PM

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Recent album review #2
Queen - Hot Space (1982)

It seems the idea behind Queen releasing a disco/dance album in 1982 was pushed mainly by Mercury, reinforced by Deacon, who - unlike the others - grew up listening to soul music.

However, May and Taylor were reported to completely detest that musical direction. Of course, those two were still members of the band and contributed songs anyway, but it must've been through clenched teeth!

After releasing their synthesizer-heavy soundtrack for Flash Gordon, Queen were so comfortable using that instrument they started making entire pop songs from them that don't feature any guitar at all! And what a mistake ... "Body Language" is just flat from beginning to end, featuring a lifeless bass-synth loop, drum machines, and an uninteresting (though *flashy*) vocal performance from Mercury. That's without a doubt one of the worst songs they've ever done.

Most of the other songs aren't too far behind that one. "Action This Day" also features a dull bass-synth sound and a forgettable melody, although it at least has some electric guitar to keep the beat; "Dancer" has a catchy bassline and some rather heavy electric guitar sounds, however I'm disappointed that Mercury's disco-diva overtones comes off as such a joyless exercise.

"Black Chat" actually sounds like a genuine early-80's R&B song, but it isn't long into it before I get awfully bored; "Staying Power" is the best song from the first half of the album, which at least sounds like Mercury is singing a half-decent melody.

Although the second half of the album is miles better than the first, it continues to reveal how Queen had completely lost their magic, for whilst "Put Out the Fire" has a heavy electric guitar sound that rings of classic Queen, its melody is forgettable, and "Calling All Girls" sounds like another attempt at New Wave, but why must that groove be so clunky and mechanical?

"Life Is Real (Song for John Lennon)" definitely sounds like a Lennon song (at least at the beginning), before it hits some pompous notes in the middle. I'd wager that most Queen fans love it, but I don't find it terribly interesting, though of course - compared to the other songs here - it's positively golden!

Things get somewhat better with "Las Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love)", a power ballad with some nice moments. Even so, it grows awfully dull in spots. "Cool Cat" might be the best R&B song here, a decent bit of bedroom-soul with a vaguely memorable melody and a strikingly fine falsetto vocal performance, but it's not exactly the way I want to remember Queen.

Easily the most celebrated song of the bunch is the closing "Under Pressure", co-written by David Bowie. It's not even close to representing the best work of either party, but it's nevertheless a nice pop song with a snappy groove, so I guess I'll have to consider that my due reward for sitting through this miserable excuse for a Queen album. Seriously, what a monumental disappointment.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio

Posted: Friday 9th Dec 2016 1:54 PM

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