U2: All That You Can't Leave Behind

Looking at the promotional pictures for the un-catchily titled "All that you can’t leave behind", Bono and the Edge don’t seem to have changed too much over the years. Larry Mullen looks as if he has been taking some of Sir Cliff’s eternal youth pills and Adam Clayton unfortunately looks as if he as been taking health and beauty advice from Keith Richards. The album re-unites the producers used on the "Unforgettable Fire", Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and perhaps that goes some way to explaining the similar feel of the two albums. The production quality of the album is quite impressive and anybody with a decent hi-fi system will be impressed with the clarity and crispness of the recording itself. As usual I don’t have time to go through all of the tracks but a quick summary of some of the highlights follows. The album opens with the first single to be taken from the album, "Beautiful Day" and uses the traditional U2 winning formula. My personal favorite is "Elevation" which starts with a cutting Edge riff, followed by one of Larry’s drum rolls which takes us into an "Achtung Baby" style masterpiece. "Kite" is a little slower and not dissimilar to the Verve’s "Lucky Man" and the guitar intro to "In a little While" has a distinct Red Hot Chili Peppers feel to it. Finally things wind down to a gentle conclusion with the restful finale, "Grace". It’s another one of those "growers" and hence my initial crisp rating of 3 has grown into a 4 after a couple of weeks listening.

B.B. King and Eric Clapton: Riding With The King

If "The Blues" is what fluffs your pigeon then is album is going to be right up your street. It contains mostly new material and a couple of old standards. Although they have played together before, this is the first time these two blues and rock legends have joined forces to produce a whole album and the combination works as well as expected. The album starts off with the title track, and sets a high standard, which the remainder of the album struggles to keep up with. The album is riddled with trademark vocals and guitars from both prime contributors and anybody familiar with either of their work would have no problems in identifying them. The second track "Ten Long Years" also stands out from many of the other tracks, and its traditional blues piano makes it sound more like a King song than a Clapton song. Clapton adds perhaps a little more rock than a solo King album might have had, which helps to give the album a little more variety and balance. Of course it would not be acceptable to release a blues album without at least one of the tracks being called "something Blues", and the vibrant duo happily oblige with the excellent "3 o’ Clock Blues". The re-working of "Worried Life Blues" also fulfilling the required naming convention doesn’t however compare with the old Animals version. This is very much an album of a particular genre and most people are therefore likely to love it or hate it. My only disappointment was the absence of a lyric along the lines of "Woke up this morning and my woman was gone, she’d shot my dog, crashed my car and peed on the carpet", but maybe that’s just my false expectations.

Coldplay: Parachutes

This cockney quartet from the Paralophone stable were the Bookies favorites for this years "Mercury Music Award", but were pipped at the post by Badly Drawn Boy. Even though "Parachutes" didn’t actually win, the quality of past nominees inspires a bit of pre-listening confidence. However, before handing over your hard-earned shekels to the confused and punctured individual lurking menacingly behind the HMV counter, you may well want to know what they actually sound like. I don’t have enough room to describe all of the tracks in detail here, but I will attempt to give a brief description of a few of the stand out tracks. The opening track "Don’t Panic" gets us under way in an upbeat mood, not dissimilar to last years Travis Album. "Trouble" is a slower tune more akin to the Counting Crows while the title track itself is a very short acoustic piece reminiscent of the late great Nick Drake. Other prominent tracks include "Spies", "Yellow" and "We Never Change". My wife’s first impression of the album was that it was a bit dull and inoffensive. It is indeed extremely unlikely that it will offend as many people as Slipknot or Marilyn Mansun, but inoffensive is not really a fair description of it. There is in-fact a lot more depth to the album than can be gleaned from a casual listen whilst making the dinner, you just have to sit down and listen to it properly. It contains 10 well crafted and produced traditional guitar, bass, keyboard and drum based songs. Coldplay don’t seem to have the energy, anger and angst of Nirvana but they have put together an excellent debut album of well-written and performed conventional material. In summary, "Parachutes" is in close proximity to the proverbial canine under-carriage and well worth a good hearty sniff.

Iron Maiden: Brave New World

With the return of Bruce Dickinson to the fold, Brave New World has been hyped as massive return to form for Maiden. So having given up on them several years ago, and not buying any of their albums released in the 90’s, I decided to give them a second chance. It does indeed attempt to re-create some of the classic Maiden sounds and riffs, but unfortunately does not compare with their earlier work on "Number of the Beast" or "Piece of Mind". In general the songs appear less catchy and the solo’s less intricate than the early days. There was talk of including some acoustic numbers (or even an entire acoustic album), but the band decided that what the majority of the fans would want is just the heavy stuff. Anyway the "Unplugged" concept seems to be less fashionable these days and many rock bands like Metallica and the Scorpions seem to prefer working with symphony orchestra’s instead. An idea first tried by Deep Purple to much greater effect in the early 70’s. Anyway, not really recommended unless you’re a die hard fan, not quite a Turkey, but a medium sized game bird at best. At least they didn’t include the cheesy rock ballad.

Gomez : Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline

Gomez’s third studio album in two years! Infact they have produced 3 albums (including a mercury prize winning debut), while Radiohead have been struggling to come up with something worthy enough to follow "OK Computer". So how did Gomez come up with something so quickly? Easy, they recorded a few new songs and filled the rest of the album up with some remixes of old songs and a few B-sides. This is however still a great album and these songs deserve to be made more accessible, rather tucked away somewhere harder to find. There is also some great variety in this record, the newer stuff has a more modern almost "dancey" feel to it, and is mixed with various other musical styles throughout the album including country, world music and the currently popular Latin style. As with other Gomez albums it gets better with more listening and like Captain Beefhearts "Trout Mask Replica" it may take a while to fully appreciate it.

Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes: Live at the Greek

I guess some people reckon Jimmy should stop pedaling his old Zeppelin classics and go and do something new instead. However the Crowes do an excellent job of inserting some new life into some great old songs. The set list is pretty impressive too; they chose to play some of the lesser-used Zeppelin Classics like "Hey hey what can do" together with "Ten years Gone" and "In my time of dying" from the legendary "Physical Graffiti". They also found room to record some great versions of some non-Zeppelin blues classics like "Shake your money maker" and Peter Greens "Oh Well" (part 1 only regrettably). All in all the Crowes provide a very confident musical backdrop and lead vocals for Jimmy’s wizardry. Although, for those of us who bought it on the internet under the belief that it would not be available in the shops, it’s a tad annoying now that it has got a normal retail release with an additional track.

Porcupine Tree: Voyage 34

Porcupine Tree have been around since the early 90’s and have just released their 6th Studio album, "Light-bulb Sun". However despite being regularly acclaimed as the next big thing they have still not properly broken through to the mainstream. Voyage 34 is actually and old track that was intended for the 2nd album "Up the Downstair". However, because there was no room to include this lengthy piece on the second album it was released on a pair of limited edition EP’s, but as it was one of the highlights of their live set it quickly became unavailable. The full-length 63-minute voyage is a transcript of Brian’s rocky 34th and final LSD trip. The first phase describes Brian’s gradual transformation into his anticipated nirvana state. It starts with a repetitive guitar riff unashamedly plagiarized from "Another brick in the wall (part 1)", this is followed by an excellent guitar piece before the trip slows down to become more ambient, slightly darker and moodier but generally just less eventful.