A look at the latest releases

By Andy Welch

A strong second album from American rockers Black Stone Cherry, an essential Leonard Cohen collection and a new Stereolab album make this week a worthwhile one as far as album releases go.

Hamfatter, the band who appeared on Dragons' Den, have a new album out too. Was entrepreneur Peter Jones' money well spent?

Read on...

Black Stone Cherry - Folklore & Superstition: Hailing from the booze-less American town of Edmonton, Kentucky, hard rock quartet Black Stone Cherry apparently had nothing to do when they were growing up but hone their musical skills. If this album, their second, is the result of not such abstinence, then maybe there's something to be said for prohibition after all.

The band wear their influences on their sleeves - Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, AC/DC and Guns 'N Roses - but that doesn't stop Folklore & Superstition sounding fresh and energetic.

It never really gets better than opener Blind Man, and the slushy ballad of Things My Father Said adds absolutely nothing, but otherwise, this is a fine, modern rock album.

Rating 7/10 (Review by Andy Welch)

Leonard Cohen - The Essential

His unexpected return to touring has reminded people just how special Leonard Cohen is. Wise, world-weary, witty, his undeserved reputation for miserablism obscured a poet haunted by the holiness of love and the obscenity of faith, and a voice which told you that you were listening to a man who'd lived and suffered with the best.

This two-CD set could be accused of playing slightly safe in its selections, but any tracklisting would have had its omissions; Cohen has made very few duds in his long career, and none of them are here. Essential indeed, if only a starting point.

Rating 9/10 (Review by Alex Sarll)

Solange - Sol-Angel & The Hadley Street Dreams

Like big sis Beyonce, it would appear that Solange is not really an albums act; there's an awful lot of midtempo filler here, but where Beyonce would have rendered it actively annoying with various shows of vocal prowess for prowess' sake, Solange is wisely content to let it bubble along in a pleasant, background, seventies-soul-and-funk-inspired fashion.

And like Beyonce, when Solange is good she's wonderful - Sandcastle Blues and lead single I Decided are both delightful summer pop, the latter especially in its Freemasons mix (there's a choice of two on here). One day she'll release a brilliant Best Of.

Rating: 6/10 (Review by Alex Sarll)

Madcon - So Dark The Con Of Man:

Eclectic is just one of the words you could use to describe Norwegian hip hoppers Madcon, or Mad Conspiracy, as they're sometimes known. Tshawe Baqwa aka Kapricon was born in Germany to South African parents, but grew up in Oslo. There he met Yosef Wolde-Mariam, or Critical, a Norwegian native, with Ethiopian and Eritrean parents. When they're not presenting their own music show on Norwegian TV, they can be found making melodic, sample heavy hip hop, not a million miles away from the Black Eyed Peas and Gym Class Heroes.

Their revamp of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons' Beggin' treads that fine line between glorious and ghastly, while The Way We Do Thangs is infectious.

Rating: 7/10 (Review by Andy Welch)

Stereolab - Chemical Chords:

Kicking off with the beautiful Neon Beanbag, Chemical Chords, the ninth album from London-based post-rock pioneers Stereolab, gets off to a flying start. Chic and quirky in equal measure, and much more pop-oriented than recent EPs, the delicate vocal and jaunty trumpet gel to create a whimsical four-or-so minutes indicative of the rest of the album.

Laetitia Sadier's Gallic are typically splendid, and, aside from the delicious opener, other standouts include the harpsichord-heavy Cellulose Sunshine and Three Women. It's not the easiest album to get to grips with, but as autumn approaches and the nights draw in, it's well worth persevering with.

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Andy Welch)

Mark Rueberry - Because Of You.

It's like listening to Robbie Williams' power hits i.e. Angels etc all over again. While this could be a compliment, it's worth considering Angels was released more than 10 years ago in 1997. Because Of You is rather dated, to say the least.

Saying that, if you yearn for a taste of the anthemic pop ballads of yesteryear this is probably the album for you. From opening track It Goes And Comes Around, to Burning Inside and In My Dream, you can imagine the accompanying video would be black and white slow-motion footage of Williams running around Wembley stadium. If you found this style of pop hard enough to swallow the first time around, you'll struggle to listen past the first couple of songs on the album.

Rating: 4/10 (Review by Polly Weeks)

Hamfatter - What Part Of Hamfatter Do You Not Understand?:

If you're not a fan of BBC Two show Dragons' Den, you might not know that Hamfatter recently appeared on the programme. After putting their case forward to the various entrepreneurs, Dragon Peter Jones gave in and gave Cambridge band £75,000 to help finance the band.

It's just a shame he didn't listen to the album first; had he done so, he'd have known that he might as well have invested in a company making chocolate frying pans. Among the best songs on offer is single Girl I Love, and even that offers the listener very little of interest. We may never understand parts of Hamfatter, but for the moment, the most baffling thing about the band is how they've come this far.

Rating: 2/10 (Review by Andy Welch)

Lloyd - Lessons In Love.

With so many R 'n' B singers out there, it's easy for artists to struggle to stand out from the pack. Lloyd is an example of that. He's obviously a very capable singer but with contemporaries including Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Usher and Taio Cruz - who are all producing similar material but with an individual twist - it raises the expectations as to what artists like Lloyd need to achieve.

Unfortunately this album lacks the flair needed for him to reach the heady heights, which the artists above have managed. There are very few singles on the album; most follow the same down-tempo, romantic nature.

We get the message Lloyd - you like girls. The real gems of the album are the bonus tracks, two different versions of How We Do It the first featuring Ludacris and the second Sway.

Rating: 5/10 (Review by Polly Weeks)

The Blow Monkeys - Devil's Tavern: They've been excised from consensual history, but The Blow Monkeys were a key eighties act. Dr Robert's venomous lisp and oblique wit showed that anti-Thatcher music didn't have to be about Billy Bragg's bellowing, while the band played a utopian, summery pop to remind people: it doesn't have to be this way. Reformed after 18 years, Devil's Tavern finds them older and wiser, but not surrendered; tracks called A Momentary Fall and We Can Win say it all, while The World Can Wait acknowledges, as they always did, that resistance can be as much about rising above as fighting against.

Rating: 8/10 (Review by Alex Sarll)

Daniel Wylie - Car

Guitar Star: Daniel Wylie used to be Scottish indie troop Cosmic Rough Riders, but after almost tasting success, he and the band parted on famously bad terms, leaving Wylie to pursue a solo career.

Unfortunately for him, he's not managed to reach the heights he did with the band, at least commercially, despite plowing a very similar musical furrow. Putting the adage 'if it ain't broke…' to great use, Wylie's influences seem to begin and end with the likes of Big Star and The Byrds, but that doesn't stop the likes of opener I Love America and the upbeat You Go There being concise, well-crafted pop songs.

Rating: 6/10 (Review by Andy Welch)

SINGLES by Andy Welch

The Automatic - Steve McQueen: The band's biggest hit, Monster, remains one of the most annoying songs ever, so it's with some pleasure we can report the first single from The Automatic's second album is more bearable. Just.

Taio Cruz - She's Like A Star: Save for the sample of a child's voice, this slick single from multi-talented star Taio Cruz is a fine example of a Brit doing R n B as well as the Americans.

Solange - I Decided: The debut single from Solange, little sister of Beyonce, is a retro affair, but with its glossy, Pharrell-alike production, has the modern sheen needed to make this a massive hit.


Metallica - Death Magnetic. The rock monsters release their ninth album on September 15 and it's rumoured to be an absolute beast. Can they recapture their 'Black Album' glory?

Carole King - Tapestry. Featuring such classic songs as I Feel The Earth Move, You've Got A Friend and Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Tapestry's one of the greatest albums of all time, and gets a well-deserved remastering and repackaging on September 22.


The Zutons have announced a UK tour beginning on November 10 in Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall and ending with their biggest ever headlining show at Liverpool's Echo Arena on December 19.

For more details, go to www.gigsandtours.com Sia is touring the UK in October. The Australian singer begins her jaunt in Bristol on October 4, and ends in Dublin on October 14. For more information, go to www.siamusic.net