Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby, Crabby Appleton and The Very Best Of Tappen Zee Records...
When The Day Is Done: The Orchestrations Of Robert Kirby (Ace CDTOP 1517)
Robert Kirby's first commissioned work as a string arranger was for his former college friend Nick Drake's debut album Five Leaves Left, which he decorated with sublime, autumnal and quintessentially English melancholia. Although the album was not immediately successful, it kickstarted Kirby's career, which is rightly celebrated by the release of this stunning compilation spanning 1970 to 1978 (with one exception), during which time he worked with the cream of the British folk/rock talent of the day. Compiled by Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley, who also provides excellent liner notes, the album begins in fine and appropriate style with Introduction, the beautiful and all too brief instrumental that opens Drake's second album, Bryter Layter. Kirby's deft touch is a joy to behold - Vashti Bunyan's extraordinary delicate, breathy tones on Rainbor Rover, for example, are cloaked in Kirby's arrangement but not overpowered by it. The more robust Sandy Denny's interpretation of Silver Threads & Golden Needles - a hit for The Springfields in the early 1960s - is more punchy, with the slowed down song tethered by a complex brass band arrangement. The less well-known White Witch by Spriguns is pleasingly pastoral, and even future Velvet Underground member John Cale's otherwise very ordinary Keep A Close Watch is given form and substance by Kirby's meanderings. Amidst all this beautiful and edifying music, it's sobering to think that of the 20 tracks here, the one that was the biggest hit is the one which sounds least like a Kirby creation - former Matthews Southern Comfort leader Ian Matthews' cover of Robert Palmer's Gimme An Inch Girl, a soulful but comparatively string-free groover that was a US hit in 1978.
The Very Best Of Tappen Zee Records (Robinsongs ROBIN 22 CDD)
Tappen Zee is the name of a bridge over the Hudson River in New York, and of an influential jazz record label that was founded and operated by keyboards player Bob James. This double CD set - which hosts 25 Tappen Zee recordings spanning 1975-1981, with a playing time of 150 minutes - understandably contains six tracks by James, most notably the brassy, propulsive Westchester Lady and Angela, his memorable theme to legendary TV show Taxi, as well as two superb collaborations with guitarist Earl Klugh. Tappen Zee was far from a one artist label, however, and other tracks worthy of attention include Mongo Santamaria's hustling disco remake of his earlier classic Watermelon Man; guitarist Steve Khan's searing take on The O'Jays' Darlin' Darlin Baby (Sweet Tender Love); and pianist/singer Richard Tee's slow, funky Every Day. Everything is impeccably played, and tasteful, and provides an excellent flavour of a fine record label.
Crabby Appleton (Man In The Moon MITMCD 31)/Rotten To The Core! (MITMCD 32)
Crabby Appleton was a short-lived, Los Angeles band fronted by New Yorker Michael Fennelly. Signed to the prestigious Elektra label, they released an eponymous 1970 debut and 1971's Rotten To The Core! before crashing and burning. They achieved very limited chart success - their first album reached No.175 and their second failed to chart in America - but their ringing, melodic power pop won them a cult following and although theoretically deep catalogue, both albums have been re-released on a regular basis, with 2002 outings on Collector's Choice and 2009 releases on Rhino already this century. They now return in frill-free reissues on Man In The Moon, competitively priced to sell at around £6. Fennelly was the band's main composer as well as lead singer, and has an enigmatic presence and pleasing delivery, most notably on Go Back, a storming single from their first album that landed them their only Hot 100 hit, though Lucy - from Rotten To The Core - should have done, being a lively, somewhat heavier number that Fennelly delivers in a full-throated roar reminiscent of Jimmy Page. There's nothing earth-shattering about either album but for anyone seeking out hitherto unheard early 1970s albums, these are solid efforts and enjoyable liste