Albums of the week: Black Sabbath to Stereophonics
Welsh rockers Stereophonics are releasing a new album two decades after their debut, while icons Black Sabbath unleash a mammoth box set to celebrate a 50-year career.
BLACK SABBATH — THE TEN YEAR WAR BOX SET
It’s nearly 50 years since four guys from Birmingham released their debut LP, the self-titled Black Sabbath single-handedly changing the face of rock and essentially creating heavy metal. As time has ticked by the line-up has fluctuated, along with the sobriety of frontman Ozzy.
The Ten Year War Box Set is a triumph of the Ozzy Osbourne-fronted years, a collection of eight vinyl LPs (reproduced in their original sleeves) Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage, Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die. As a bonus there are also two rare 7-inch singles — the Japanese version of Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games with Me)/Black Sabbath and Paranoid/The Wizard (Chilean release). This is all before you get to the USB stick of the first eight albums.
The quality is outstanding even compared to the 2009 remastering, the richness of Tony Iommi’s guitar and the otherworldly vocals of Osbourne, it’s easy to forget how talented the now reality TV celebrity is.
STEREOPHONICS — SCREAM ABOVE THE SOUNDS
To Scream Above The Sounds in the internet age is a near-impossible task considering the volume of bellowing mouths, all baring their teeth in the tussle to be that little bit louder. But the 10th studio record from the Kelly Jones-fronted Welsh outfit may cause a bit of quiet.
An angst-filled journey through the state of the world in anthemic packaging, it drags up nostalgia and fear with some room for hope. The title comes from All In One Night — an observational track which documents a young man’s night packed with party, police, a car accident and a woman giving birth.
The narrative, in its presence rather than its substance, is characteristic of the record. There’s also some brash, Tom Waits-esque freestyling and it’s obvious Jones has been reflecting a lot on his youth. He’s also been thinking about the band’s former drummer Stuart Cable, who is remembered with a moving piano-led tribute from his childhood friend on Before Anyone Knew Our Name, where he sings proudly of building one of the UK’s most successful bands of the past two decades from the mining village of Cwmaman.
GREGORY PORTER — NAT KING COLE AND ME
Cynics, make thyselves scarce. Yes, this is a covers album. But Gregory Porter, the Californian with the lush baritone that makes him the most swinging voice in jazz one minute and the jazziest voice in swing the next, has always had a bit of a thing for the late King.
Here he indulges that passion and dives deep into the songbook of an all-time great and his personal hero.
The California-born 45-year-old has often spoken of an absent father, but the music of Nat King Cole has wielded a profound alternative influence. Porter’s long-held affection for these songs shines through, with warm-hearted takes on Mona Lisa, Smile and Nature Boy leading off the album. Backed by a symphony orchestra, Porter holds nothing back, and on Pick Yourself Up he revels as a crooner, as though sent through time from the days of Cole, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr and co. A real labour of love, destined to tug at hearts this autumn.
HOWIE PAYNE — MOUNTAIN
Howie Payne looks out from the cover of his new album, Mountain, with a scarf and stare that seem to echo the cover of Bob Dylan’s classic album Blonde On Blonde. Unsurprisingly, then, Mountain is tinged with a nostalgic Sixties groove that largely works well with Payne’s clean voice and direct lyrics.
Mountain deviates from the troubadour tendencies of Payne’s debut, Bright Light Ballads, and for the most part this proves a wise move.
As pleasant as his stripped-back songs sound, notably After Tonight and Evangeline (Los Angeles), they only emphasise the limits of Payne’s lyricism, which often lands closer to molehill than mountain.
But in the heart of his album Payne delivers the goods, with the warm feel and catchy hooks of Brightest Star and Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer proving Payne’s prowess as a solid songwriter near the top of his game.
SON OF DAVE — MUSIC FOR COP SHOWS
Beat-boxing Canadian bluesmen are woefully under-represented in the world of pop music, so thank goodness for Son of Dave (real name Benjamin Darvill), who is back with another collection of tongue-in-cheek but impossibly infectious rock’n’roll stompers.
In a return to the lo-fi sound of his early albums, Music for Cop Shows is dominated by parping harmonica, grunts and snarls that are accessorised here and there with a spindly guitar or keyboard lick.
The half-whispered, half-barked lyrics are as strange as ever, hinting at seedy tales of staying up late, dancing all night and generally acting the rogue.
But the emphasis remains resolutely on getting listeners’ hips swinging, and every track pulsates with foot-tapping grooves. Cop shows never sounded so funky.