Five new albums on vinyl, out this week – from the archive gems of the greatest guitarist of all time to a violent comeback from the dark knights of the mainstream – reviewed by Long Live Vinyl magazine…

Jimi Hendrix
Both Sides Of The Sky
Experience Hendrix/Legacy Recordings

Jimi Hendrix Both Sides Of The Sky album cover

In the two years before his tragic death in September 1970, Jimi Hendrix was in a transitional period in terms of his musical direction. Still obliged to work within the restrictions of the power trio – once the perfect showcase for his pyrotechnics, now a format he was rapidly outgrowing – he was building his own studio while committing a wealth of jams, demos, complete songs, riffs and fragments to tape. Luckily for us, since 2010, Jimi’s sister Janie and producers John McDermott and Eddie Kramer have presided over a trilogy of releases gathering together the best unused tracks in the vault. Both Sides Of The Sky – released as a numbered 180-gram 2LP – presents 13 studio recordings made between 1968-70 (10 previously unreleased) and completes the trilogy begun with Valleys Of Neptune and 2013’s People, Hell And Angels. Many tracks here feature the stripped-down funk of his Band Of Gypsys, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, but it’s the cameos that make this more a rounded exploration of how Hendrix’s music and studio experimentation evolve.

In terms of highlights, opener Mannish Boy, taken from the first recording session with Cox and Miles in April 1969, is a funky, up-tempo reworking that captures Jimi on lightning form. From December the same year, Lover Man shows how far the trio had developed as they prepared for their Fillmore show. There’s insane energy in this stab at a Hendrix fave; it cheekily incorporates the Batman theme tune and the solos positively detonate in your speakers – an incredible mix of improvised rhythm-and-lead guitar that recalls his incendiary Monterey Rock Me Baby performance. These are followed by a slow-burning 1969 studio version of Hendrix live favourite Hear My Train A Comin’ with Mitchell and Redding. Fed through his Voodoo Child (Slight Return) filter, Jimi’s killer guitar sound ranges through his effects arsenal, with spectacular use of cocked-wah vocalisations.

A 1969 session with Stephen Stills yields a pre-CSNY version of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock and the enjoyable $20 Fine, with Stills on organ and Duane Hitchings on piano. On Guitar Slim’s Things I Used To Do, Texan slide hotshot Johnny Winter jams with Hendrix, Cox and Dallas Taylor of CSNY, and the interplay will have guitarists’ fingers twitching; while the slick, sprawling Power Of Soul offers a glimpse into just one of Jimi’s many possible futures. Closing oddity Cherokee Mist is a psychedelic dreamscape with overlapping countermelodies from Jimi on sitar, set against a backdrop of untamed feedback.

Sadly, Both Sides Of The Sky is likely to be the last word from the archives (except for live performances). But with its psychedelic R&B and new strains of blues-funk, it’s a fitting testament not just to the best guitar player ever, but also to a man determined to fuse together the styles he’d mastered into an exciting, pathfinding musical form.
Owen Bailey

David Byrne
American Utopia

American Utopia album cover

David Byrne’s spent his last three albums collaborating with, respectively, Brian Eno, Norman Cook and St Vincent, but while he manages to market every record with which he’s involved as a brave, new, artistic challenge, he remains unmistakably him. American Utopia, his first solo album since 2004, is no different, inevitably dominated by his distinctive voice and full of typically idiosyncratic lyrics, including: “The brain of a chicken/ And the dick of a donkey” (from the joyous, faintly Caribbean Every Day Is A Miracle). The percussive Here pairs him with experimental electronica musician Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), who’s also behind the album’s other exploratory track, This Is That; but the rest, co-written with Brian Eno, is far more accessible, especially the witty, pounding I Dance Like This and Everybody’s Coming To My House’s dry, acoustic funk. The ‘head’ may be aging, but he still talks the talk, and walks the walk as well.
Wyndham Wallace

World Beyond

Erasure World Beyond album cover

The recent trend for orchestrating pop and rock music has thrown up mixed results – from the questionable (Elvis and Aretha with the Royal Philharmonic) to the tasteful (Midge Ure’s Orchestrated) and unexpected (Sophie Ellis Bextor’s forthcoming Orchestral Greatest Hits). To their credit, Erasure have gone the extra mile here. World Beyond, a collaboration with the Brussels-based post-classical Echo Collective is a bold reinvention of their 2017 album World Be Gone and no mere retread with added strings and brass. Andy Bell has re-recorded his vocals from the original album, making them gel nicely with these recontextualised arrangements. The pulsing electro of the title track is replaced by a harp and chamber orchestra, with Bell given plenty of space in the mix to wring every drop of emotion out of the track. Equally impressive is the mournful Still It’s Not Over. Let’s use this album as a textbook for future classical makeovers, please.
Steve Harnell

Play It Again Sam

Editors Violence album cover

Ever since their debut The Back Room and follow-up An End Has A Start helped establish Editors as indie’s dark knights of the mainstream in the mid-to-late 2000s, Tom Smith and co have experienced turbulent times and released a string of albums best described as ‘fair to middling’… So, where are Editors at with their sixth offering? Well, as suggested on the exhilarating lead single Magazine, the band are in anthemic mood and this is echoed on a number of standout moments. From the muscular bombast of Hallelujah (So Low) to the rousing Darkness At The Door, via the sombre, synth-pop of title track Violence and the haunting No Sound But The Wind, Editors have emerged with an album that embraces both the dark and light side. Counting Spooks proves to be a wonderful and grandiose affair, that combines both the atmosphere of Disintegration-era Cure with Bowie histrionics… a nice slice of electronic melodrama that sets things up neatly for album closer Belong. Ultimately, this nine-song set is a strong return to form from Birmingham’s brightest purveyors of gloom pop.
Dan Biggane

Where Wildness Grows

Gengahr album cover

Patience is rewarded as this follow-up to the London band’s impressive 2015 debut A Dream Outside arrives after its initial sessions were aborted and a period of soul-searching ensued. That re-evaluation paid off, with Genghar delivering an album that’s true to their explosive live shows and balances pop sensibilities with grandiose post-rock dynamics. Guitarist John Victor, one of a new breed of effects-wielding sonic adventurers, stars throughout – his shimmering riffs met head-on by walls of ambient noise that make an evocative bed for Felix Bushe’s newly anguished falsetto. The title track dances between summery arpeggios that bring to mind Bombay Bicycle Club and a lacerating wash before mid-album highlight Carrion introduces a sense of fuzzy alt-rock urgency; a beautiful My Bloody Valentine-esque synth intro ushers in Left In Space, while Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowswell guests on the breezy Is This How You Love and Billie Marten appears on the expansive closer Whole Again. Worth the wait.
Gary Walker

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