GRAHAM BONNET – Back Row In The Stalls

For most people, Graham Bonnet will be best known for his brief stint as Rainbow vocalist between 1979 and 1980. Although he didn’t get to spend long as Ritchie Blackmore’s singer of choice, his talents drove two of the band’s biggest singles – ‘All Night Long’ (a UK #5 hit) and the brilliant radio staple ‘Since You Been Gone’ (UK #6) – and he also performed with Rainbow when they headlined the first Monsters of Rock Festival in August 1980. You could definitely make a case for him being the band’s best-known voice.

Bonnet’s career as a professional singer started over a decade earlier and he achieved a brief spell of fame as one half of pop duo The Marbles, whose ‘Only One Woman’ (an oft-overlooked UK top 5 hit from 1968) showcased a voice that would later become an instantly recognisable talent. Following The Marbles’ early demise, Graham embarked on a solo career, but as careers go, it was rather slow to get off the ground. In 1974, he recorded material for what was to be his first solo album, but the recordings were shelved at the last moment. These were subsequently believed lost until they turned up on a cassette four decades later. Most of these songs were issued digitally as ‘Private-i (The Archives, Vol. 1)’ in 2015, but given the age of the average Bonnet buff, a bunch of digital files would never suffice. Thankfully, the bulk of the material – plus bonus tracks – appeared on CD the following year. With its original title reinstated, Graham’s debut LP finally became a reality.

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J. GRAVES – Deathbed EP

Illumin Records was set up by Annie Graves in the 90s to promote and distribute her own music. After a few years, the label ceased to be, but sometimes things make an unexpected return. Over a quarter of a century later, it was revived by her daughter Jessa – known professionally as J. Graves – as an outlet for new music. The resurrected Illumin would not only be a vehicle for J.’s future releases, but also give an independent platform for other “womxn in music”.

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JOAN OSBORNE – Trouble And Strife

For almost everyone, Joan Osborne will be best remembered for her mid nineties hit ‘One of Us’, but her long career has thrown up so many other gems along the way. Even that mega-hit’s parent album, 1995’s ‘Relish’ featured far superior tracks: with ‘Spider Web’, she introduced the world to her sassy blend of blues and soul via an insatiable groove and sultry vocal and her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Man In The Long Black Coat’, slowed down to a spooky crawl, ran rings around Zimmerman’s rather jerky original recording. Across several other far more neglected albums, Joan’s vocal talents continued to shine. ‘Dead Roses’, a particular highlight from her 2006 release ‘Pretty Little Stranger’, suggested she could rival Bonnie Raitt in the bluesy stakes; various cuts from 2012’s ‘Bring It On Home’ demonstrated her husky take on various R&B standards to great effect and 2017’s ‘Songs of Bob Dylan’ had plenty to offer anyone with a keen interest in different takes on a familiar back-catalogue. Wherever you choose to dip into Joan’s work, there’s something to enjoy…and always a nagging feeling that she should have been bigger. Perhaps her over reliance on other people’s material has hindered her being a star on a global scale, but there’s no questioning her vocal talent. However, none of her previous highlights are a match for her 2020 release ‘Trouble and Strife’.

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KEVIN ROWLAND – My Beauty

Picture the scene: the twentieth century is in its death throes. Britpop is over. Most of the Seattle bands have stopped being headline news. Nu-metal is a thing. Eminem has proven that Beastie Boys don’t have the monopoly on saleable white rap. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have parted company with Dave Navarro, welcomed back John Frusciante and begun a slow journey into mediocrity. For the first time in a few years, the musical landscape doesn’t seem to have a dominant force.

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TASMIN ARCHER – Sweet Little Truths: The EMI Years 1992-1996

In some ways, Tasmin Archer’s work seems like an odd choice to be given the priority box set treatment. For many years, her best selling debut ‘Great Expectations’ was somewhat of a charity shop staple and, indeed, the original album has often obtainable for little more than a few copper coins on the internet’s second hand market. In addition, Archer’s time at the top seemed so brief when compared to some of the other pop heroines of the age. Then again, perhaps Archer’s fleeting moment of genuine stardom makes her the ideal candidate for such a reissue package. For most, she’s only really known as the lady who sang ‘Sleeping Satellite’ – a soul-pop #1 hit that seemed to take on an omnipresent annoyance – but as this set shows, she wrote and recorded better songs during her first few years of stardom. Much stronger and more interesting material than her once hugely popular hit would have you believe.

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