Back in 1997, it was John McCoy who convinced managers Peter and Shirley Purnell to launch a record label, Angel Air (www.angelair.co.uk), and McCoy who inaugurated it with his own Think Hard Again album.
A decade down the line, both the company?s catalogue and McCoy?s canon has grown considerably. What better time, then, could there be to celebrate Angel Air?s first decade at the top than with a retrospective of their first signing?
McCoy ? Unreal: The Anthology traces the bassist?s extensive career across a two-CD set, guided by the artist?s own breezy liner notes and charting the myriad bands he?s worked with over the years. Not all of them are featured on the CD, but the bulk are, kicking off with Welcome, his group from the late ?60s/early ?70s.
The Coolies, Zzebra and Quadrant follow before the bassist launched McCoy ? aka the first incarnation of Samson. A spell with the Ian Gillan Band, sessions with Neo and VHF, a major hit with John Du Cann, a berth aboard the reborn Atomic Rooster, Mammoth ? they?re all at least mentioned here, before we slam up to date with the recently released Guy/McCoy/Torme power trio.
McCoy?s occasionally a little sketchy on the details of the recordings (fans would inevitably appreciate a bit more information on the alternate Gillan tracks), and he skips over much of the ?80s. But, with so many rarities pulled from McCoy?s own archives, Unreal is one hell of a ride.
From the mountains of metal to the poetry of prog, a reissue for the self-titled debut by Italian quartet Saint Just (Akarma Italy ? www.cometrecords.com) captures a delicate brew of improvisational jazz, folk and classical themes, bound up within some of the most forward-looking music of the age. Released in 1973, but determinedly untouched by any of the other giants of prog, Saint Just might even be too eclectic. It?s certainly no coincidence that the album?s best cuts ? the delicate ?Dolci Momenti? and the folky, fairground-flavored title track ? are also the most straightforward (and the shortest). Elsewhere, however, there?s so much variety that it comes as a positive relief to turn to the band?s sophomore set, 1974?s La Casa del Lago (Akarma), and discover that lineup changes have swept away much of the mad experimentation and replaced it with a straightforward, proggy-guitar attack, shot through with elements of Jefferson Airplane and Soft Machine.
Lord only knows what fans of Just?s first album thought of their second (or vice versa), for it?s often difficult to believe it?s even the same band. As for which one?s the best? You?ll probably want to buy them both.
There?s more mad virtuosity to be unearthed from the latest Rick Wakeman album, Cirque Surreal (Music Fusion/Voiceprint, UK ? www.voiceprint.co.uk), together with a healthy dash of hard rock ?n? roll. Certainly the opening ?Gnash? will make the speakers rattle if you?re not careful, and, while things do calm down later on, still this is a remarkable collection of music.
Written for circus producer Phillip Gandey?s latest project, but scarcely comparable to any circus music you?ve heard before, its 11 tracks sweep breathlessly through a series of classical, folk, anthemic and pure rock themes, several of which are startlingly compulsive. You will jig around to ?The Jig,? but you?ll be hopping around to ?Static? as well, and just wait till you get to ?Tubular Balls!? Brilliant!
Any Barclay James Harvest fans who?ve finished digesting the band?s recent box set and are now on the prowl for more archive scrapings would do well to look out for the remastered edition of Live Tapes (Eclectic, UK ? www.eclecticdiscs.com). Now spread across two CDs, the original 1978 set has been bolstered by the