It’s been a good few months for British blues aficionados, as the Esoteric label wraps up a project that was launched two years ago by its Eclectic predecessor — that is, to restore the Keef Hartley catalog to the shelves.
One-time Bluesbreaker Hartley was responsible for a string of fine jazz-blues LPs during the early 1970s, of which two, The Time is Near and Overdog, are already available. They are now joined by Halfbreed, Little Big Band and The Battle of North West Six, three superb collections that compensate in quality and remastering what they lack in bonus tracks; Halfbreed is supplemented by 1969’s “Leave it Til The Morning” 45, and that’s all. But the booklets are superb, with Hartley himself providing the annotation, and that’s good enough (www.cherryred.co.uk)
The same label has also unearthed the two late-1960s albums by Dave Edmunds’ Love Sculpture — Blues Helping and Forms and Feelings — and this time the bonus tracks flow; no less than 10 A- and B-sides pack out the two discs, including (of course) the group’s trademark revision of “Sabre Dance.”
Rarely content to rest quietly in the blues bag, Love Sculpture had it in its power to become one of the key players of the early 1970s, but it sadly shattered before the new decade awoke. These reissues remind us once again of what we lost when they disbanded.
Edmunds is rightly regarded among the greatest guitarists of his era, and so is Anthony Phillips, a founding member of Genesis, who then marched off on a solo career shortly after the band completed its sophomore album, Trespass. Since that time, Phillips has been responsible for a vast catalog of albums, some of which lend themselves perfectly to his reputation, others wander off on idiosyncratic paths of their own, and others still are so brilliant that it is astonishing that Phillips is not a household name. 1984 is among that number, a 1981 release that looked ahead to that most foreboding of years through the arsenal of synths and electronics that Phillips had recently got his hands on. Voiceprint’s reissue devotes two CDs to the project, the first featuring the main attraction, the second rounding up early mixes, working versions and discarded oddities in a package that is further dignified by voluminous liner notes. (www.voiceprint.co.uk)
One of the most exciting reissue programs of recent years has been Dusk Fire’s examination of the Neil Ardley catalog. One of Britain’s premier modern jazz-rock musicians, and a singular influence on the likes of Jon Hiseman, Dave Greenslade and Dick Hecktall-Smith, Ardley was responsible for one of the key LPs in that genre, the still effervescent Kaleidoscope of Rainbows, reissued a couple of years ago. Now comes Camden 70 by Ardley’s New Jazz Orchestra, a previously unreleased live performance recorded at the Camden Jazz festival in London in 1970, and featuring many of Ardley’s most storied sidemen — all the aforementioned, plus Clem Clempson, Barbara Thompson, Tony Reeves and more.
Highlights certainly include a stirring interpretation of Jack Bruce’s “Rope Ladder To The Moon,” together with the song that gave the Dusk Fire label itself a name, but the entire performance is captivating, and is surely destined to take its place among the crucial jazz recordings of its era. (www.duskfire.co.uk)
The German Bear Family label continues pumping out some spectacular releases, but you would search far and wide to top Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen with the Rhythm Orchids Rock, a 31-song collection of tracks recorded between 1956 and 1964.