Elvis Presley, Marillion, Mike & The Mechanics and more: Biggest new rock albums REVIEWED

December 2, 2018
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Elvis Presley
’68 Comeback Special
(Sony)
★★★★★

Like a Swiss watch for its meticulous attention to detail, Elvis’ long-awaited, timely return to live-action ran like sweetly tuned clockwork. Looking like a catwalk king in his leather ensemble, those eternal hits rolled off his tongue like velvety rich, lush thick cream in this NBC TV Special.

This ultimate 50th-anniversary package containing 5 CDs and 2 Blu-rays is the first time all unused performances, studio out-takes and restored video is collected alongside all previously released audio recordings by NBC in one hefty set. Presley’s own performance is still as electrifying in its output than the whole of the national grid of Western Europe and then some.

There is no chance of anyone being lonely this Christmas if this arrives in Santa’s sack.

Marillion
Clutching At Straws
(Parlophone)
★★★★

This final Marillion studio release to feature front-man Fish was a fitting swan-song for a huge talent who went on to carve out a substantial solo career of his own following his departure as the original singer from this legendary prog group.

With a clutch of Top 40 singles: Incommunicado, Sugar Mice and Warm Wet Circles and live fan favourite Slainte Mhath, Clutching At Straws remains a beautifully played monumental milestone of a recording.

Now re-mixed, buffed up and expanded with a compendium of live recordings, unreleased demos and a revealing documentary The Final Straw detailing the making of the album, this next in the series of deluxe editions provides a fine epitaph for a band approaching a crossroads in their career.

And of those live recordings from the Edinburgh Playhouse 1987, where the Fish-era Marillion play an outstanding show of Clutching songs, deep cuts plus fan favourites whilst perilously perched on the precipice of disintegration, the performances find a band with a raging fire in their collective belly making this re-polished rear view mirror collection another unputdownable redux deluxe release.

Be-Bop Deluxe
Sunburst Finish
(Cherry Red)
★★★★

The exotic dress sense of Roxy Music coupled with the abstract musical genius of Bowie made Be-Bop Deluxe a cool addition to any sentient record buyers collection in the mid-70s. And with Sunburst Finish they hit the ‘big time’, for a while.

This carefully curated boutique expanded boxed set, originally produced by John Leckie and recorded at Abbey Road studios, is the album which produced the groove-some hit single Ships In The Night and confirmed band-leader Bill Nelson as a bona fide star.

Classic album songs Life In The Air Age, Crystal Gazing and Blazing Apostles are supplemented with seventeen bonus tracks and previously unheard studio out-takes making this an essential artefact.

John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest
50th Anniversary Concert
(Lepidoptera)
★★★★

Returning to their roots both musically and geographically, this venerable band from Oldham chose to record this landmark show from The Royal Northern College of Music in celebration of their half century not out musical innings.

A career spanning set list highlighting the progressive majesty and poetic nature of mainstay Lees’ songwriting found its perfect setting at one of the leading conservatoires in the world. The audible euphoria greeting each time honoured ditty from the assembled faithful seems to spur the band on as they play a golden show.

Definitely one to keep very close to the CD player.

Mike & The Mechanics
The Living Years
(BMG)
★★★

This second album release propelled the band into the public pop consciousness with its title track hit single. Although the content is the same as the 2014 deluxe release, of special interest to fans is that it’s available here on vinyl for the very first time.

There’s also a double CD of delights where a cache of live bonus tracks abounds alongside the remastered original release itself. And of those bonus tracks there is the 2014 re-recording of the track The Living Years with Andrew Roachford on vocals and eight live tracks: Seeing Is Believing, Don’t, Black & Blue, Silent Running, Par Avion, Take The Reins, Nobody’s Perfect and Hanging By A Thread making up the real nuts and bolts of this souped-up, tightly packaged release.



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