Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Single Releases 27/02/06

After a few barren weeks for singles, FINALLY the UK is getting some good tunes this week, although as you might expect, there is some pretty bloody awful stuff out there as well. Hold onto the rails at all times folks.

All Too Human (The Rakes) - Cheeky disco tinged pop...well almost. It's a cracking little tune though.

Don't Bother (Shakira) - The return of the English-speaking Shakira at last. It's been YEARS since Laundry Service, but this is a welcome return. Yes she's still as nutty as ever, but she can come up with a catchy pop tune every day of the week. Its also got its fair share of wacky lyrics, although none that quite match up with the majesty of the small and humble breasts kind.

Beep (Pussycat Dolls) - Wow. What a comeback from the turgid Stick Wit U. This is top quality pop heaven. Cheeky, sassy and catchy. Everything a modern pop tune should be.

Moodswings (Charlotte Church) - This on the other hand isn't. Why oh why haven't the people in charge of Charlotte's pop career given her some better tunes? Apart from Crazy Chick, her output has been pretty dire, and I don't see this tune helping her out very much either.

Standing On My Own Again (Graham Coxon) - This proves that despite all those lo-fi tendencies and the like which often seem to overshadow the tunes on a Graham Coxon record, he can pull out a classic when he wants to. Of course, it's not going to sell in huge quantities I suppose, but this is too good to ignore.

Move Along (All American Rejects) - Move along indeed. Nothing to see, or hear, here. It's one of those that will probably go down a storm with people who like this kind of thing, but the rest of us will just look on unconvinced.

Better Together (Jack Johnson) - What can I say? Does absolutely nothing for me. I just don't get how this guy is so popular. This isn't a "bad" track per se, but its a completely forgettable one.

Over And Over (Hot Chip) - Single of the week by a bloody mile. In fact it's probably the best single of the year so far by a bloody mile. It's the sort of thing you hear once and then it just lodges in your brain forever and a day. Bouncy breezy electro pop with an indie sensibility, check this out now or hold your head in shame. Seriously, this is awesome.

He's Fit (The Lovebites) - In the tradition of 21st Century Girls and Hepburn here comes another bunch of girls who play their own instruments and everything. They couldn't be trying harder to be the female Busted or McFly and whilst this doesn't quite match up to the best that those two could come up with (I don't care what you think of me, Busted and McFly have done some pretty catchy tunes) it drives along pleasantly enough, but I doubt they've a long career ahead of them on the basis of this.

Alone With The TV (The Mitchell Brothers) - Not Grant and Phil sadly. This does nothing for me, and goes to prove that however much Mike Skinner may want to expand his empire Eminem style, he's still got someway to go.

The Boy Who Ran Away (Mystery Jets) - Oh I bet the NME love this one don't they? Average stuff for me. Neither particularily good, nor particularily bad. It just exists.

No Tommorrow (Orson) - I'm sorry, but the video for this just puts me right off. The bloke looks like a right prick. But having said that, the tune is enough to put me off on its own. It's alright taking bits of Madness, Ordinary Boys and No Doubt, but at least have the deceny to rob the good bits in future mate.

Watchin' (Freemasons feat. Amanda Wilson) - *YAWN*. More dance music for people with short attention spans. Next!

Rock With You (Michael Jackson) - Well his attempt to do an Elvis is failing spectacularily. But I supose they're on the release lists now, so we're going to get them all anyway. You probably already know this, so make up your own damn mind on it :)

Chico Time (Chico) - Good god. Let us all pray he never marries one (or both) of the Cheeky Girls.

Editors LIVE

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Well the usual Poolstock Lane dash on a weeknight wasn't too bad, and despite the annoying pain in my ankle, which soon progressed to slightly more than an annoyance, things were looking good.

The trip to the Oxford ended in tears though as, despite the fact that I could blatantly see that they had at least six bottles of Magners left, the barmaid insisted that they'd sold out of it. Yes love, we really couldn't see that you were saving it for Billy Connolly at the end of the bar...but I digress.

We got to the venue shockingly early (that is the support act had yet to start) and from the off this was a terrible move. Not only did it leave us with nearly an hour and a half until the main event, it meant that I had to listen to the abomination that are Brakes. I'm sure they thought that 20-second "songs" were funny, but I just thought they were abysmal. Once or twice they even treated us to proper songs....they were only marginally less abysmal. Seriously, if I never hear them again it will still be too soon.

Still the Editors would save the day for sure, and they did. Much like the last time I saw them headline they rattled through the album, although this time we were treated to some b-sides, some new tracks and something they'd written with Elbow. Sadly, it was only the new track Blood that really lived up to the highlights of the Back Room album.

And in reality, therein lied the problem of the night. As good as it was, the sense of deja vu, in that this was the third time I've seen them, meant that there was nothing to really make it stand out. It was a good night, and featured some great performances, but it was all something I'd seen before. But for anyone who hasn't seen them, they still remain an act worth catching.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dolly Parton - Those Were The Days

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Dolly Parton...doing cover versions of her favourite 60's and 70's songs...and joined by a plethora of special guests such as Norah Jones and Keith Urban...it hardly fills one with feelings of joy does it? Especially when you add in the reports that this is Dolly's "anti-war" album, a move which is particularily brave for a country and western act. Indeed I still don't think the Dixie Chicks have quite recovered from their anti-war backlash.

Fear not though, as the result is not as unimaginably bad as you might fear. Quietly Dolly has undergone a renaissance recently, ever since 2000's Grass Is Blue, and whilst this is not the bluegrass we have come to expect from Dolly recently the emphasis is still very much on the acoustic. And therein lies the problem. Some of the tracks are perfectly pleasant but few show any real spark or imagination. Exceptions though are to be found. Me & Bobby McGee (a song perfect for the Parton treatment) and If I Were A Carpenter, which almost outranks the Johnny Cash version, which give old classics a vivid, if again a not entirely fresh, update.

For the most part the tunes are handled respectfully and for those who like this sort of thing, you probably won't be disappointed. The anti-war doctrine will probably pass most casual listeners by as well which probably proves that for all her bluster, Parton knows where her bed lies. And hey, at least her version of Imagine is a hell of a lot better than Madonna's...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ray Davies - Other People's Lives

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About 10 years ago, Ray Davies was playing at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, and me and my mate decided to hang around the venue from mid-day in the hope of meeting the man himself. Three hours, and a five pack of Hamlet cigars, later Ray finally arrived at the venue and seemed genuinely surprised that two teenagers would be so keen to meet him. A couple of signed records, and a nice little perv over his dolly bird (who must have only been a couple of years older than me), later and the meeting was over, but my impression of Davies as one of Britain's greats had been confirmed. Quite what this has to do with a review I don't know, although cleverly the long wait to meet the man himself can equate with the even longer wait for a solo album!

It's 13 years since the last Kinks studio album...in fact it's over 40 years since You Really Got Me (a tune I once rather foolishly attempted at Karaoke in Ibiza) hit the top of the UK Charts. But in all that time Ray Davies has never released a "proper" solo album. There was Storytellers (covered with Kinks songs) but as for a brand new collection of new songs...nothing (unless you are counting the TC soundtrack to Return To Waterloo-which I'm not). Which is all the more surprising when you consider that Davies is legitimately one of Britain's greatest songwriters, but is perhaps not surprising at all when one considers the wealth of The Kink's back catalogue.

In an ideal world a listener could arrive at this blissfully unaware of Davies' history and judge it on its own merits, but before you've even got the CD out of it's case you are raedy to compare the result to the Kinks, and the comparison can never be a good one for his 2006 release.

The immediate thing to notice is that for all intents and purposes, musically this is as if the last 30 years have never happened, but its not a bad thing, especially when the lyrics are as strong as ever in some cases. It seems almost fitting that this album is released in the slipstream of the Arctic Monkeys success, sharing that wonderfully eccentric, thoroughly English vernacular that makes the Monkeys stand out so much.

Next Door Neighbours is a Davies' classic, serving up a wry slice of suburban life in a way that no other songwriter could possibly match up to, whilst Is There Life After Breakfast is just as good. The Tourist, with its vaguely flamenco backbeat, is another entertaining set piece as well. All this proves that, in places, Davies is still peerless lyrically, although sadly he doesn't always hit such heights. Stand Up Comic is crude and somewhat heavy handed, which is a disappointment to say the least; the old (or should I say younger) Davies would have rustled up something with a bit more subtlty and class for sure.

Ironically, the same critiscims that can be tossed towards the Arctic Monkeys can be levelled here. The lyrics are (mostly) superb, but the music is less so. But whilst in some respects this is a patchy album, there are plenty of touches that remind us just what a national treasure Ray Davies really is. And in the end, whilst this is certainly no The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, you can't help but feel glad that Davies is finally back amongst us, even if it will still be the Kinks songs that I think I'll still be listening to 40 years from now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sugababes Cover The Arctic Monkeys

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That's right, the Sugababes have marked the advent of their 431st line-up with a cover of the Artic Monkeys "classic" I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.

And ladies and gentlemen, I'm telling you now it's a "classic." I can only hope that much like Travis doing "Hit Me Baby One More Time" led to numerous rock bands proving their "humour" by covering pop classics that pop bands will now return the favour.

I eagerly await Girls Aloud's take on Kaiser Chief's Everyday I Love You Less and Less and Rachel Stevens tackling something by Coldplay....actually, disregard that last one.

Singles Releases 20/02/06

Is It Just Me? (The Darkness) - No Justin it isn't. We've ALL realised that the joke has worn sorely thin. Still, remember the good times. Like when you got invited to the Brits instead of having to watch them on TV. This is the final nail in the coffin I fear.

Ultimatum (Shaggy) - Well surprise surpise but this isn't that bad for a Shaggy tune. In fact the only bit that spoils it is Shaggy himself. Other than the fact he's rubbish at rapping and has an annoying delivery this is quite a good tune.

I Want You To Stay (Maximo Park) - Well I thought I didn't "get" Maximo Park when I heard their other stuff, but things seem to be going slightly downhill here. I just don't get what the fuss is all about and this does nothing to enlighten me. At least their other tunes had a bit of fun about them, this is just boring.

It's A Hit (We Are Scientists)- Another decent WAS single, completely outshone by the funny video. But I do get the feeling that this "wacky for wackiness' sake" shtick may well get tiresome before long.

Valentine (The Delays) - I can't work out whether this is entirely serious or not. Are they really serious? I mean MTV2 are playing the video so I suppose this really must be serious. But to me it's like a boyband trying to get credibility with a bit of an indie-disco romp...and failing miserably.

Put Your Records On (Corrine Bailey Rae) - Ah the curse of being hyped so much means that you really are stuggling to live up to the hype from day one. I can sense those that see this kind of thing as making a stand for "real" music will be lapping this one up, but I for one think there is a lot of work to do if Rae is really to stand out.

Sorry (Madonna) - Now Hung Up was good for a while but gradually got annoying, but not to worry becuase Madonna has some other crackers up her sleeve, including this wonderful slice of dance pop. Starting off like It's A Sin, before cascading off into further brilliance. This is the kind of modern pop song that should be held up as an example to all. And of course the wonderful Pet Shop Boys maxi-mix is just the icing on the cake.

In The Key Of C (Jim Noir) - Well if the Super Furry Animals were doing a children's television theme tune it might turn out a little something like this...which is pretty damn good. The cheerful tune makes a nice contrast to Noir's morose voice, and whilst I wouldn't neccesarily want to listen to this one over and over, I would recommend that you check it out.

Crazy (Simple Plan) - Well, this just isn't my thing at all. Those Blink 182 fans needing their fix could do worse than check this out, but the rest of us can steer well clear.

Amazing (Westlife) - Yes, it IS an up-tempo one from the boys. No, it's NOT amazing and in fact doesn't even approach passable. Although lets face it, it's still a million times better than You Raise Me Up.

After All This Time (Simon Webbe) - Seriously, what have we done to deserve this. Still none of the Blue soloists will be troubling us for long, and I think Simon's 15 minutes is just about up.

Rapture Riders (Blondie Vs The Doors) - Well as these novelty things go, this is entertaining enough and will probably be a smash cult hit (if it isn't already) but really it is a pretty pointless exercise all around. Still, any one who likes either song will be able to while away four or so minutes quite pleasantly.

Dont Stop Till You Get Enough/Thriller (Michael Jackson) - Ok, so we may not all be convinced about his personal activities, but forget about that for a moment and think back to the days when MJ was purely the most exciting music act in the charts. Don't Stop Till You Get Enough is the sound of MJ breaking through, Thriller is the sound of a man on the top of his game. You can argue all you want about the man himself, but you can't question his musical talent (at least for the first part of his solo career anyway).

There are a few more singles out this week as well I think, but I can't really be bothered trudging the bottom of the barrel anymore! :D

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Singles Releases 13/02/06

First Word Is The Hardest (Four Day Hombre) - It starts off sounding a little like Coldplay, but don't worry....it gets better. It does also build into a bit of a creschendo, but frankly is a bit too dull for my tastes.

Long Time Coming (Humanzi) - It really is considering that I didn't stay around to watch them at that Club NME night The Like were playing at. It's not bad, but doesn't really do anything for me. The trendy indies will probably love it though.

Back Again (Dilated Peoples) - There seems to be an awful lot going on in this one, to remarkably little effect. Completely indistinguishable from all this kind of thing.

I See You, You See Me (The Magic Numbers) - Truth be told, I've never really "got" the Magic Numbers. Pleasant enough but hardly brilliant. Which to me sums up this single, one of their quieter moments. It's alright, but my Magic Numbers album will still be staying untouched on the shelf.

One More Night Alone (Friday Hill) - Good god. Come back Blazing Squad all is forgiven. Well almost...

Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley) - Now this is more like it. One of my favourite EP tracks, and an absolute genuine Grade A Classic.

Stay (Beulah) - Well if Katie Melua can be successful, there certainly has to be hope for Beulah. This is a soft and mellow song which is probably all over Radio 2 as I type. Put it this way, worse songs of this ilk have been huge.

Ride A White Horse (Goldfrapp) - Come on guys, what's the fuss? It's alright, like most of the recent Goldfrapp output, but its hardly earth-shatteringly brilliant is it? Must do better.

Back Again (Boy Kill Boy) - I've tried to give this a listen, but I just don't like it. I cannot for the life of me see the reason why this is so highly regarded.

Walk The Line (MOVIE REVIEW)

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See, we have a little departure here. But only a little one. I won't be reviewing movies on a regular basis, but where they have a strong musical connection I shall be imparting my thoughts to you (which means that at some point I will get around to passing on my thoughts on Dig!).

I'm a big Johnny Cash fan, and was impressed with the soundtrack album greatly. Of course nothing on the silver-screen could ever possibly quite live up to the Icon that was Johhnny Cash, but this is a film that for the most part does a damn fine job.

It's a bit slow to get going though; sure the loss of his brother was important and needs addressing, but the section after that, leading up to his audition at Sun Records does drag a bit. From there however the pace picks up and rarely lets go.

Pheonix is a surprisingly authentic Johnny Cash (as much as anyone but the man himself could be) but it is Witherspoon that steals the show, and it's probably Witherspoon who will find herself with a Best Actress Oscar. Phenoix may suffer because of the Jamie Foxx success of last year.

Even if you are not a big fan of Johnny Cash, this is still a great film. For all the music, at heart this is a love story. And its one which is impeccably acted and will drag you in every step of the way.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jenny Lewis LIVE

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Well it's been a bit of a wait, but the first concert of 2006 finally came around. Anticipation was high, what with Jenny's Rabbit Fur Coat album being rather fantastic, but what would it be like live, in the comfy Manchester Academy 3?

Stocking up on Magners and Corky's meant we only caught the last few songs of the support act, Jonathan Rice. He was, frankly, a bit dull, although singing along to that "we are all in the desert and gonig to die" or whatever the hell it was did liven up the proceedings a litte.

Having been handed a "song sheet" for Jenny Lewis, (and The Watson Twins - I should be fair here), upon our entry to the building I was at a loss as to know quite what to expect. As it turned out the song sheets seemed little more than an excuse to collect e-mail addresses for Jenny's mailing list, but they did give a hint at the eerie and dark tones that would pervade the rest of the evening.

Lewis and the twins made their entrance through the crowd (as I bemoaned the fact that they were on the side where EVERY other time I've been to the venue I've stood, but not tonight oh no....) singing the album opener Run Devil Run. From that moment on, I was captivated.

Most of the album was recreated (minus Handle With Care sadly) to a positively spine-tingling effect and there was a genuine dark and eerie tone throughout with only Jenny's funny banter in between some of the songs lightening the mood in any way. But this is not to say it was a depressing evening; far from it. This was uplifting and vaguely spiritual evening which brought to life an already brilliant album and made for one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

By the time Jonathan Rice shared the mic for the closing song, Cold Jordan, there was little else to do but bask in the glory of a spellbinding night out. Rilo Kiley fans better watch out, because if she's this good on her own, she might never need to go back.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ashlee Simpson - I Am Me

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Poor Ashlee. She has a dipsy sister who is more "famous" than she is, she was "caught out" when a backing tape went wrong on Saturday Night Live and is generally thought to be something of a, well, madam. She's also not classified as "real"...not even in the sense of an Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson. Which is daft; Clarkson's "rockier" edge was marketing rather than musically led, and whilst Lavigne might be able to strum out a tune, virtually all her songs have a plethora of "co-writers".

So before listening to the album, three quarters of the world has already made their mind up about it. And indeed, another percentage of those people who would give it a chance would only ever admit to the "package" being respectable, with the insinuation that Ashlee had either very little to do with it, or is the weak link in the production.

But of course, you know I am not going to be like that; I'm going to give it a chance.

Right from the start, the package screams out that Ashlee has gone "dark". The vivid colours of the Autobiography album are gone, replaced with forboding black (although really, Ashlee must be the only person in history to have signified a "darker image" by dyeing her hair blonde) and "moody" portraits. But what about the music?

Lead single Boyfriend is the kind of catchy pop-rock tune that's seemingly in vogue right now and if the Lohan-bating reports are true, it represents something just as "real" as anything James Blunt or KT Tunstall could come up with. Title Track I Am Me is in a similar vein, and should see the kids pogo-ing up and down with glee and Eyes Wide Open folows suit.

But as is often the case with albums like this, it's the more poppier moments that stand out. L.O.V.E. is a spunky, reggae tingged feminist manefesto which is certain to reach out to all the ladies dancing around their handbags. It's also a little too much "Stefani" esqe to gain any real critical favour. The same could be said of Burning Up which again could be a hidden track from Love Angel Music Baby. That's not to say both songs aren't good, but they perhaps lack the originality to really stand out from the pack.

And then there is the ballads, some of which aren't as bad as you might fear. Beautifully Broken could be Oasis gone pop, whilst Catch Me When I Fall, inspired by the SNL disaster, is actually quite touching in the final analysis.

The problem with the album is pretty much outlined above; Ashlee may proclaim "I Am Me" loudly, but does she actually know which "me" she is? Taking inspiration from many places, but never quite finding her own distinct style, Ashlee has seemingly tried to please everyone, but may end up pleasing very few. Which is a shame. There are worse records out there, and certain tracks would be met with widespread critical acclaim if someone more "in" had done them. Looked at in isolation, this is a good "pop" album but sadly for Ashlee, few will look at it that way.

But Ashlee, if you ever read this, I still love you ;-)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Single Releases 06/02/06

Sugar We're Going Down (Fall Out Boy) - Well I suppose the void left by Blink-182 has to be filled somehow and this fills it rather, erm, respectably. I can see this being a huge hit with its demographic, but that doesn't mean its anything special.

Woman In Love (Liz McClarnon) - Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for pop music. But really, coming back with this as your big "solo" debut doesn't bode well at all does it. "Well Liz, we'd love to have a new song as your debut, but to be honest, nobody really likes you. And unless we do a cover you're going to go the same way as Rachel Stevens." That said the song isn't as completely dreadful as the concept would make you fear

Flame (Bell XI) - On first listen I thought that this was trying to be a little too clever for its own good, but repeat listens really led me to like this one very much. Very funky and offers something a little different; it also has an insanely catchy chorus about marshmallows and has hand-claps. Now can you ask for anything better than that?

Do You Ever Think Of Me (Antony Costa) - Antony, no I don't. No worse than Lee Ryan or that other bloke, but you've kinda missed the boat son.

You Got The Love (The Source Ft Candi Staton) - Much like Knight Rider or The A-Team I have fond memories of this tune. Like watching either of those programmes today, this makes you wonder what you ever saw in it in the first place. Maybe it's just the completely pointless remix, but this just doesn't cut the mustard in 2006.

Turn This Thing Around (El Presidente) - Now here is a band I can't make my mind up about; they're not bad, but I always hear them and think some record industry think-tank has seen the success of Scissor Sisters and Franz Ferdinand and decided that an amalgamation of the two would be a great idea. I know they've been around for years and worked really hard and all that, but I can't help the impression they give me. And anyways, its "pop" music for people who don't want to admit to liking "pop".

Grow (Kubb) - Erm, I'm sure this is what "real" music should sound like fellas, but it's just a tad too dull for my liking.

The Other Side Of My Heart Attack (The Liars) - This has got a kind of Phil Spector vibe going on here, which is about the only point of interest I can come up with. It's "worthy" perhaps, but that doesn't stop it being another dull one.

All These Things I Hate (Bullet For My Valentine) - Once again there's a demographic that will love this, and you have to say that as far as these things go it's not too bad at all. It's a million times better than Limp Bizkit, and for these small mercies we should be thankful.

Friend Or Foe (tATu) - Dave Stewart wrote it; Sting plays bass on it; Bryan Adams shot the photographs for the single cover...AND STILL THE SONG IS QUITE GOOD! Of course that won't be good enough for some, and admittedly the song isn't a patch on some that tATu have given us before. Still this is not too bad at all.

Eyes On You (Jessica Moon) - The one with Amir Khan in the video. That was released in September and did very little. So go figure out whether this one is good or not for youself.

Relight My Fire (Take That) - Why, oh why? It's not a bad song of course, but have you heard the remix? Steer clear and remember the good old days folks.

The Weakness In Me (Keisha White) - It's slow and mellow time and whilst this is perfectly respectable it lacks that little spark that would set it apart from the chasing pack. This is unlikely to be her breakthrough.

Thunder In My Heart Again (Meck feat. Leo Sayer) - Please, someone...anyone. Stop this dreadful craze for this kind of "remix". Where will it end? I can't take anymore.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Singles Releases 30/01//06

Boyfriend (Ashlee Simpson) - Ok, lets get this one out of the way straight from the off. It's brilliant. No, really it is. You can keep your Avril Lavigne, you can keep your Kelly Clarkson, hell you can keep whomever you want. I'll keep Ashlee. From the opening guitar riff to the last note, this is catchy rock-pop at it's finest. It's not got whinging lyrics, it doesn't attempt to be "deep", it's just a rollocking rip-roaring ride. Plus I can listen to it and imagine that Ashlee's singing it to Nadine, although obviously I want her to steal me. So this is the kind of "honest, nothing's going on" stage of the relationship :D

Hustler's Ambition (50 Cent) - Eminem does a shockingly decent film and backs it up with perhaps his career best song (Lose Yourself). Curtis Jackson, on the other hand, comes up with a poorly received film and this turgid song. Whatever the sample is, well that is cool...the rest is the kind of macho rubbish you'd expect from Fiddy.

Ladyflash (The Go! Team)- This would be a nice tune to be chilling out to in the back garden in the middle of summer with a few nice ice-cold Bud's by your side. Consequently it feels a little out of place in Ice-cold February. Having said that, I like it...I like it a lot. But it never quite lives up to the song that it could be.

Beast & The Harlot (Avenged Sevenfold) - I tried to listen this on their website, but frankly the set up scared me witless. So basically if this is your kind of thing, you'll love it. I didn't.

When I Think Of You (Lee Ryan) - We all know the young lad is a bit of an idiot. Although let's be fair, this is a perfectly pleasant little ditty, albeit one that shows no originality whatsoever. Still, I don't suppose his Blue fans will care about that.

Run It (Chris Brown ft. Juelz Santana) - This starts off a little like Usher's "Yeah" which is one of his least annoying songs. I have to say that this sort of tune is not really my thing at all, but as the genre goes it's quite good and I do love that 1980's throwback bit somewhere in the middle.

Beautiful Soul (Jesse McCartney) - This lad annoys me, purely from his "this is an advertisment" promo on the Box. Ok, so you really love meeting all the underage girls who want to stick their hands down your pants...? Well done son. I'll make a bet with you Jesse. If you keep releasing crap like this even the impressionable little girls will see through you.

Welcome To Wherever You Are (Bon Jovi) - Well at a push I suppose it's not bad. I mean its the same "slow" song they've been doing for the last 20 years, but I dont suppose that's about to put their legions of fans off is it?

Conceived (Beth Orton) - I have three Beth Orton albums, and I don't really know why. She's not bad at all but I never really listen to any of her songs. But this is definately one of her best songs to date. A nice piano driven melody which the cynics may say is a play for the James Blunt/KT Tunstall wedge of the market but personally I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. A welcome return.

Perfume (Sparks) - I've always had a soft spot for the Mael's. I wasn't actually sure whether this is the single or not as I thought it was scheduled to be the wonderfully titled "Dick Around" but all the sites seem to confirm it's this one although none can seem to agree on the release date. Still the spiel on Gut Records website says it all..."Thirty girls’ names, thirty brands of perfume. Only on a Sparks record." Utter brilliance.

Yard Of Blonde Girls (Micah P Hinson)- A Jeff Buckley cover I believe. It's got a kind of quirky charm I suppose, but to be honest I won't be listening to it again.

Walk The Line - Original Soundtrack

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The first problem to overcome with this CD is quite simple. The majority of the songs may be Johnny Cash classics, but are they in any way relevant when Johnny Cash himself is not singing them?

The answer, whilst leaning towards no, is actually more of a maybe. For a start, Joaquin Phoenix is certainly no Johnny Cash but that is not to say that he is without merits as a gravelled country singer. Although he can't hope to bring the gravitas to the songs that Cash did, he does make a pretty decent stab at things and if you can ignore, or push to oneside, the spectre of Johnny himself there is much to enjoy. In particular the versions of Cry Cry Cry, Folsom Prison Blues and Ring Of Fire have a modern charm which is hard to resist.

So then it's onto Reese Witherspoon. Some claim she has an impossible task in attempting to emulate June Carter-Cash...well I wouldn't neccesarily agree. I've never been a fan of Carter-Cash and feel without the Carter and Cash legacies to keep her going she'd have been long-forgotten. So Wildwood Flower and Jukebox Blues are pretty good efforts which don't prove embarassing at all by any standards.

The other cast recordings are a hotch potch. The version of Lewis Boogie is dreadful, souding every inch the performance parody that probably wasn't the idea, whilst That's Allright Mama and You're My Baby are the kind of tunes to really set your foot tapping, respectfully carried out with the minimum of fuss.

The album closes with the Pheonix/Witherspoon duet Jackson which fizzles with chemistry and tension and proves that for the singing element of the movie alone, both deserve their oscar nominations.

So all in all, whilst struggling to find a "need" to have this CD, I cannot deny that it is a success on many levels. Credit to Pheonix and Witherspoon for rising to the challenge, and credit to prodcuer T Bone Burnett for fashioning a modern, but more importanly respectful, take on some Cash classics.

If you're a Cash fan then give this a try, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. If you're not a Cash fan but want to check him out on the strength of the film, there are worse places to start, but really your attention should be focussed towards discovering his Sun Recordings, or the American recordings, which became his final legacy.