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Quick Play: A round-up of July 2011 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

Reviews by Jason Ritchie and Pete Whalley

SUZI QUATRO In The Spotlight (Cherry Red)

Suzi Quatro's first new album since 2006's 'Back To The Drive' and it sees Mike Chapman back producing the whole album (as well as writing four songs on the album). Chapman was her producer in the 70's when she had her biggest success.

As you'd expect with Mike Chapman back at the helm the music has a 70's classic rock feel. The Goldfrapp cover 'Strict Machine' has a classic Suzi Quatro backbeat and the song bears an uncanny resemblance to 'Can The Can'. You can compare for yourself as a snippet of 'Can The Can' features towards the end of the song. Another modern cover is 'Breakin' Dishes', a hit for Rhianna. The original was awful but this version is saved by Suzi Quatro's vocals.

Not so keen on the cod reggae of 'Hurt With You' and it feels out of place with the rest of the album. Luckily a rocker like 'Hot Kiss' more than makes up for this song. 'Turn Into You' is an instant hit on the ears and her tribute to Elvis, 'Singing With Angels' rounds the album off in style.

She may be old enough to qualify for a free bus pass but Suzi Quatro still knows how to rock. Good choice of a couple of recent chart hit covers that she makes her own. Her fans will love this album that's for sure. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

TOM FULLER BAND Ask (Red Cap Records)

The third album from the Chicago based Tom Fuller Band is a pretty contagious affair.

Produced by Rick Chudacoff (Alison Krauss, Smokey Robinson) and mixed by Cenzo Townsend and Dave Bascombe (U2, Bon Jovi, Kaiser Chiefs) it's a difficult one to pigeon hole. But it's undeniably radio friendly and packed with hooks that will be with you all day long.

There's echoes of many of the greats - The Beatles, Tom Petty, James Taylor, Alice Cooper, and Brian May to name but a few. An unlikely combination you might think, but with plenty of jangly guitars, gravely vocals and some great chorus lines it's the stuff of American rock radio.

Neither of the band's previous albums - Chasing An Illusion (2005) and Abstract Man (2009) seem to have made much of a splash on either side of the pond, although they have played shows with Blue Oyster Cult, Robin Trower, UFO and Guess Who.

Ask, could just be the album to change the The Tom Fuller band's fortunes. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley

VARIOUS Transformers Dark Of The Moon - The Album

No serious blockbuster movie is complete without a soundtrack packed with artists that will not only enhance the widescreen experience, but also serve to underpin the wider marketing machine designed to exploit every last penny from the unsuspecting public.

In terms of franchises, the Transformers movie series is proving to be a regular money spinner, so the 'soundtrack' to Dark Of The Moon, the third in the series, includes contributions from major headlining acts like Linkin' Park, and My Chemical Romance. And two bands - Paramore and Goo Goo Dolls - have gone so far as to use it as a vehicle to debut brand new material.

In the case of Paramore it's their new single Monster - the band's first since The Only Exception from their breakthrough, platinum certified, third album Brand New Eyes, while the Goo Goo Dolls All That You Are represents their first release since last year's Something For The Rest Of Us.

So what you get is an album packed with bright, shiny, stirring US pop/rock that will not only enhance clips from the movie as the Autobots once again do battle with the Decepticons, but songs that will be equally enhanced by the clips from the cgi / live action as the earth's future once again hangs in the balance.

And while there's no natural thread, the songs do tend to have chest thumping themes of faith, hope, adversity and ultimately triumph against all odds. It's a jingoistic formula perfected on the other side of the pond.

I found it quite amusing that the credits contain a warning 'a number of tracks may not be contained in the film'. Surely they are, or aren't? But either way, it serves to underline that the compilation is just a subtle marketing exercise. That said, there's nothing here that will harm children or animals, and like the film it's just a thoroughly entertaining listen. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MICHAEL STEGNER Fascination Nation (CMA Records)

I suspect most 'classic rock' listeners aren't going to fall head over heels with this release from Kentucky born pianist/ songwriter Michael Stegner. At least, not unless they're closet Randy Newman fans.

And that's because Fascination Nation sounds exactly the sort of album Newman might produce if he were starting out now. Not only does Michael Stegner have the same sort of vocal tones and phrasing, but like Randy he's a piano player steeped in jazz and the classics.

Now based in Seattle, where he's worked on numerous musical projects including solo piano works, electronic music improvisations, and various jazz and rock ensembles. But Fascination Nation, featuring 14 original songs is recorded with his regular touring collaborators Forest Giberson (bass), Andy Sells (drums) and Colin Higgins (guitar) along with a string of guest appearances.

It's a well performed and well recorded affair with Stegner's rich semi spoken vocals laid over styles ranging from country to blues and mainstream. But throughout it's underpinned by jazz and those Newman style vocals. That's a combination that's going to appeal to some, but not others. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

(Split Records)

Sometimes you just have to ask 'Why?'

The Voluntary Butler Scheme is a DIY project by Brummie Rob Jones who on this second outing has support on a couple of tracks, but otherwise The Grandad Galaxy is all his own doing.

Known for producing everything from Motown soul to J-Pop(?), his first album At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea (2009) was lapped up by the likes of Dermot O'Leary, The Sun, and Q magazine and declared 'one to watch'. This time around Rob's thrown all the types of music he's been making in a blender and come up with The Grandad Galaxy.

Now I may be getting 'past it', or maybe I'm missing the point, but for the most part The Grandad Galaxy is a cacophony of electronic psychobabble and quirky sound effects. That's not to say there aren't the odd lines of melody here and there, but to my ears the result sounds like the work of Dipstick, GaGa, Pooh and whatever the other Tellytubby characters are called. Certainly, it would make the perfect soundtrack to 'Teletubbies - The Movie' if such an abomination was ever be commissioned.

As a well known comedy TV character once said 'Are you 'avin' a laff?' Eh Oh. *

Review by Pete Whalley


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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