Kronomyth 1.8: HEIRING AID. A year after Live Aid, Midge Ure and a smaller, star-studded cast returned to Wembley Arena to celebrate the 10th anniversary of (and raise money for) the Prince’s Trust Charity. This disc highlights the biggest stars from the concert, including bits by Ure, Dire Straits, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Sir Macca himself. As concert discs go, this one is pretty tepid; so was Live Aid for that matter. Performers don’t get a chance to set up the acoustics the way they’d like, they don’t get a chance to warm up, in some cases they’re playing with ad hoc bands (albeit with very good players), all of it conspiring toward mediocrity. The sound engineering on this one isn’t particularly good either; a lot of sound seeps out and what remains sounds thin. So if you weren’t invited to the original party, Highlights is no magic ticket. Some of the performances are good, most of them fall flat. Honestly, if you’re interested in hearing an oldies revue like this, pick up one of Ringo’s All-Starr albums. Speaking of The Beatles, McCartney does a decent version of “Get Back” with Tina taking a few lines and a short, spirited revival of “Long Tall Sally.” (The elpee version featured a bonus single with Sally and I Saw Her Standing There.) As someone who still isn’t completely sold on the merits of live albums, I’m rarely charitably disposed to these save the worldwind tours. The Trust’s Tenth is a great cast for a good cause, but a good live album it isn’t.
Kronomyth 10.0: BIG BAND AID. 20 years ago, Jools Holland seemed fated to be a footnote—the original keyboard player in a band (Squeeze) that had already gone through three of them. And then there was his first solo album, Jools Holland and His Millionaires, which was released as Squeeze stunned the world with their retirement, turning every head back to Misters Difford and Tilbrook. Fate, however, has a funny sense of humor, even if it takes a while to reach the punchline. Fast-forward 10 years and Holland is an international star as the host of his own highly popular musical television show, Later… With Jools Holland. Later… brought a who’s who of musical personalities into contact with Jools, many of whom joined Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra (a big band built specifically by Holland) for live jam sessions during the program. This album is the first in a series that pairs Holland and his Orchestra in the studio with a rock & rolodex that anyone would envy: Sting, George Harrison, Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, Jamiroquai, Eric Clapton, and I wouldn’t dare “et cetera” anybody else but there are more stars where those came from. Usually, you don’t get an album like this unless somebody is either dying or starving. A good half of the album has Holland and his Band backing the artists on interpretations of songs by Ray Charles, Willie Dixon, Billy Preston, The Beatles, Louis Armstrong, Jonny Mercer, Screaming Jay Hawkins and others. The other half—the better half, surprisingly—is original material cowritten in most cases with Mr. Holland himself: “Valentine Moon,” “Orange and Lemons Again,” “All That You Are.” The styles are as eclectic as the artists themselves and include ska, soul, blues and rock. And far from the perfunctory performances you could rightly expect from an album like this, many of the artists sound rejuvenated; Dr. John, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison, Paul Carrack and John Cale seem absolutely energized in the studio. I hadn’t expected much from this disc, certainly not 22 tracks of new, quality music, but Big Band’s got some big hands to hold it all together. Looks like we’ll need to leave some pretty big margins at the bottom for this footnote, since Holland is living large.