Worth the wait. It’s a phrase trotted out too easily to excuse what is usually the inexcusable.
This time, however, is different.
Fully 19 years since Ian McNabb released Mercury-nominated rock and roll album Head Like A Rock, he’s back with the follow-up.
That’s not to say the former Icicle Works frontman has been idle. Far from it. A prolific songwriter, he’s released no fewer than 11 albums and a host of EPs in that time.
But, good as they’ve been, none has quite lived up to the grunge guitar glory which characterised the 1994 set he recorded with Neil Young’s Crazy Horse as backing band.
Now, thanks to fans who have financed the album through the Pledge Music network, and raised cash for the Teenage Cancer Trust, the 52 year-old Scouser has plugged back in.
And cranked up the volume.
Because Eclectic Warrior, recorded with his new band Cold Shoulder, is a spitting, sputtering guitar album that Neil Young himself would have been proud to call his own.
It opens with Smirtin’ – short for smoking and flirting outside the pub – a cry for freedom with a shameless singalong chant guaranteed to ensure it is never played on the radio.
No Hero To Me is made from the same grumbly guitar stuff, McNabb’s melodic vocal questioning the politics of liberation. They Couldn’t Hear The Music is more measured, a song which, if stripped back, could have adorned the Emotional Party set.
It’s followed by My Life To Live Again, which initially echoes Leonard Cohen’s First We Take Manhattan.
(I Just Wanna) Rock’n’Roll My Life Away does what it says on the tin, a cousin to Understanding Jane. Gentle She Don’t Let Nobody, meanwhile, is a rarity resurrected for the album.
Woman Killed By Falling Tree, made up of newspaper headlines, breaks new ground before Fast Approaching Land sounds as if it was a Head Like A Rock out-take.
The House Always Wins recalls Icicle Works at their best, then the unashamed show-stealer Memory Be Good To Me is Youngian nine-minute guitar gravel.
Finalé Right On Time takes you back to 1994, too, but with a fresh face.
Not so much eclectic as electric, welcome back Ian McNabb. We’ve been missing you.
You may not have heard her name before – but you will almost certainly have heard British songbird Phildel’s voice.
Her songs have featured in a plethora of TV adverts ranging from Marks & Spencer to Persil, and from Apple to Expedia.
No surprise there, because the 28-year-old London singer-songwriter has a voice to die for.
It arrives along that branch of pop’s family tree which runs from Kate Bush via Sarah McLachlan to Imogen Heap.
All of which is remarkable given that Phildel – it’s a blend of her parents’ names Philip and Della – spent a miserable childhood in a fundamentalist family home where music was regarded as the devil’s work.
With no CD player, no radio and no musical instruments in the house for 10 years, Phildel spent lunchtimes tinkling on the school piano. Eventually, at the age of 17, she ran away from home and started writing.
“Music was forbidden,” says the singer, now 28. “My mother’s second husband was a fundamentalist Muslim from Egypt. I came to know silence well.
“I’d escape to the school practice room during lunch breaks, and wrote the songs which now make up my album. I’d continue scribbling down lyrics in secret during the night.”
And what songs they are.
Recorded in the Chilterns, where she now lives, they are both enchanting and chilling. Often an upbeat melody will hide heartbreak in the lyrics; sometimes it’s the other way round.
The title track opener sets an ethereal vocal against skewed strings, a swoon of a song.
Both Beside You and Union Stone confirm the influence that Kate Bush must have had as Phildel caught up on everything she’d missed.
Not that it’s an unnecessarily arty album.
Storm Song is something Sarah McLachlan might want to cover, and Mistakes has all the hallmarks of Adele.
Both The Wolf and Holes In Your Coffin are unashamed electropop romps.
At the close, Funeral Bell is a piece of studio trickery in which an acapella Phildel harmonises with herself, much like Imogen Heap’s Hide And Seek.
This is the most ecelectic chanteuse set since Annie Poe’s Haunted. Buy it.
You know what you’re getting with Billy Bragg. Left-leaning political polemic, angry rants about social injustice, aggrieved defiance.
Even the title of his first studio set in five years suggests the strife within. At the age of 56, Barking Billy is still fighting tooth and nail...
All of which just goes to show how wrong you can be, how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or succumb to stereotype.
Because Tooth And Nail is musically mellow, a laidback album which largely steers clear of headline politics, instead visiting the small but important decisions we all make.
Rather than manning the barricades Les Misérables style, Bragg goes back to basics, charting love, loss, relationships and regret, all set in sepia Americana sympathetically produced by Grammy winner Joe Henry.
Recorded in just five days, and with a stellar line-up including Greg Leisz (Bon Iver), Patrick Warren (Lana Del Rey), Jay Bellerose (Regina Spektor) and David Piltch (Ramblin’ Jack Eliot), it’s an ear-opening revelation.
Because Bragg has rarely sung better, and the gently reflective songs are country confessional rather than the stuff of rock and roll rebellion.
Handyman’s Blues, a wry smile of a song, is an acoustic blues listing his domestic failings, the inability to change a fuse or put up shelves – a plea for understanding.
Swallow My Pride, with gorgeous guitar from Leisz, is as soulful as anything Otis Redding ever did, without all the fuss. Chasing Rainbows, on the other hand, is unashamedly country with pedal steel swoon.
Album closer Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Better Day is, on the surface, the most optimistic Bragg has been in years, light at the end of the tunnel.
But it’s two other tracks that lie at the heart of the matter. The first is a cover of Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home, a Depression era lament which remains relevant today.
The second is There Will Be A Reckoning, a Steve Earle-styled rocker in which there’s a flash of that trademark anger as he addresses the plight of the 21st century working man.
Yet even here there’s a measure of hope, albeit an elusive quarry, as he lambasts peddlers of hate and politicians in the same breath.
Billy Bragg plays an intimate gig at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on June 2. It won’t be much ado about nothing.
Looking forward to John Fogerty’s new Wrote A Song For Everyone album on May 28.
Here’s a taster to be going on with, Foo Fighters rocking up Fortunate Son at Sundance.
The album tracklist:
1. Fortunate Son (with Foo Fighters) 2. Almost Saturday Night (with Keith Urban) 3. Lodi (with Shane Fogerty & Tyler Fogerty) 4. Mystic Highway (John Fogerty solo) 5. Wrote a Song for Everyone (with Miranda Lambert feat. Tom Morello) 6. Bad Moon Rising (with Zac Brown Band) 7. Long As I Can See the Light (with My Morning Jacket) 8. Born on the Bayou (with Kid Rock) 9. Train of Fools (John Fogerty solo) 10. Someday Never Comes (with Dawes) 11. Who’ll Stop the Rain (with Bob Seger) 12. Hot Rod Heart (with Brad Paisley) 13. Have You Ever Seen the Rain (with Alan Jackson) 14. Proud Mary (with Jennifer Hudson feat. Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band)
Great news that The Boss has booked a return to this year’s Hard Rock Calling at the festival’s new Olympic Park site.
Big question now is: will Bruce Springsteen get Paul McCartney back up onstage to finish the set so rudely interrupted at last year’s Hyde Park shambles?
Given Bruce’s sharp sense of humour, it must be s-o-o-o tempting.
Promoters Live Nation quit Hyde Park amid friction between fans and the neighborhood’s well-heeled residents, many of whom gripe about the late-night noise, leading to confrontation.
Springsteen had already exceeded the 10:30 p.m. curfew by half an hour when he welcomed McCartney on stage last July.
They sang Beatles hits I Saw Her Standing There and Twist and Shout, and were ready to launch into a third song.
But jobsworths turned the microphones off, and they were forced to leave the stage in silence.
Springsteen will headline the second night of this year’s two-day Hard Rock Calling on Sunday June 30, with an already strong supporting bill including The Black Crowes and Alabama Shakes.
The Saturday June 29 gig will be headlined by Kasabian, with Paul Weller, Miles Kane, Kodaline, The Cribs, Klaxons and Tribes on the bill.
“Last year, Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band made international news and history when their Hard Rock Calling encore with Sir Paul McCartney was unceremoniously cut short due to a noise curfew at Hyde Park,” says CEO of Hard Rock International, Hamish Dodds.
“This summer we are giving Bruce and the band the opportunity to finish what they started and make history again with a celebrated performance at Hard Rock Calling.
“Additionally, we are looking forward to christening Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with a Saturday line-up of some of Britain’s hottest talent, including headliner Kasabian, Paul Weller and more.”
Live Nation Entertainment is holding a series of concerts at the former Olympic venue this summer, including the Hard Rock Calling and Wireless festivals, after securing exclusive rights to the venue.
The 560-acre site of the London 2012 Summer Games is due to re-open to the public in stages between July and early 2014.