Floating World [Release date 05:13]
‘The World Is Yours’ is a double compilation album that might have been subtitled: ‘if you want it’. Such is the musical diversity and stark juxtaposition of genres that it’s not difficult to spot the joins. But somehow through a mix of Alan Robinson’s insightful sleeve notes and the unexpected quality of some of the tracks, it all just about hangs together.
Compilation albums issued by particular labels used to make a strong musical statement. Floating World carries on that tradition but in a different way, by recycling an array of specialist music for discerning music fans with a catholic taste.
They certainly don’t make things easy for themselves, opening with a demo of The Byrds ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ that grates rather than enchants. Happy Martyr’s ‘Kiss Me Like You Stole It’ sadly fails to match the clever title and is destined to live in the shadow of John Cooper Clark. Then there’s Dick Dale’s overplayed ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ and several unabashed dips into country which might leave the unsuspecting rock fan looking for a lifeboat. But as with all good compilations there’s some criminally overlooked artists, some slow burners and a surprising number of outright gems in the haul.
The Blasters ‘Marie Mare’ was certainly overlooked, mainly because Shakin’ Stevens beat them to the punch in terms of chart success while American Aquarium’s ‘Tennessee’ fits the second category, as does Joe Ely’s extemporised ‘Letter To LA’. Rocky Hill’s ‘Take A Message To Garcia’ is a smoking combination of Roy Buchanan’s tortured tones and west coast harmony vocals. Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule also nail the rock-blues bluster of Free’s ‘Mr Big’, while Joe Louis Walker’s soulful’ The Gift’ and James Armstrong’s disc 2 sister track, ‘Sleeping With A Stranger’ both impressively fit into the post Robert Cray mould.
But diversity continues to provide the spark, bringing light to the fine song craft and twang filled Americana of Dave Alvin and Andy White’s more contemporary ‘Jesus In A Cadillac’. The latter marries The Byrds, Brit Pop and Primal Scream via a lush contemporary production.
It’s through repeated plays though, that you discern coherence, and in doing so you come to realise that The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s timely contextualisation of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ is a perfect update of an extant classic.
Lera Lynn opens disc two with the prefect blend of an emotive vocal, intuitive phrasing, clever word plays and a big production on ‘Bobby Baby’. Dar Williams is no less impressive, bringing real presence to bear on the memorable hook of ‘I Am The One Who Will’. And Julie Miller pops up with her vulnerable and beautifully slurred vocals on the ‘The Speed Of Light’. It’s the kind of track that could shape her career.
The late Randy California and Spirit’s offer a 70’s psychedelic take on Hendrix, while Magic Sam drags us back to the roots of Chicago Blues. Topping it all is a surprisingly stripped down ballad ‘Cara Let The Moon’ from Blues Traveller – just John Popper’s voice and piano – in complete contrast to the rest of their high energy album.
Approached with caution and with an open mind you might be pleasantly surprised by some of the musical twist and turns on this 34 track double album, which numerically duplicates track 4 on disc two. *** (3/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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