Kevin Bryan casts his eye over some of this week's alternative CD releases.
Al Stewart, "Past, Present & Future" (Cherry Red / Esoteric) -This newly remastered 1973 offering may not have been a huge success when viewed in purely commercial terms but it arguably captures Al Stewart's unique approach to songwriting at its most rewarding and evocative. Al's passion for historical narrative was given free rein as he immersed himself in topics as diverse as the Profumo affair, the grisly fate of Nazi storm trooper Ernst Rohm and the enigmatic prophecies of 16th century French seer Nostradamus, with "Roads To Moscow" emerging as the best of a fascinating bunch.
The Searchers, "The Essential Collection" (Metro Select)- The absence of a really accomplished songwriter within their ranks probably put paid to any hopes that The Searchers might have harboured of achieving lasting chart success, but these prime pracitioners of the finest Merseybeat bequeathed a fine body of work to posterity during the early sixties nonetheless. This easy on the ear 2 CD set showcases the distinctive cover versions which helped to make the band a virtual fixture in the British singles charts between 1963 and 1965, including Sonny Bono's "Needles and Pins," Jackie de Shannon's "When You Walk In The Room" and Philadephia girl group The Orlons' "Don't Throw Your Love Away."
"Gold Star Rockers - Eddie Cochran & Friends" (Fantastic Voyage)- Dave Penny's latest archive anthology takes its title from the legendary Los Angeles studio where Eddie Cochran laid down some classic teenage anthems during the late fifties. This historic 3 CD set is dominated by recordings made by a fascinating selection of Eddie's musical soulmates during this period, many of them rumoured to feature the great man himself on guitar or backing vocals. Most of the performers featured here were arguably never even household names in their own households, although the similarly ill-fated Gene Vincent does chip in with four vibrant tracks from a March 1958 session, including "Get It" and "Five Feet of Lovin'."
Jane Kramer, "Carnival of Hopes" (Self-Released)- North Carolina singer-songwriter Kramer's second solo album delivers a feast of subtly memorable Americana which provides an ideal vehicle for her exquisitely expressive brand of music-making. The Appalachian balladeer reflects on the vagaries of the human condition with grace, honesty and charm in the process, serving up freshly minted creations such as "Good Woman," "Highways, Rivers & Scars" and the brassy, jazz tinged "Why'd I Do That Blues" for your listening pleasure.