Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week's alternative CD releases.

Stone The Crows & Maggie Bell, "Best Of" (Angel Air)-Glaswegian blues-rockers Stone The Crows were hotly tipped to achieve fame and fortune when they made their vinyl debut in 1970, but guitarist Les Harvey's untimely death in a tragic on stage accident in May 1972 led directly to the band's sad demise a year or so later. Charismatic vocalist Maggie Bell went on to record a couple of critically acclaimed albums for the Polydor label and this fine 2CD set is divided equally between her exploits with Stone the Crows and later as a solo performer, including excellent covers of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee's "Penicillin Blues" as well as a touching tribute to the then recently departed Les Harvey in the shape of keyboardist Ronnie Leahy's elegaic "Sunset Cowboy."

Magna Carta, "No Truth in the Rumour" (Talking Elephant)- The beguiling blend of prog rock and melodic folk which has become the trademark of Chris Simpson and the assorted sidemen that he's worked with over the years under the collective monicker of Magna Carta is captured at something approaching its tuneful best on this splendid 1979 offering. Creative mainstay Simpson was once hailed as "the English Paul Simon," and the Yorkshire based tunesmith was in particularly fine fettle here as he unveiled an eclectic collection which ran the gamut from the majestic , piano led "Wind on the Water" to the radio-friendly , Eagles influenced "Written in the Wind."

Stray,"Live at the Marquee"(Cherry Red / Esoteric)- Stray were one of those unfortunate British rock bands who found it well nigh impossible to translate the critical plaudits which they consistently received from the music press into solid record sales. This dispiriting state of affairs ultimately prompted the band to give up the ghost in 1977 but they re-united six years later to capture this energised live set for posterity at London's legendary Marquee club. The recording has been unavailable on CD for more than fifteen years but has now been re-issued by the good people at Esoteric with the inclusion of several bonus tracks, including both sides of a rare solo single by guitarist Del Bromham, "Who Do You Love" and "The Best Friend I Ever Had." Splendid stuff.

Sons of Bill, "Oh God Ma'am" (Loose)- Previous Sons of Bill offerings have tended to be pigeonholed under the collective banner of Americana, but "Oh God Ma'am" finds this gifted Virginia band spreading their wings a little and adopting a much more expansive sound which in some ways harks back to the best of eighties college rock. The finished product is eloquent, multi-textured and subtly memorable, with stand-out tracks such as"Sweeter, Sadder, Farther Away," "Believer/Pretender" and "Old and Gray" capturing brothers Sam, James and Abe Wilson at the peak of their performing powers.