Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s CD releases Spirit,”Son of America” (Cherry Red / Esoteric)- This splendid 3 CD anthology expands on the contents of the original archive anthology ,”Son of America,” with the inclusion of a hitherto unreleased live disc which the band recorded for a Los Angeles radio station in 1990. Spirit always seemed to exist primarily as a vehicle for the virtuosity and melodic invention of their guitar wielding frontman Randy California, and this charismatic character was in particularly fine fettle as he mined their illustrious back catalogue to revive gems such as “1984,” “Fresh Garbage” and “I Got A Line On You” aided and abetted by the sterling contributions of keyboardist Scott Monahan and venerable percussionist Ed Cassidy.

Bette Smith,”The Good The Bad and The Bette” (Ruf Records)- Brooklyn born Bette Smith spent her formative years steeped in the delights of gospel music, with a father who was a church choir director and a mother who loved the collected works of legendary figures such as Mahalia Jackson and the Reverend James Cleveland. Bette’s own music also incorporates healthy quantties of rock and soul to create a gritty and vibrant sound in the mould of Betty Wright and Tina Turner, as you’ll discover for yourself if you lend an ear to stand-out tracks such as “Everybody Needs Love” and “Signs and Wonders,” the latter boasting a guest appearance on guitar from North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson.

“Down Home Blues:Miami,Atlanta & The South Eastern States-Blues in the Alley” (Wienerworld)- The latest addition to Wienerworld’s splendid series of blues anthologies is a lovingly assembled and beautifully packaged 3 CD set focussing attention on the work of 29 performers who helped to keep the genre alive in the south eastern states of America.The legendary Ray Charles makes a brief appearance with a couple of early recordings from the archives but the vast majority of the tracks here are supplied by artists who were probably never even household names within their own households, with the likes of Frank Edwards,Curley Weaver and Rudy Greene stepping up to the plate to deliver their messages with power,passion and conviction.