Record Review with Kevin Bryan

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Kevin Bryan gives his verdict on some new music releases.

Bettye LaVette - Things Have Changed (Verve.- Bettye Lavette’s first album on a major record label in many a long year finds the soul veteran re-imagining some choice moments from Bob Dylan’s illustrious back catalogue, with predictably impressive results. Time-honoured ditties such as It Ain’t Me Babe, Mama You Been On My Mind and The Times They Are A-Changin’ are given a whole new lease of life in the process, with Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards guesting on another of the stand-out tracks, the still sadly all too timely Political World, from Dylan’s 1989 album, Oh Mercy.

Pet Shop Boys - Please/Actually/Introspective (Parlophone). These stylish exercises in the art of re-packaging focus attention on three of the Pet Shop Boys’ finest Parlophone albums. Each of these late eighties offerings has been expanded into a 2-CD set with the inclusion of a bonus disc featuring a generous selection of demos, extended mixes and remixes of hits such as Opportunities, West End Girls and Left To My Own Devices, and the packages also boast lavishly illustrated booklets featuring comments on the contents from Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe themselves. Splendid stuff.

100 Hits : The Best Soul Album (Demon Music) Demon’s latest trawl through the archives has yielded a mellow and remarkably inexpensive five-CD set which offers listeners an enjoyable introduction into the delights of 60s and 70s soul. The presence of bona fide soul classics from the likes of Freda Payne, Sly & The Family Stone and The Manhattans should ensure healthy sales figures for this easy on the ear retrospective, although the absence of any contributions from the mighty Motown organisation means that it’s still far from definitive.

Sandro Ivo Bartoli - Puccini:Complete Piano Works and Selected Opera Transcriptions (Solaire Records). The name of Giacomo Puccini may have become synonymous with grand operatic creations such as Madame Butterfly and Tosca but the great Italian composer also penned a few intimate pieces for the solo piano, and his gifted compatriot Sandro Ivo Bartoli breathes new life into these rarely performed works here, alongside transcriptions of memorable arias such as Vissi d’arte and Un bel di vedremo. Bartoli’s interpretations combine sensitivity and passion in near perfect proportions and should be required listening for anyone who feels the urge to explore this almost forgotten fragment of Puccini’s repertoire.