Album reviews: All India Radio and Grant Green
New album: Space
Artist: All India Radio
All India Radio is the musical moniker by which multi-instrumentalist Martin Kennedy releases his chilled-out sonic explorations. His work has been featured several films and television shows, and he is one half of the duo Kilbey Kennedy - a collaboration with Steve Kilbey of legendary Australian band The Church.
On Space, Kennedy is joined by bassist player Mark Wendt and vocalist Leona Gray. Also contributing pedal steel guitar is Graham Lee of The Triffids and The KLF. Fans of Pink Floyd know how David Gilmour's sublime pedal steel playing elevated songs such as "Breathe" and "High Hopes" to epic heights, and Lee's playing on Space performs a similar duty.
Lead-off track "Vega" is a 21st-century cousin of the aforementioned "Breathe", with Lee's pedal steel guitar gliding effortlessly over Kennedy's future noir soundscapes. Leona Gray's exotic vocals combined with the lush keyboard work on "Monsters" brings to mind the legendary Vangelis soundtrack for Blade Runner.
Each track on Space is filled with impeccable playing and intrigue, and the epic 13-minute "Heirs of Neptune" is the type of thing Radiohead should be shooting for. Utterly modern in every way, with this song Kennedy has found a way to combine the prog rock ethos of yesteryear with 21st-century aesthetics.
The winning streak for All India Radio continues with Space. For any of you out there who still own an actual stereo, grab a copy of this and recline.
Classic album: Grant's First Stand
Artist: Grant Green
Label: Blue Note
Grant Green's debut album Grant's First Stand established him as a jazz guitar innovator right out of the gate. He's rarely mentioned in the same breath as Wes Montgomery or Kenny Burrell, but he should be.
Working with only a drummer (Ben Dixon) and organist (Baby Face Willette), Green had plenty of musical space to fill. Somewhere between bop and funk falls "Miss Ann's Tempo", which ends up being a fantastic vehicle for Willette's playing as much as Grant's. With that initial onslaught out of the way, the band settles into cool jazz mode for "Lullaby of the Leaves".
Green's fluid, single-string guitar runs pour over "Blues for Willareen" and "Baby's Minor Lope" like drops of rain, all while Dixon's drumming propel's the band to near boiling temperature. By the time after-party theme "A Wee Bit Of Green" rolls around, there's almost a sense of relief in the playing. It's been fun, but all parties must come to an end.
Green went on to have a long and consistent career filled with more ballyhooed releases, but Grant's First Stand is a watershed moment in jazz and popular music in general. This release was one of the first to combine jazz, soul, and r&b in a way that blurred the genres but excited those lucky enough to hear it.