More Music for Christmas

Kokomo Batten Down and Brillcream cover.

Okay. Part 2 of 3. Local music for Christmas presents.

That's what I started last week and there are three albums to go, all of which happen to be blues-related. Perhaps that says something about the Tauranga music scene? We'll look at two of them this week and leave the last one, Mike Garner's recently released ‘40 Below Blues' until next time. To make it easier I'll list where you can get these CDs. With the drop in physical shops, bands' websites are always a good option, and you can always ask to have them signed, making a Christmas pressie that bit more special. This week's albums are both ‘Greatest Hits' sets of a sort, though neither band has had “hits” per se. Both also contain a generous scattering of previously unreleased songs. Going in chronological order, in April Kokomo released a limited edition two-CD boxed set. This missed out on a review at the time so I've passed it on to guest reviewer Tony Moon to rectify the omission.

Batten down the hatches

As stated on the cover of this two-CD set, this is ‘Batten Down The Hatches - A Kokomo Collection', a celebration of 25 years of musical creativity. I have to admit my initial reaction was one of scepticism. The vast majority of “collections” I've encountered have amounted to little more than corporate-driven revenue maximisation, designed to wring every last cent out of an artist or band's back catalogue. Useful as a convenient source library of tracks to be peppered through a playlist, but not that enthralling –or for that matter even engaging – as a stand-alone collection of works. Two-and-a-half hours later. Yup…two CDs yielding a grand total of 150 minutes – and those rather jaundiced and cynical preconceptions? Baked in a humble pie, placed before me, ready for the eating. Here we have one of those rarest of all things: a compilation box set that considerately and artfully presents the working life, thus far, of a band of passionate and dedicated musicians growing in their craft and love of their chosen genre. While this is pretty much “back catalogue”, albeit spiced with a number of alternative mixes as well as 10 recordings new to CD, the selections presented here tell every bit as much a story as a whole as they so eloquently do individually. If you're already a fan – both of the blues as well as Kokomo's well-informed, skilled and respectful take on a large range of the genre's stylings – this is as good and enjoyable a representation of the band and their blues as you're ever likely to come across. If you've yet to sample the multitude of musical delights they have created during the last two-and-a-half decades, I promise, you could not ask for a better introduction. Available from Bay City Musicworks, Music Planet and:

Brillcream revisited

Subtitled ‘The Cream of Brilleaux', this 16-track compilation was assembled when the band toured the United Kingdom in June. It must have been no easy task picking favourites from the Brilleaux catalogue but this is a good selection, from the early likes of ‘Beer Goggles' through the unusual dancefloor experiment of ‘POD', featuring the outstanding singing of local chanteuse Jessie Matthews, to a couple of tracks from last year's ‘Pictures of the Queen'. Fans will be particularly pleased by the inclusion of six previously unreleased songs: two live tracks recorded at last year's Jazz Festival, two classic covers, and two brand new songs; notable is the striking ‘Two To Tango' which, with the addition of Sonia Bullot's trumpet, genuinely charts that most unusual of places, where R&B meets tango. Also a high point is the band's new take on ‘Tobacco Road', potentially slightly hoary territory but here played with such freshness and power that it just about tears up your speakers. Perfect for a summer barbecue, get it from:


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