Queen of boogie woogie Ruby Turner has been a mainstay of Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra for more than two decades. This collection of 22 personal favourites and crowd pleasers includes a rousing rendition of Peace in the Valley, a sultry version of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s This Train that builds up a fair old head of steam and vibrantly swinging take on Ray Charles’ Jumpin’ in the Morning.
Tucked away among the originals is Boring with a typically wry lyric by Holland’s former bandmate in Squeeze, Chris Difford, and a lovely setting of the Wendy Cope poem Christmas Song to festive brass. A real seasonal treat.
The revival of Johnny Marr’s solo career, after short but successful spells in Modest Mouse and The Cribs, has happily coincided with the guitar genius being equally willing to indulge his audience’s desire to hear to songs that first made him famous in The Smiths and Electronic.
This live album, collated from shows at Manchester Apollo and Glasgow and Brixton Academies, includes nostalgic retreads of The Headmaster Ritual, Bigmouth Strikes Again, There is a Light That Never Goes Out, How Soon Is Now? and Getting Away With It alongside choice selections from his 2013 and 2014 albums The Messenger and Playland.
Feeding off the energy of a devoted crowd, Marr sounds thrillingly reenergised throughout.
Venezuelan producer Alejando ‘Arca’ Ghersi was one of Bjork’s chosen foils on her heartbreaking album Vulnicura. Here, in his second album for Mute, he’s produced some of the most exciting and adventurous electronic music released this year.
Clattering machine rhythms meet all kinds of sonic weirdness in the title track, yet from it, like many of the enigmatically named pieces here, a strangely moving melody emerges.
Where much electronica can seem remote, Mutant is teeming with life, by turns playful, bonkers, angry, sensual and celebratory. A constant surprise, in the best possible way.
Classically trained male vocal trio Blake funded their Christmas album via the crowdfunding website Pledge Music. In return they are donating a portion of the proceeds to the charity Variety. Dame Shirley Bassey, whose sonorous tones grace The Christmas Song, intends to aid the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff through her contribution.
Musically your appreciation of this album may depend on how much you enjoy the likes of Let It Snow!, Frosty the Snowman and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas sung in a jaunty classical pops style, but the causes are certainly worthy.
Less seasonal but more musically intriguing is the seventh album from multinational vocal quartet Il Divo.
Amor & Pasion gathers together a dozen tangos, boleros and mambas, some of which may be familiar in their anglicised forms, Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before or Sway.
The vocal performances are full-blooded, with romantic strings paired with sophisticated Latin rhythms. One of the classier mainstream gifts on offer this Christmas.
Van Morrison’s recordings with Belfast rhythm and blues band Them are among the most explosive in his career. Yielding the hits Gloria, Baby Please Don’t Go and Here Comes The Night, they packed a lot into their brief existence between 1964 and 1967.
This excellent three-disc set includes both of the band’s studio albums for Decca, The Angry Young Them and Them Again, as well as previously unreleased demos of some of their best-known songs and live session versions recorded for the BBC’s Saturday Club. As a document of raw talent rapidly emerging from the Ulster club scene, this collection is hard to beat.