We take a look at the latest releases including music by the late Prince and a live album by Kate Bush.
Prince –4 Ever: One of the most shocking moments in a year containing many, was the death of Prince. This Christmas’ inevitable cash-in could be considered cynical, but listening to it is an absolute joy, if you can forget the fact such a genius is sadly no longer with us. Spanning the glory years, each CD starts with the big hits (1999, Kiss) before a chronological run-through featuring amazing slabs of funk, rock, pop and soul. The “new” track, Moonbeam Levels, may not hit the heights, but it’s an interesting curio. For the first time ever on a Prince compilation, there’s also Batdance, and a few b-sides. Some of the 90s tracks haven’t aged as well as the early-80s tracks, but that’s perhaps down to the influence on modern music of his peak material, when he was absolutely untouchable. ROB BARKER
Kate Bush – Before the Dawn (live album): When Kate Bush announced her series of 2014 concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo, it was the first time she had performed live since her one and only tour in 1979 and tickets sold out immediately. One of Britain’s true pop treasures, Bush has always done her own thing, on her own terms, and this was to be no greatest hits farewell. Instead, aside from Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill and Cloudbusting, she predominately selected album tracks. Bush is in fine vocal form throughout, but it is on And Dream Of Sheep, Jig Of Life and King Of The Mountain that she truly soars. This is a live album to treasure for those unlucky enough not to have secured tickets, and a reminder that Bush remains one of the most intriguing and talented of British musicians. KIM MAYO
Ennio Morricone –60: When Ennio Morricone received an Oscar for his soundtrack to The Hateful Eight this year, it was overdue recognition of his 60 years in the business. Now, here’s a collection of his film music, a ‘greatest hits’, which shows the sheer range of his work. These new recordings, made with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, show Morricone is equally at home with delicate melodies as with discordant mood pieces. The latter hark back to Morricone’s beginnings as an avant garde musician, but it’s the diversity of his compositions that really impresses, many of which are iconic. None more so than his scores for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, especially the haunting The Man With The Harmonica and the evocative The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. DARRYL WEBBER
Various artists, Action Time Vision: The 40th anniversary of punk has been commemorated in many forms – perhaps none more daft than Joe Corre burning £5m worth of memorabilia. Here it’s memorialised more fittingly in a four-CD box set lovingly curated by Cherry Red, with a foreword by Kris Needs, who edited Zigzag magazine as punk evolved. What’s apparent from the 111 tracks here – some well-known, by The Damned, Sham 69, Stiff Little Fingers and Adam and the Ants, others considerably less so – is that ferocious energy, primitive musicianship and adolescent angst can be a potent combination. It’s also fascinating to hear future pop stars such as Kevin Rowland, Jim Kerr, Gary Numan, Billy Bragg and Shane MacGowan in their rawest form. A must-have for any punk’s Christmas list. DUNCAN SEAMAN
The King’s Men – Twelve Days of Christmas: A fun disc from a superb British close-harmony group, The King’s Men, with fourteen tracks offering a new slant on such favourites as All I want for Christmas, White Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and, in a show of vocal virtuosity, a hugely complex version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Excellent soloists in All I want for Christmas is You, and I wish it Could be Christmas Every Day, the sixteen singers of the highest quality. It will make American groups green with envy, these remarkable singers coming from the current scholars of King’s College, Cambridge, more normally heard in church services, and here proving the versatility of training at the choral school. Available on the King’s College label. DAVID DENTON