Album reviews: Rod the Mod returns to his roots
Rod the Mod may be 70, but he's not letting his age affect his work as he offers up his 29th studio album. Inspired by the success of Time in 2013, two years on sees Stewart releasing another full-length record.
Another Country opens with a hark back to his Scottish roots on Love Is, before he returns to his rock roots with some impressive vocals on Please. Recorded at home, where he also wrote most of the songs, his latest LP sees him embracing reggae in Love And Be Loved, anthemic rock with We Can Win and sending a tribute to Britain's armed forces in the title track.
Highlights include Can We Stay Home Tonight?, Batman Superman Spiderman – written about bedtime stories he would tell his youngest son, Aiden Patrick Stewart – and the emotional A Friend For Life.
Harry Connick Jr
That Would Be Me
Crooner, actor and American Idol judge, Connick Jr mixes it up on his latest album – from almost rapping on the feel-good opener (I Like It When You) Smile, to the laid-back Jack Johnson-style summer vibe of (I Do) Like We Do, the album's stand-out track.
Recorded in London and Nashville, it's a refreshing mash-up for which the songwriter handed over the reins (and control) to producers Eg White and Butch Walker.
Extremely easy listening – Connick Jr's voice is velvet – it's tracks like the ballad Do You Really Need Her, the catchy Songwriter and Every Time I Fall In Love which prove that, despite his efforts to show he can sing anything, smooth, unfussy jazz is still what this crooner does best.
Dave Gahan and Soulsavers
Angels and Ghosts
Dave Gahan's work with songwriting duo Soulsavers, comprising Rich Machin and Ian Glover, is a million miles away from the bombastic anthems of Depeche Mode who evolved from 80s synth poppers to rock juggernaut.
Essex native Gahan (53), now living in New York, has put his drug and alcohol excesses behind him, and his second collaboration with Soulsavers finds him in a rich vein of form.
His voice has matured magnificently and the songs, incorporating blues, jazz and gospel, see him address themes that have figured throughout his career.
Angels And Ghosts opens strongly with Shine, followed by the equally captivating You Owe Me, but it is One Thing, that showcases Gahan at the peak of his powers. Singing with an addictive croon, it is one of his strongest performances yet and proves conclusively he is a solo artist to be reckoned with.
Bryan Adams's first album of new music since 2008's 11 is a contagiously upbeat return to form for the Canadian singer-songwriter.
The rock 'n' roll opener You Belong To Me is short, sweet and impossible not to tap your toes to, while lead single Brand New Day defies you not to 'get up, get up, get up' and dance – it's classic Adams, nudged in the right direction by ELO's Jeff Lynne, with some retro 60s' instrumentation on Don't Even Try.
Among the catchier tunes, there are a couple of moody ballads (We Did It All and Yesterday Was Just A Dream), not quite the equal of (Everything I Do) I Do It for You - and after just nine tracks, four of them are, unfathomably, repeated as acoustic versions with mixed success.
Only Don't Even Try sounds better stripped back. They're album fillers that might leave fans feeling short-changed.
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott
Wisdom, Laughter and Lines
Beautiful South fans were delighted when its two most famous faces reunited last year, and this second release shows Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott shared the feeling. It's a fairly jaunty collection reflecting on human behaviour, echoing Heaton's solo effort Acid Country, with the duo's striking harmonies given overtones of country and rockabilly, rather than pure pop.
Not fixing what ain't broke, he keeps his signature pop-culture references and overextended metaphors: Facebook gets a namecheck, while food imagery dominates The Austerity Of Love.
This style reaches its nadir in Heatongrad, a brilliant, absurd, sweary, top-speed satire of Leftist philosophy, while Abbott's gorgeous voice lifts the ballads, particularly the moving closer, You, The Mountain And Me, a line from which provides the album title.
Sermon on the Rocks
Idaho native Josh Ritter has accumulated quite a following thanks to a string of acclaimed albums and extensive touring on both sides of the Atlantic.
Predominantly playing acoustic and electric guitar, backed by a crack band, the 39-year-old writes and sings songs about the meaning of life and death, the advancing years and in increasing measure, the beauty of finding true love and the agony of personal relationships gone awry.
Ritter first came to national attention in 2000 with his second album, Golden Age Of Radio, the first of three quite brilliant releases. But his music became increasingly maudlin, yet equally impressive after his split from his wife, fellow singer-songwriter Dawn Landes.
On Sermon On The Rocks, it is clear the break-up still influences many of his songs, yet at least these days there is a hint of optimism. The songwriting is, as ever, excellent with opener Birds of The Meadow up there with his best work.