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The Independent Culture

Phil Upchurch: Whatever Happened to the Blues (Go Jazz VBR 2066). If you were a mod, you'll remember Upchurch's 'You Can't Sit Down', a charging early-Sixties R & B instrumental. If you were an early-Seventies hipster, you'll cherish his Darkness, Darkness, a cool slice of jazz-funk. This new album, on the estimable Ben Sidran's label, brings the terrific Chicago guitarist together with the likes of Jack McDuff, Maceo Parker and the Staple Singers on material ranging from 'Going Down Slow' to 'Angel Eyes'.

Keith Jarrett: Vienna Concert (ECM 1481). Faithful seekers after truth who have at last exhausted the substance of the celebrated Koln and Sun Bear concerts will want to know that the pianist himself thinks he's hit the jackpot this time. 'I have courted the flame for a very long time,' he says on the sleeve, 'and many sparks have flown in the past, but the music on this recording speaks, finally, the language of the flame itself.' Er, fine. But that's enough cynicism; after all, the solo Jarrett really does nourish souls - even this one, from time to time. Vienna Concert, taped last year, is divided into two parts. The first, lasting 40 minutes, is perfect Sunday-morning-lying-in-bed stuff, all hymn-like cadences and pearlescent touch. The second spends just under half an hour developing an oriental motif with gathering intensity. Admirers can invest without qualms, but it's hard to see why the artist himself thinks this set is so special. Richard Williams


The Birthday Party: Hits (4AD DAD 2016). The hits in question are more of the

rabbit-punch - to- the- kidney

variety than the traditional pop-chart kind. The Birthday Party came to Britain from Australia in 1980 on a post- punk promise, expecting to find the streets paved with bands as brilliant as The Fall and the Gang of Four, and when we let them down badly, they wreaked a terrible revenge. This band were strong stuff - probably the most compellingly nasty and visceral eight-legged rock insect ever to walk the face of the earth. But they were funny too ('Hands up who wants to die]') and often, especially towards the end, magnificent. Their death throes from 1982- 83, particularly the epic 'Mutiny in Heaven', are still stunning. If you ever wondered what Adam and the Ants might have sounded like if they hadn't gone pop, or what Nick Cave did before he became a student bar-lounge crooner, or even if you think you might enjoy frightening the neighbours, this well-made selection is a lifestyle necessity. Ben Thompson