Philip llorward pins back his lugs and tries to find the perfect tune to drown out the sound of seasonal festivities.

Strange but true. part one: perennial panto star and occasional boxer Frank Bruno has released a single for Christmas. Two words immediately spring to mind with this sanitised version of Survivor’s semi-classic ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (RCA), ‘why’ and ‘bother'. A more plausible and enjoyable Christmas record is Mike Flower

McAlMONT a eurrsn

The Sound of McAlmont & Butler (llut)

Don’t we pop kids love our odd couples? Take McAlmont and Butler: one black, gay and prone to letting his mouth run away with him; the other white, apparently straight and cautious to the point of invisibility. The duo’s communications breakdown was good for a laugh in the papers for a couple of weeks, but The Sound 0! McAlmonf & Butler testifies to the fragility oi their partnership. It’s bookended by two sublime pop singles that make the most oi their talents - great, sweeping melodies meet great,

soaring voice - but practically every track has already been issued on the various iorrnats of those singles, and it’s a sure bet there’s no more in the vaults. lithe experiment hadn’t been in danger oi immediate termination, would they still have included the dreadful blues-rock stodge oi ‘The Debitor’, for instance?

Actually, the album’s messiness and incoherence works in its iavour. Sometimes, you think, Bemard’s guitar could be more discreet. For balance, you might also want to tell David that his singing’s a little over the score here and there. Or that they should have had their territory squame mapped out before they started playing. But the results would have been bland and pre-packaged in


comparison. (Alastair Mabbott)

Pops’ version of ‘Wonderwall' (London). A classic piece of kitsch counter-culture. this is one to get your Dad for Christmas as revenge for years of Christmas Days listening to Peny Como and Matt Munro. But then again . . .

Scotland is making its presence felt this Christmas thanks to the Mary and Joseph of Scottish dance. Mary Kiani makes a late slide for the Christmas Number One with a piece of seasonal slush that's usually reserved for the likes of Whitney. Dinah and Mariah. ‘Giving it All To You' (Mercury) is uncannily accomplished but why did they have to emphasise her Scottish credentials by pinning on

Aerosrnith’s road ballad into a rodeo rider’s odyssey, or the opening ‘The Old Stuif’, an affectionate tribute to the band’s early days. The sound is big and brash, but it is accomplished with a stripped-down, hard rocking band.

The road motif crops up on several tracks, which is maybe no surprise for an artist who has been touring for two years straight, and the rocking country cuts are balanced by his trademark big, sentimental ballads, ranging from the intimate ‘That Ol’ Wind’ through to Tony (‘The Dance’) Arata’s ‘The Change’. It‘s a sure-fire zillion seller, but still doesn’t solve the enigma of just why this likeable but unexceptional artist is so damned big. (Kenny Mathieson)


Fresh Horses (Capitol)

liaving announced to all and sundry that there would be no new Garth Brooks album this year (and released The liits just to underline the point), the mega-most of all the new country megastars has done an abrupt about- turn and laid this brand new set on his adoring public, and in nice time for Christmas.

Brooks has been describing Fresh liorses as his ‘garage country’ album, and you can hear what he means on cuts like ‘The Fever’, his re-working oi

through your letterbox. Try ‘llo Children’, a cheerful little lingle

3 ha , 50.0;(1065 no rescued from a long lost Beach Boy’s i one femur)... what BABY BIRD master tape buried in Brian Wilson’s ' happened when Cicero Fatherhood (Capitol) sandpit. Probably. Elsewhere, you find

tried that? No such shenanigans from fiance Jon Reid and his Ilghtcrawlers with the follow-up to his last three singles. ‘Let's Push lt' (Ajsta) is all three minced, chopped and then reconstituted. it's out on 1 January but you get the impression that 3i December is the sell-by date of the current Nightcrawlers sound. The future then belongs to those with a bit of nous. After a couple of conspicuously quiet years the bizarre Felix returns on another of his nine lives. This time he's producing lllcolette. Forget being relaxed by Massive Attack. ‘No

the nursery rhyme logic oi Syd Barrett : combined with Momu’s gutter glamour and all the good bits from The White , Album. Plus an intensity oi vision that would have Jarvis Cocker reaching for f the headache pills. . The looniest-tune-oi-all award goes to ‘Cood Weather’, an outbreak of mellow fever in which the varnpiric ghost of Louis Armstrong adopts the ! guise of a pregnant Yorkshireman. Any attemp to, err, pigeonhole Baby 1 And, no, he doesn’t drink llescafe or Bird is an enterprise as difficult as . Guinness, lust the blood oi shysters shoving lndian elephants - their ears I and charlatans. Robson and Jerome, are bigger than their African cousins beware. (Rodger Evans)

ile’s no slouch, Baby Bird supremo Steven Jones. This is the band’s third LP in as many months and, while cynics may decry the absence oi quality control, Fatherhood is a damn near masterpiece oi Io-li production and languid beauty. So don’t be put off by the cover, a parody oi the Vanity Fair photo with Jones playing the heavily pregnant Demi Moore.

‘Top Of The Stairs’ calls for social justice as much as Public Enemy‘s inflamed commentaries, but pursues the same ends from a different angle.

Imi— SKEE-Lo

Govemment' (Talkin Loud) is a taut and fraught sound that's a bit of an eye-opener with its electro pulse and manic beats. No surprises then that Felix is behind a rather groovy mix of Mloty’s ‘Plastic Bag' (Sugar). ‘My mind is like a plastic bag . . . Plastic! Plastic!’ wails singer Nicola Bowery in her best Shampoo-like voice. There in the background is Felix feasting away on the midnight. Eat and be merry.

I Wish (Sunshine Records)

it’s likely you’ve already heard the title track oi this album - a dippy MTV-friendly poppy rap swing in which Skee-lo turns traditional hip hop lyrics on their head and admits that he’s not the biggest, the baddest and the tlyest homeboy in the ’hood, in fact he’s a bit of a small fry loser who will always be looking up to the strapping ballplayers he aspires to join. lle’s even named himself after a low-fat yoghurt to prove his point (someone eise’s loke, that), or is it because he’s promoting a healthy alternative to the usual rap ills?

Skee-lo is less propelled by righteous anger, more by respect, altruism and deference. lie shares musical roots with the likes of R Kelly but his attitude is poles apart, as anti-groupie rap ‘llever Crossed My Mind’ demonstrates by attacking another hip hop lyrical mainstay - sexist bragging.

There’s little of the same infectious standard as the single though. The lazy wash of dope beats (I’ve heard them called) and wholesale snatches, as opposed to samples, of REM, Simply Red and Buffalo Springfield fail to mobilise any sense of urgency for Skee-lo’s philanthropic rap message. (Fiona Shepherd)

82The List 15 Dec 1995-11 .lan l996