Hammock go massive as they meditate on grand themes of death and loss, their music ever larger, more expansive. Every song a mountaintop vista with a clear view to the horizon, unencumbered by clouds, in all directions. Departure Songs demands that it be played loudly so that the details in each track can breathe, whether it is the androgynous, falsetto vocals of Marc Byrd or the angelic voice of Christine Glass Byrd or just a little bit of guitar in the background, this record is nuanced in a most compelling fashion. The arrangements beg to be picked apart - soaring guitars, propulsive bass, and hypnotic strings. The vocals work wonderfully as an instrument, but when the words finally become understandable, they cause shivers.
Documentary following the Chinese pianist, regarded by many as one of the most talented classical musicians of his generation, back to his homeland. Lang Lang's tour of China sees him perform a number of pieces, including 'The Yellow River Concerto', before an adoring crowd. The pianist also visits places from his childhood such as his family home (containing his first piano) and the local temple, reflecting on their importance to his growth as a musician and person.
Magna Carta's third album was the first with guitarist Davey Johnstone on board, one reason for its subsequent immortality in collecting circles. Another is the extravagant packaging that accompanied the original Vertigo release – the gatefold sleeve was designed to open up like a box, with a layer of apples (from Wasties Orchard, of course) within. Add a crystalline Gus Dudgeon production and, of course, the popularity among collectors of the original swirly Vertigo label design, and Songs from Wasties Orchard emerges a seldom seen but much sought-after gem. For anybody familiar with the group's first two albums, Magna Carta's own style remained constant, a collection of beautifully stylized folk ballads sung and gently strummed with a warmth and versatility that saw the group endure (and, presumably, enjoy) constant comparisons to mid-period Simon & Garfunkel. The addition of Johnstone to the original duo does little to derail those remarks – indeed, his own musical versatility puts one firmly in mind of the Americans' more ambitious moments, as mandolins, sitars, and harpsichords dance behind Glen Stewart and Chris Simpson's magically melded vocal harmonies.