Marrying stage 'drama' and chamber 'concert', this debut album from Les Surprises, devised by Louis-Noel Bestion de Camboulas and Juliette Guignard, draws on 18th century French opera. Exploring a dynamic repertoire variously familiar and forgotten, bringing theatre into the salon, these enlightened, intimate arrangements will astonish, inspire and surprise.
If The Human Menagerie, Cockney Rebel's debut album, was a journey into the bowels of decadent cabaret, The Psychomodo, their second, is like a trip to the circus. Except the clowns were more sickly perverted than clowns normally are, and the fun house was filled with rattlesnakes and spiders. Such twists on innocent childhood imagery have transfixed authors from Ray Bradbury to Stephen King, but Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were the first band to set that same dread to music, and the only ones to make it work. The Psychomodo was also the band's breakthrough album. The Human Menagerie drew wild reviews and curious sales, but it existed as a cult album even after "Judy Teen" swung out of nowhere to give the band a hit single in spring 1974. Then "Mr Soft" rode his bloodied big top themes into town and Rebelmania erupted. The Psychomodo, still possessing one of the most elegantly threatening jackets of any album ever, had no alternative but to clean up. Harley's themes remained essentially the same as last time out – fey, fractured alienation; studied, splintered melancholia, and shattered shards of imagery which mean more in the mind than they ever could on paper.
Just as the title implies, 25 Years of Greatness is a career-spanning 32-track compilation covering most of the highlights of the Wolfe Tones' first quarter of a century. There is the important caveat, however, that like many folk groups, the Wolfe Tones have recorded many of their most popular songs several times, and this collection tends to favor more recent and/or more arranged versions of the Spartan originals that graced early albums like Let the People Sing. That's not as much of a problem as it would be with some groups, however, as the Wolfe Tones have wisely resisted any temptation to "update," "modernize," or otherwise ruin a traditional Irish folk style that has worked for them for so long; even the Fairport Convention-like electric track of the new "Rock On Rockall" has a bracingly traditional feel to it. This is the Wolfe Tones set to have if you're having just one, but there's plenty more where this came from.