Composer Nick Urata (Ruby Sparks, Crazy, Stupid Love, I Love You Phillip Morris) turns in a charming original score to the 2014 film adaptation of Michael Bond's beloved children's character Paddington. The live action film about a young Peruvian bear seeking a new home in London was produced by David Heyman, who brings the same whimsical touch he delivered to the Harry Potter films. Mixing a cinematic English wistfulness with upbeat Latin themes, Urata has managed to create something that is both playful and, at times, disarmingly tender. The gentler themes, like the lovely waltzing "Journey from Peru" and "The Letter Home," blend austere piano melodies with subtle strings, while the more exuberant Latin-inspired tracks are bursting with percussion, brass, and Spanish guitars. A handful of additional songs featured in the movie, like Lionel Richie's "Hello" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," pad the soundtrack, but don't detract too much from what is largely a fun and heartfelt original score.
Arista remastered Graham Parker's masterpiece, Squeezing Out Sparks, for CD reissue, adding the previously promotional-only live album Live Sparks as an added bonus. Though it is somewhat disconcerting to hear the same songs in the same order in a row, it's an excellent addition for hardcore collectors, especially since the sound on the original album is considerably improved. And, Live Sparks is a nervy, energetic live recording, especially with the addition of "I Want You Back (Alive)" and "Mercury Poisoning".
Since 2004's Player!, blues-centric guitarist/vocalist Nick Curran left his record label, joined up with Kim Wilson's latest incarnation of the Fabulous T-Birds, performed with his own punk-blues combo Deguello, and basically rumbled and tumbled through a number of sundry side projects, all the while eschewing the solo career that led to him taking home the 2004 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. Clearly, this allowed the ever-musically voracious Curran a chance to stretch his chops and imbibe more of the vast array of influences that spark his interests, from '40s jump blues and '50s rock & roll, to '70s punk and '80s hard rock. All of which Curran brings to bear on his fiendishly inspired, 2010 solo comeback Reform School Girl. A fiery, campy, and insanely rockin' album, Reform School Girl sounds like something along the lines of Little Richard backed by the Misfits with Phil Spector recording the proceedings in his garage.