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Memphis Flyer Turn Up That Noise!

By Stephen Grimstead

NOVEMBER 9, 1998: 

Del Amitri, Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri (A&M)

Sometimes keeping a little mystery alive is better than finding out everything there is to know. A good case in point is the Scottish band Del Amitri, who have released an excellent and essential “greatest hits” compilation, Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri. So what does the name “Del Amitri” stand for? An exact translation isn’t available, but all you really need to know is that Del Amitri is synonymous with excellent, heartfelt, finely crafted concise rock music in an era when popular entertainment seems to go on aimlessly forever (particularly Hollywood schlockbusters and treacly Top 40 ballads).

For those of you who only recognize Del Amitri from some “lite” rock radio station by their short-and-sweet “Roll To Me” (all two minutes and 13 seconds of it), an embarrassment of riches is to be found in this honest-to-God singles collection. Featuring 17 tracks taken primarily from their last four albums, Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri will give the casual listener plenty to savor while offering the already-converted Del Amitri fan a few choice goodies (two new songs – “Cry To Be Found” and “Don’t Come Home Too Soon” – and one previously unreleased in the United States, the lost-love lament, “Spit In The Rain”).

The wise decision was made not to include any material from their self-titled 1985 debut, since it really was a different band with a decided lack of focus and somewhat inferior sound. Beginning with four tracks from Del Amitri’s subsequent reinvention as a force to be contended with (Waking Hours from 1990) and continuing with four more high spots each from Change Everything (1992) and Twisted (1995) (last year’s solid Some Other Sucker’s Parade is represented by only two cuts), there’s not a dull moment or a single shabby song to be found on Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri.

Del Amitri frontman (as well as singer/bassist and chief songwriter) Justin Currie borrows freely from a number of various musical sources, and modifies these choice influences in his guts to arrive at a refreshing hybrid distinctly his own. Add in superlative instrumental backing from the other band members, and Del Amitri emerges as one of the freshest (and most imminently listenable) groups to come down the pike in quite some time. Added proof of Del Amitri’s vision and power is the fact that the tracks on Hatful Of Rain are not arranged chronologically, but sound like they could have all come from one ongoing album – an impressive accomplishment in this age of trendy alterna-wankers and professional whiners.

Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri lives up to its title and is highly recommended for all lovers of articulate and tasty rock music (however, one notable omission is that the compilation title song, “Hatful Of Rain,” from Waking Hours isn’t included on the CD). New Del Amitri enthusiasts will want to seek out their last four albums (remember, stay away from that first one titled Del Amitri!) and the faithful should get their hands on a specially priced, import-only, 13-track CD titled B-Sides – Lousy With Love (no U.S. release expected at this time). Hatful Of Rain – The Best Of Del Amitri reveals Del Amitri to be a band worth caring deeply about, no easy feat in this age of disposable everything. – David D. Duncan

Maddy Prior, Flesh & Blood (Park)

Long a respected luminary of the Brit folk-rock scene, Prior’s best known as the co-founder and lead vocalist of Steeleye Span. Her solo efforts are rare and special treats, and Flesh & Blood falls into this category: It’s a wonderful record, full of the excellent arrangements, fine musicianship, and extraordinary vocal skills that have long been associated with almost any effort by Maddy Prior.

She teams up with keyboardist Nick Holland and guitarist/piper Troy Donockley, who provide both traditional and electric folk-rock accompaniment. The tunes are a delightfully eclectic mix. Of course, you’ll find the usual traditional fare, including a ballad about incest and another about a mischievous young Christ child. But there are surprises as well, like a beautiful acappella version of Todd Rundgren’s “Honest Work,” and an instrumental based on Sibelius’ “Finlandia.”

The album pivots around an original song cycle entitled “Dramatis Personae,” a series of tunes about personality that weave in traditional and modern lyrical and musical elements. Everything falls together as it should on this excellent disc. – Gene Hyde

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