Album & Single Reviews

Published on January 2nd, 2018 | by Mike Ainscoe


Mike’s top picks for 2017…

Time for an end of year list methinks. So while the radio show has been on hold, we’ve had to hang fire on showcasing our faves for the great and the good who suffer our 107.8 ramblings in the vane hope of hearing a gem or two, yet the listening hasn’t been curtailed at all. Mike’s 2017  highlights follow – so in  no particular order, we’ll start with the obvious…..

Steven Wilson – ‘To The Bone’

The rumour that our prog hero was going  all pop was exactly that. Instead he followed his nose in the direction of some of his more melodic and accessible material (no strange time signature jazz prog explorations here) and came out with arguably his best work.  Still rooted in the melancholy observations of ordinary people and life’s trials and tribulations, he seems Mr Wilson’s Midas touch is set to run. We’re fortunate to be a live at the same time.


Sons Of Apollo – ‘Psychotic Symphony’

An album that Derek Sherinian has been delightfully describing  as “strategic wankery” – a geuine prog metal supergroup (ie, packed with immense musicians)  who go for it, on a couple of occasions in a big way, but for once it’s all in the best possible taste. Mike Portnoy as his effusive best.


Black Country Communion – ‘IV’

Not heard much by the blues rock supergroup in the past. Internal squabblings aside, they settled their differences and returned with a belter that sources all that’s great and good in the blues rock world. A couple of live dates in early Jan should set 2018 off with a bang.

The Young’uns – ‘Strangers’

Don’t be surprised if this makes Folk Album of the Year. Sean Cooney comes of age as a songwriter with a loosely themed collection gathered from real life stories and events – what folk is all about really. A hat trick of ‘best group’ awards for Mr Cooney, Mr Hughes and Mr Eagle? Whatever – they are surely odds on  to be on the podium  for something come Folk Award night. Could well be for Best Song – take your pick from ‘Dark Water’ (my choice) or ‘Be the Man’.

 Amplifier – ‘Trippin’ With Dr Faustus’

The new album from Manchester’s space rock heroes was heralded by the mighty slab of  ‘Kosmos’ – possibly the best track on the record – which both whetted the appetite and didn’t disappoint when the main course arrived. The usual Amplifier balance of monolithic riffage and quirks all housed in a Pythonesque bright yellow sleeve. Sel Balamir having a giggle while producing the goods on classic analogue tape.

Fantastic Negrito – ‘The Last Days Of Oakland’

Aidan Connell – ‘Grio’

Two albums that came via the highly knowledgeable and top fella’,   Joe Cushley who does the Ballin’ The Jack Radio Show which  proved impossible to ignore. Both loosely rooted in the dense blues rock vein, Fantastic Negrito was an absolute revelation at this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival while the ‘Grio’ album from London’s Aidan Connell was one that despite the Negrito experience,  possibly surpassed it.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys – ‘Pretty Peggy’

Just a delight to get this in the hands after hearing songs and tunes previewed at the Love Folk gig in February and then seeing the band blow up a storm in the big tent at Underneath The Stars. Impossible not to get swept along on a tide of flying folk wizardry when Sam and his immensely talented big band are on stage where the album comes to life.


Robert Plant – ‘Carry Fire’

The man known as the old lemon squeezer, unlike Dylan, proves that age is no obstacle. Sounding as good as he’s ever done, Planty is totally comfortable in his own skin and direction without the obsession  of his past. Producing music with which he has undoubted empathy and music that suits his range, he’s one  who’s grown old gracefully and in the title track, mustered up a piece of music that sends chills. A superb UK tour with Seth Lakeman at his side – couldn’t fail to get the Ainscoe juices flowing.


Daniel Cavanagh – ‘Monochrome’

The album of the year without question. There aren’t  many records to which I’d award a 10/10 where you never ever reach  for the skip button to move on from something that falls below the standard (‘Physical Graffiti’, ‘Born To Run’, ‘Going For The One’) but this gets a ten plus. Many have wondered if this is the album his main band Anathema should have made. After all, they scored awards for their ‘The Optimist’ album which doesn’t make my final pick so you can guess where my opinion falls. An undeniable delight from start to finish. Considered and outwardly simple, yet emotional and delicate –  an album that covers ll bases and having had the chance to talk to Dan about the record and what it means to himonly increased the appreciation. Truly wonderful.



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About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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