Jools Holland and Marc Almond offer up a fresh take on the jazz/blues genre thanks to the Soft Cell frontman's vocals, while a Christmas record from the band formerly known as Bucks Fizz might just be the festive album you didn't know you needed this year.


For their first collaborative album, Jools Holland and Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond have delivered exactly what one might expect. There are big band-backed numbers, courtesy of the Hootenanny host's Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, a handful of covers - including a jazzy version of Tainted Love - and a smattering of original tracks, each following that tried and tested jazz/blues formula.

Every new song sounds instantly familiar and, while it could come across as a bit of a "well-trodden path", Almond's slightly wavering, less than flawless but charmingly distinctive vocal adds - dare it be said? - a slightly edgier vibe to the record. Also worth pointing out: they've shied away from oft-repeated big-band cover culprits like Mack The Knife and Have You Met Miss Jones, thank goodness.

Their reworked take on Tainted Love instantly makes you wonder if the track was written to be a jazz number in the first place (it's certainly much closer to the original Gloria Jones version than Soft Cell's famous rendition), and Almond truly shines on Edith Piaf's Hymne A L'Amour.

I Lost My City, an original song about the duo's love affair with London, is formulaic but on point. You can practically smell the cigarette smoke and whiskey in an old jazz and blues bar in the Downtown of somewhere or other.


(Review by Lucy Mapstone)


It's been 30 years since Land Of Make Believe was wafting over the airwaves, but from the first bar of Don't Start Without Me you are transported straight back. Mike Stock's production has Cheryl Baker, Jay Aston and Mike Nolan (now known as The Fizz) sounding as clear and sharp as they ever did with former founding Buck Fizz member Bobby G.

For The Fizz's second studio album, they have gone with a festive compilation. With rich harmonies, upbeat tempos and classic Christmas staples, including White Christmas, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Winter Wonderland and Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow, The Fizz were obviously loving every second of recording these songs and it radiates through the whole playlist.

There are also two original songs - So Christmas, written by Cheryl's daughter Kyla, and the evocative Don't Start Without Me. The cherry on the top of this happy, jolly and sweet offering of pure pop is a sleigh bell-strewn Land Of Make Believe. This really is the seasonal album you didn't know you needed.


(Review by Rachel Howdle)


There are few artists making music like Sebastian Gainsborough, and few who radically alter their sound the way he does from album to album. Queen Of Golden Dogs is no different.

Gainsborough composed the album over 18 months alone in rural Wales and was inspired by the works of writers and painters such as the Spaniard Remedios Varo. The resulting songs sound like an outpouring of panic, grief and uncontrollable, almost hysterical joy. This, his third album, sees him deconstructing club sounds and rebuilding them with the instruments of chamber music.

The Bristol-based artist has been releasing music since 2011 and in that time he's run the gamut of styles: dark ambient, straight techno and now a synthesis of choral arrangements and tectonic bass lines. On Paplu Love That Moves The Son, which runs to nearly 10 minutes, what sounds like a distorted harpsichord dances a complex rhythm over sparkling synths.

Of Gainsborough's three wildly different albums, this is the one that feels the most visceral and has the most in common with the low-swung heft of techno, the music he started out producing - and this discord between the music he makes and the instruments he uses creates maybe his finest work yet.


(Review by Alex Green)


Bauhaus could have easily ended up being seen as post-punk Bowie wannabes rather than Goth godfathers were it not for Bela Lugosi's Dead. Now 40 years since its original release, The Bela Sessions sees the original Bela back on vinyl for the first time in more than 30 years as well as unreleased tracks from their first recording session in early 1979.

The lead track still sounds massive, dub effects built around a building bassline while Peter Murphy sings devotions to everyone's favourite Dracula. Everything else sounds weedy in comparison, though you can hear where they were headed with Bite My Hip, an early version of Lagarija Nick. Essential if you don't already have Bela in your collection.


(Review by Colm McCrory)


If ever there was a trip down memory lane, Fleetwood Mac's 50 Years - Don't Stop is the ultimate journey. The band's 50-track, 3-CD album takes you from the beginning of their musical journey right through to their later hits.

Tracks like Need Your Love So Bad are a reminder of the original blues sounds that defined them and within a few tracks you're moving towards the rock sound they ended up embracing.

Of course, there are also the crowd-pleasers like Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Seven Wonders, Little Lies and Everywhere that hold their own against any other hits on the current market.

Members including Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie and new additions Mike Campbell and Neil Finn are heading to the UK next year as part of their European tour and it's a pity they can't play every song they've released on this compilation.


(Review by Deidre Reid).