Tom McRae – a Suffolk born singer-songwriter of this Century no less; Who says I only like artists from the Sixties and Seventies? He came to prominence at the turn of the Millenium, when he was feted to become the new Dylan etc:, like so many others before. But Dylan he ‘ain’t; not that he isn’t very good – he just isn’t changing the world as Bob did. His debut album Tom McRae came out in 2000 – and was very good, but somehow not even there. His voice is subtle and quiet and occasionally soaring and the tunes are okay and yet somehow you don’t even hear them at all. The record starts and then it is over and you don’t remember a damn thing. I liked ‘The Boy With the Bubble Gun’ and ‘You Cut Her Hair’ but I cannot tell you what they were about. His third All Maps Welcome is similar if a bit livelier in places. Okay, a bit like Elbow and Coldplay at times and an influence of Ed Sheeran too. But honestly nothing really stays in the brain after it ends. Best are ‘The Girl Who Falls Downstairs’ and ‘Packing For The Crash’. But I gave up on him after this.
Meatloaf – in spite of the ridiculous name, he was an exceptional, almost operatic singer. He came to fame with the superb album Bat out Of Hell – which I remember being first heard on The Old grey Whistle Test in 1977. Along with half the world I loved it and bought the album and played it to death. Still the best driving record ever. Every song a winner – written by Jim Steinman and produced by Todd Rundgren – it could hardly fail. It was a phenomenon which Meatloaf failed to eclipse or even approach again, despite linking up again with Steinman. I only have the original on CD, and there have been several Greatest Hits and version of this – the original stands supreme and unimprovable. Hard to pick a favourite, but maybe ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’ just edges it. Only the one album – and really that is all you need.
Katie Mehlua – Another smooth, almost cabaret, singer from America – though Katie does come originally from Georgia. A silky yet strong voice and a good choice of songs, some self-written, some old favourites. First up is Call Off The Search (2004), and a pretty good debut album really. I particularly like her version of ‘Lilac Wine’ and the big hit ‘Closest Thing To Crazy’. The whole album is a pleasure to listen to, but nothing at all new, either in style or arrangement – in fact sometimes hard to notice when one song ends and the next begins. Also good is Randy Newman’s ‘I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today’. Her second album Piece by Piece is exactly the same template; and almost as good. I like ‘Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing’ and ‘Halfway up The Hindu Kush’ – if only for the strange lyrics. Is it me, or is it just my familiarity with the older songs – but this stuff just doesn’t excite me. It is good – no doubt, but is good good enough? Not really, I am afraid.
Mercury Rev – another album that was hailed as genius and turned out to be just so-so. Well maybe a bit better than so-so, but not in the genius league by any means. An okay listen I suppose – best songs being ‘Holes’ and ‘Endlessly’. I don’t think they have really been heard of since….
Mike and the Mechanics – Mike Rutherford, originally base player and later lead guitarist with Genesis, possibly bored with the semi-retirement of Genesis, started this band, solely I think for recording a few of his songs. A sort of supergroup of session musicians and featuring Paul carrack on vocals. The line-up tended to change with each album. I’m not sure if they ever toured. Mike had had a couple of solo albums out earlier (see R) but the songs for this band were very commercial and sold well as singles and albums. I only have two albums, the first is The Living Years (1988). A very pleasant, almost soft rock album; very easy listening as most of the songs sound as if you have heard them years ago. Best tracks are the title track, ‘Nobody’s perfect’ and ‘Why Me’. I also have Beggar on a Beach of Gold (1995). Possibly even better than Living years. Fave songs are hard to choose as it is all good – possibly ‘One More Cup of Coffee’ and ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’. A very enjoyable album – but ultimately, I was always searching for something new, something bright, something different – so that was enough of Mike and his mechanics.
Steve Miller Band – a Seventies and Eighties American rock band, pretty good – I have Greatest Hits – but apart from the excellent ‘Joker’ and ‘ Abracadabra’ not that exciting. Still nice to have in the collection.