Aimee Mann An American singer-songwriter of this Century. Ever since Joan Armatrading and Joni I have been on the lookout for the next great female singer. I had hoped that Aimee might be that one, as it is she is pretty good but sadly not in their league. Nevertheless, for a while I really liked her and watched out for her albums. My first was her second, and breakthrough album I’m With Stupid (1995). A very interesting and recognisable voice with an edge of suspicion in there somewhere, great and cynical knowing lyrics and very good production – in short, a surprisingly good record. Best tracks ‘No Choice In The Matter’, ‘You Could Make A Killing’ and ‘Par For The Course’. This was followed in 2000 by Bachelor No. 2. Another good record, but which never really excited me at the time, don’t know why as now on re-listening I find it pretty strong. I suppose I was hoping that she might have moved on in the 5 year hiatus, but the sound and production are almost exactly the same. Best songs ‘Ghost World’, ‘Calling It Quits’ and ‘Save Me’….but really for whatever reason the album still fails to excite me. Next was Lost In Space (2002) – and really I sort of lost faith in her by this one. Again, nothing wrong, but somehow going nowhere. Maybe it was just me…I don’t know. Best songs ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and the title track. I also have a hits – Ultimate Collection which is pretty good, and some of her later stuff does sound good – so why am I so disillusioned with her? I just suppose there are so many good artists it is impossible to keep with everyone. Choices we all have to make.Manfred Mann – well, there was a band in the Sixties that had lots of hits, we all loved them and discovered that Manfred was the keyboard player; the singer was either John Paul Jones or Mike D’Abo. They especially had a hit with a song Dylan home-taped with the band (later to appear on The Basement Tapes) The Mighty Quinn. Anyway, I have a Greatest Hits of theirs and great it is, full of good old sixties nonsense, but no Quinn – oh well, still some great tracks – ‘5-4-3-2-1’, ‘Pretty Flamingo’ and ‘Oh No, Not My Baby’. So, Manfred created a new band in the Seventies Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – I have three albums, and really I should have got more – but you know how it is…..first up is Angel Station (1979) and brilliant it is too, every track a winner and a great rock-pop feel to it, excellent guitar and organs and singing. Interesting songs, which I have no idea exactly what they mean – but sometimes you don’t need to. Best tracks – ‘Don’t kill it, Carol’, the Dylan classic ‘You Angel You’, ‘Belle Of The Earth’ and the Title track. A brilliant album which has a common musical theme dispute the variety of the songs. My next of theirs is Somewhere in Afrika (1983). Wow, what a great album, and a great anti-apartheid statement too. Written before the release of Nelson Mandela and the great sweeping away of white supremacy the record is poignant and powerful and full of both hope and despair. Of course, no-one then was to anticipate the failures of The ANC and that the lives of many many blacks would still be full of poverty and discrimination – though, this was more often along tribal lines from fellow blacks than whites, who quietly got on with making themselves richer and richer. But the album is simply fantastic. Starting with ‘Tribal Statistics’, where the blacks were counted and defined by race and tribe rather than as humans. This is followed by an old al Stewart song updated ‘Eyes of Nostradamus’ and the unifying ‘Brothers and Sisters of Africa’; some great African singing and rhythms and the best of all is a version of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ – co-incidentally Bob is next on my list. This album always leaves me with a lump in my throat – somehow it reaches the parts that most others fail to. Last is a mostly instrumental album – Plains Music (1991). A very infectious record, full of nice rhythms and moods. Best track is Medicine Song. The whole album is really one piece of music I feel and a delight to listen to occasionally. I do have another un-listened to (as yet) album and ask myself why I haven’t got more of them.