A few good things I've noticed just recently

23:50, Aug 05 2014

I thought this was a pretty decent gesture (see photo). Here's Neil Finn on Twitter sending out some love and goodwill, offering up something he doesn't need to do and extending a challenge to his fellow songwriters.

Neil Finn's touring here next month. It was only the other week that I was buzzing about just how good a Neil Finn show can be and then I saw this. A nice thing to offer from someone who has something to offer, who is able to do this, a kind gesture - nothing more needs to be read into this. Good on him.

If you want some of the greatest drum solos ever - and only the solos, no tune in support - then you might be the kind of candidate we're looking for to sample Buddy Rich - The Solos. Yep, a whole album of only drum solos. It takes a special sort of person, obviously. It's the sort of album where declaring it the greatest thing you've ever heard or throwing it out the window seems equally valid - in fact you might end up doing both. In that order of course.

Did you know that Aimee Mann has a new album out? She's one of my favourites. Great singer. Superb songwriter. She's one of the ones doomed to critical raves. Anyway, she's back as part of a band called The Both - it's her and fellow songwriter, Ted Leo. You might know him from his band Ted Leo & The Pharmacists or his other groups Citizens Arrest, Chisel, The Spinanes. I really dislike the name - The Both -  but their self-titled debut album is superb. It's churlish to call it the best thing Aimee Mann has done because every album she's released features a handful of great songs - over 20 years she's been releasing albums. Not a dud in the line-up. But The Both record is up there with her very best. And Leo has a lot to do with that too, his playing (and singing and writing) is great. It's a new power-pop gem.

It's also been really great to hear Leon Russell's new album. I couldn't quite dig that record he made a few years back with Elton John  - nice gesture from Elton, in praise of a hero and all that. But just a bit boring. But here you have Russell doing what he always did best, taking the song and having his way with it. Lovely arrangements, a pretty-much faultless song-selection, evergreens; it's not his absolute best, it could never rival the work from when he was vital across the 1970s as sideman and arranger, but it's the best Leon Russell album you could hope to hear right now. And we have to remind ourselves that sometimes that is all we need. A bit like the new Tom Petty album.

The other thing I'm loving a great deal right now  - it has been a favourite album, one I've played over and again -  is Dylan Howe's jazz versions of David Bowie's Berlin instrumentals. You gotta hear this - Dylan is the drumming son of British guitar great, Steve Howe, yes - Yes! - that Steve Howe. And here he serves up his interpretations of the instrumentals from Bowie's Berlin period. It's jazz - I guess. But I wouldn't think you'd need to be a jazz fan to hear this.

Might also chuck in a word for Damon Albarn's Africa Express project and the album Maison Des Jeunes. And that word - of course - is good. Albarn's highlights across the last decade have been plentiful. Here's one more thing from him. Anything to keep him from turning his hand, once again, to musicals and opera, right?

What good things in music have you spotted - and heard - just recently? Anything you'd recommend I check out in particular?

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