2.5 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – March 2006

My last run-in with Beth Orton came when I acquired her 1999 release Central Reservation, following a great performance at the 2000 Big Day Out. Unfortunately my interest waned fairly quickly, and while I enjoyed Comfort of Strangers, I think the same thing is going to happen again.

Strangers is a typical Beth Orton release, touching on pop, jazz, electronica, folk and country elements, yet not resting long enough to become any of those things. This works to great effect on tracks like “Worms”, “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Heartland Truckstop”, and makes it impossible to describe the quality of Orton’s work in only a few words.

But despite the seductiveness of many of the individual tracks, Comfort of Strangers is not an album for those looking for consistency and it is this aspect that drove me away. I can appreciate the minimal and subtle sound, and I do enjoy the occasional appearance of a string section or a harmonica – it’s just that it isn’t particularly exciting or dynamic on this album.

Fans of Orton’s previous work will love Comfort of Strangers, but for me it has proved no more than a novelty which is fast wearing off.

4.5 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – March 2006

Quite simply, Ring of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash is a brilliant collection of songs from Cash’s career, from his early days playing with the Tennessee Two, to his later years with Rick Rubin.

As one of only 2 or 3 people alive who didn’t previously own a Johnny Cash record, I was a little sceptical going in – however I was surprised to find that Cash’s music is remarkably easy to listen to. His music requires little effort on the part of the listener as his character shines through, making his music all the more intriguing.

Ring of Fire contains every great track of Cash’s career, including “Ring of Fire”, “A Boy Named Sue”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk The Line”. Also surprising were covers of songs by U2, Depeche Mode and Soundgarden, and his beautiful and moving cover of the Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt”. It is testament to Cash’s unique talent that he was able to tackle music from these artists and create something so compelling.

Ring of Fire is an impressive CD which covers all you need to know about the Man in Black, and should satisfy new listeners and older fans alike. Highly recommended.

3.5 out of 5 Stars
Investigate Magazine – March 2006

Hot on the heels of first single “Break the Night with Colour” comes Keys To The World, the third solo outing from former Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, arguably his strongest showing yet.

But while comparisons to the current batch of Britpop stars (see: Oasis, Razorlight, Snow Patrol) will abound, smatterings of strings and Verve-sounding throwback tracks remind us that Ashcroft was partly responsible for the trend in the first place. As a result Keys Of The World is exciting to listen to.

Aside from the obvious cross-genre songwriting talent Ashcroft has, I’ve always felt that his greatest work is the slower tracks he composes, even stretching back to his early days. Two tracks stand out for me here: the beautiful “Cry Til The Morning” and the more cerebral “Why Do Lovers?” Elsewhere “Why Not Nothing” and “Music Is Power” also stand out.

If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of variation in some of the later songs, a distraction from the quality of this CD. Despite this, Keys To The World is a solid release from one of the great songwriters of our time, and should end up as one of the highlights of the year.