Simon Stanley Ward & The Shadows of Doubt,”Rocket in the Desert” (Self Released)- A feast of literate and expertly executed English Americana from one of the country’s most richly rewarding songwriters, adding to the excellent body of work that he’s assembled during the past decade or so. Simon’s fine band The Shadows of Doubt also deserve a mention in dispatches for their eloquent contribution to one of the most impressive albums that you’ll be likely to hear in this or any other year, with stand-out tracks such as “When September Comes,” “Terpsichorean Footwear” and “Rocket in the Desert” itself supplying an ideal introduction to the supremely gifted Mr. Ward’s engaging brand of music making. The album also marked the final appearance on record of talented bass player Geoff Easeman, whose contributions were captured for posterity in an NHS hospice shortly before his untimely death last year.

High Tide,”The Complete Liberty Recordings” (Esoteric/Cherry Red)- This beautifully packaged anthology from Cherry Red brings together the two highly sought after albums that the English rock band recorded for the Liberty label,”Sea Shanties” and “High Tide,”along with a bonus CD of demos and out takes from their creative heyday more than half a century ago. They may never have enjoyed too much in the way of commercial success during their relatively short lived existence but High Tide’s innovative fusion of prog rock and heavy metal influences has withstood the passage of time surprisingly well, and the inclusion of a highly informative illustrated booklet and reproduction poster lends added appeal to this fine 3 CD set.

The Long Ryders, “Native Sons” (Cherry Red)- “Native Sons” was the debut album from critically acclaimed American alt country outfit The Long Ryders, first released in the U.K. in October 1984 before going on to top the country’s indie charts soon afterwards. The original long player is now available as an expanded 3 CD set, drawing on a generous helping of top notch B sides and demos and a recording of the band’s gig at London’s Dingwalls venue in March of the following year. Sid Griffin’s eclectic outfit have rarely been captured in finer fettle, and their heady fusion of country, psychedelia and classic fifties rock’n’roll underpins gems such as “Too Close To The Light,” “I Had A Dream” and the Byrds influenced “Ivory Tower."