Album review: Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones

Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones. Picture: Contributed
Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones. Picture: Contributed
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IN possibly the least anticipated meeting of vocal talents since Mark Lanegan’s growl and Isobel Campbell’s elfin tones wrapped around one another, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong and jazz chanteuse Norah Jones come together to re-record the Everly Brothers’ 1958 opus Songs Our Daddy Taught Us

Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones

Foreverly

Reprise, £13.99

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What strikes first about the opener Roving Gambler, and contributes throughout to the record’s success, is its faithfulness. There are no vain attempts to bend these songs to the pre-existing styles of those involved, although perhaps Jones is straying the least distance from familiar territory with a hint of a country twang shot through her smooth-crooned harmonies. Yet Armstrong seems transformed alongside her, restrained and displaying a new tone to his vocal, which sounds at once manly and tender, in the best tradition of country’s finest leading men.

The original’s 12 songs are all present here, with old-fashioned arrangements abetted by bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser. Lightning Express is a traditional train song slowed down to lullaby pace, Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet is dreamlike in its somnambulant pace and Oh So Many Years offers jaunty romance.

Utterly unexpectedly, this record sits within Armstrong and Jones’ finest work.

David Pollock

Download this: Lightning Express, I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail

POP

Gary Barlow

Since I Saw You Last

Universal, £14.99

* *

It beggars belief given his cultural ubiquity in recent times, but this is only Take That songwriting fulcrum Gary Barlow’s third solo album, and his first since 1999’s sizeable flop Twelve Months, Eleven Days (not counting last year’s collaborative Diamond Jubilee project Sing). Following Take That’s huge comeback success and his holding court on The X Factor it’ll doubtless be a monstrous success, even though it’s steeped in a cloying, wannabe national treasure veneer and not one ounce of the (admittedly somewhat irritating) personality displayed by last week’s new Robbie Williams effort, bar Elton John’s appearance on Face To Face. DP

Download this: Face To Face, Dying Inside

Boyzone

BZ20

Rhino, £14.99

* * *

It’s an unusual sensation, praising a record by fabricated unit-shifters Boyzone, but this fourth studio album – released in anticipated celebration of next year’s 20th anniversary as a band – is one which implicitly understands their audience and refuses to shortchange their expectations. Sickly balladry prevails, of course, but the vocals of Ronan Keating and Co are pushed to the forefront throughout and there’s an instinctive spark and lack of compositional laziness to centrepiece tracks like Love Will Save The Day and the surprisingly rocky If We Try. DP

Download this: If We Try

JAZZ

The Pasadena Roof Orchestra

Ladies And Gentlemen

Herzog Records 901038 HER, £13.99

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You wouldn’t know it from the freshness of their swinging, vibrant sound, but The Pasadena Roof Orchestra have been going for 45 years (not with the same line-up, mind you) and currently feature some of the most in-demand players on the scene. Taking as their models the classic dance bands of the 1920s and 1930s, the PRO mix well-known and more obscure numbers from that era, all performed with a great deal of class and wit. This CD also boasts some impressive vocals, not just from velvety-voiced bandleader Duncan Galloway, but also from Laura Fygi and Les Brunettes. Alison Kerr

Download this: Undecided

FOLK

Blackbeard’s Tea Party

Whip Jamboree

Blackbeard’s Tea Party BTP003, £13.99

* * * *

From York, but taking cash from an ever-expanding geography, these five guys – with their fiddle-flying wench – cast themselves in the shadow of Dick Turpin, the local highwayman who, we learn here, was not hanged, but remains immortal. The two drummer/percussionists and electric guitar and bass lead an unstoppable charge with button box, fiddle and vocals. This tightly performed, exuberantly cheerful music sticks mainly to the Anglo-traditional path (Kipling is one excursion) but shines with energy and imagination. Norman Chalmers

Download this: Lankin

CLASSICAL

Dobrinka Tabakova

String Paths

ECM 2239, £14.99

* * * * *

The first album dedicated to music composed by Bulgarian-born Dobrinka Tabakova, features five works with a distinctively modern sound, mixing string instruments in a variety of ways but always harmoniously. Such Different Paths for string septet, here performed by its dedicatee Janine Jansen, responds to Jansen’s love of chamber music, while Suite In Old Style, a baroque work with strong references to Rameau, was commissioned by, dedicated to and is performed here by viola player Maxim Rysanov. Highly enjoyable.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: The Rose Garden By Moonlight’