Album reviews: Mariah Carey | The Phantom Band

Mariah Carey performs on NBC's Today show in New York. Picture: Reuters
Mariah Carey performs on NBC's Today show in New York. Picture: Reuters
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Impossible to resist courtesy of that brilliant, bonkers title, Me. I Am Mariah… is million-selling diva Mariah Carey’s first album since giving birth to twins three years ago.

Mariah Carey

Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse

Def Jam, £14.99

Star rating: * * *

It rather impressively manages to consolidate her position as the western world’s premier pusher of histrionic power ballads while offering a few harder-edged and carefully pitched concessions to the zeitgeist – this being her first album to carry a parental advisory sticker.

It starts on a truly impressive vocal performance with Cry, a breathy, soulful piano ballad founded on some mightily sustained notes and a sense of drama which is positively Streisandesque. The minimal nu-soul of Faded gives way to Dedicated, a collaboration with New York rapper Nas which begins with a vocal snippet of the pair discussing their “most nostalgic moment for hip-hop ever” – the summer of ’88, says Nas – and then recreates that time with a laid-back summer groove. The co-opting of rap by this most mainstream of artists continues apace through the album, not least on the lo-fi soul of #Beautiful, which sees guest vocalist Miguel rhapsodise Carey (and her backside) with the words “You know you’re f***in’ beautiful.”

As the album progresses, it slips back into some of the old tropes of pillow-soft balladry which fans will love, but its lack of real brashness in the end is balanced by the clean, upmarket preparation of these songs, allowing a neat harmonica backing on Make It Look Good,

Madonna-style club beats on Meteorite and the swaggering horn groove of Money to showcase Carey’s mighty vocal ability. David Pollock

Download: Dedicated, #Beautiful

The Phantom Band

Strange Friend

Chemikal Underground, £13.99

Star rating; * * * *

Releasing a new album four years after their last one is a lengthy gap for any outfit, let alone one who dished out their first two records within a year. Yet Glasgow’s Phantom Band have created something worth waiting for here: an album which is eccentric and addictive in equal measure, from the urgent synth-folk of The Wind That Cried The World to Doom Patrol’s warm electro-rock and the buzzing Krautrock of Women Of Ghent. It’s sonically compelling and occasionally a little baffling, a record made with clear enthusiasm and a need to be led by imaginative leaps and bounds rather than a desire to follow. DP

Download: Clapshot, Doom Patrol

Echo And The Bunnymen

Meteorites

Caroline, £14.99

Star rating: * * *

Now 12 albums and 35 years into their recording career, Liverpool’s other favourite sons remain the kind of band whose output is at once dependable and inflexible in its cleaving to a sound steeped in the familiar. Ian McCulloch’s voice was old before its time, and its grizzled maturity on the title track’s soaring, string-led arc or the ambling, 1980s-esque Is This A Breakdown lends Meteorites real character. There are no songs here to match the best material from their glory days, but nor are there many middling post-Britpop space-fillers like Market Town. For long-time fans, a refreshingly complete and satisfying listen. DP

Download: Is This A Breakdown, Explosions

JAZZ

Enrico Tomasso

Al Dente

Woodville Records WVCD139, £13.99

Star rating: * * * * *

Despite being one of the most in-demand horn players on the British scene – he blew the Edinburgh audience away with a sensational duo gig with pianist Brian Kellock last summer – English trumpeter/flugelhorn player Enrico Tomasso has never released a CD under his own name, until now. It was worth the wait: it’s a wonderful calling card for a trumpeter whose love of Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge shines through on a lovely selection of tunes (he’s had long enough to pick them) which beautifully showcase his burnished tone and lyrical, swinging style. There’s strong, classy accompaniment from John Pearce (piano), Andrew Cleyndert (bass) and Bobby Worth (drums). Alison Kerr

Download: Gone And Crazy

FOLK

Damian Helliwell

Metta

Eigg Records 041401, available online only

Star rating: * * * *

After building his own house and recording studio, the youthful Dàimh mandolin and banjo expert Damian Helliwell produced this self-penned album at his home on the island of Eigg in the company of four musician friends. It is very tidily put together, with bass, drums and piano as accompaniment, and a fiddle adding a sustained note under Damian’s lead on mandolin or more prominent banjo. This is powerful music, but is set apart from an album by the likes of, say, Shooglenifty by a palpable avoidance of danger. It rather lies in the middle of the road, carries joyous and well performed tunes in various traditional idioms, and swings endlessly, if soberly, through 11 contemporary acoustic all-instrumental tracks. Norman Chalmers

Download: Fear Of Askaval

CLASSICAL

Xiaogang Ye

The Macau Bride

Naxos 8.573131, £6.99

Star rating: * * * * *

The most prominent work to date of the Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye, who has written symphonic, chamber and film music, is probably his piano concerto, performed by Lang Lang at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which attracted an audience of three billion people worldwide. The Macau Bride was commissioned as ballet music for the 2001 Macau Arts Festival. As a story, it is a simple tale of the love between a Chinese sailor and the daughter of a Portuguese merchant, set in 17th-century Macau, naturally involving pirates and rescues. Ye’s music is equally simple, immediately attractive, highly tuneful and classically romantic in style. The accompanying Four Poems Of Lingnan is much more formally Chinese in style, using poetry from four eras of Chinese history. Alexander Bryce

Download: Barra Docks

INTRODUCING: GOLDEN TEACHER

Taking their name from a species of magic mushroom, Golden Teacher grew out of the regular Pleasure Garden night at Glasgow’s Art School, following a meeting of minds between noise punk trio Ultimate Thrush and analogue house duo Silk Cut. Their sound brings tribal beats together with psychedelic themes, creating a hypnotically pulsing sound embellished with the soulful vocals of Cassie Oji and Charles Lavenac.

From a core of experimentally minded art pop, their sonic odysseys branch out to encompass a formidable diversity of styles. Once you get inside the music you wonder how you’re ever going to get out, and whether or not you even want to.

Golden Teacher play Barrowland, Glasgow, tonight with Optimo, Todd Terje and Ben UFO. You can listen to them at soundcloud.com/goldenteacher and follow them at facebook.com/goldenteacher.

Hamish Gibson