THE Take That austerity drive continues. In a year in which they shed both Robbie Williams for a second time and Jason Orange, there’s something about this offering from three-fifths of Britain’s most successful manband which suggests it’s not quite the full deal.
The Take That austerity drive continues. In a year in which they shed both Robbie Williams for a second time and Jason Orange, there’s something about this offering from three-fifths of Britain’s most successful manband which suggests it’s not quite the full deal.
True, Gary Barlow’s songwriting was a major component of both their initial acclaim and the unprecedented success of their 2006 comeback with Beautiful World, which has spawned three follow-ups and a bunch of cash-hoovering concert tours. But this album does the minimum required from a Take That release, acting as a vehicle for a handful of hits which can be slotted into the stadium set.
The record’s first number-one single, These Days, is fairly drab, all watered-down affirmative sentiments with a hint of a club-friendly piano edge, a trope also used on Let In The Sun. There’s a vague Balearic sound to Lovelife too, an anthem for those who never went to Ibiza but just bought the compilations.
Where Barlow and a production team including ELO’s Jeff Lynne and regular collaborator Stuart Price pull back from the born-again raver clichés and let modern pop sounds bleed in is where the music sounds most convincing – for example the big-budget falsetto ’n’ synth grind of I Like It, or Give You My Love’s Chvrches-style electro-soul. As the album progresses, the glossy and dramatic Get Ready For It gives way to the more reserved – if autopiloted – reflections of Amazing and Do It All For Love, both somehow more satisfying musical statements for middle-aged men to be making.
Download: I Like It, Get Ready For It
Rock Or Bust
Originally given the working title Man Down – a reference to Malcolm Young’s sad departure from the band following his dementia diagnosis – this latest release from AC/DC is no classic, yet it’s perfectly in tune with a group who have only ever driven in the same high gear, with Angus Young and his nephew Stevie sparring with strident, flaring guitar riffs over thundering, suggestive standouts like Play Ball and Hard Times. Only this band could swaggeringly dish out a track called Got Some Rock ’n’ Roll Thunder or make doing the same thing they have done for 40 years sound so vibrant. If this ends up being goodbye, what a way to go. DP
Download: Play Ball, Baptism By Fire
Last Chance Bordello
Glasgow’s first and as far as we know only 2-Tone meets indie-pop group here release their third album in 18 years. Belle & Sebastian trumpeter Mick Cooke and members of Remember Remember and Bis are among the 14 musicians joining bandleader Gordon Davidson for a lively and cleanly produced set reminiscent of a kind of Celtic Madness. Jane Chalmers’ vocal contributions lend winsome tenderness. DP
Download: House On A Hill, Leaving
It’s Christmas On Mack Avenue
Mack Avenue MAC1090
‘Tis the season of the festive compilation, and Michigan-based independent label Mack Avenue has launched its addition to the already impressive genre of Christmas jazz releases, featuring diverse names from its roster of artists – among them Christian McBride and Cecile McLorin Salvant. Highlights include saxophonist Tia Fuller’s wistful Little Drummer Boy and Cyrille Aimée’s charming Let It Snow. Alison Kerr
In The Wake Of Neil Gunn
Unroofed Records UR001CD
This sound odyssey takes its cue from the 1937 sail-boat passage up the west coast by the late, great Scots visionary writer Neil Gunn. Last year Mike Vass, with some friends, emulated the voyage and here he translates his vision into sound – all original instrumental, with his own fiddle, tenor guitar and mandolin enriched by guest piano, flute, oboe, clarsach, bass and string quartet. Strong, direct melodies navigate through dense and powerful textures. Norman Chalmers
Download: Settled In Clay
Melodiya MEL CD 10 02237
The Russian pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky’s view of his many recordings ranged for the positive to the highly negative. Today, 53 years after his death, his recordings are the only means we have of appreciating his undoubted talent. One CD of this twin-disc album features piano music recorded in 1960, in the form of mazurkas, a Polonaise and waltzes by Chopin, the Schubert/Liszt Litanie and Liszt’s Sposalizio. The second CD is devoted to Alexander Scriabin. Even where the recordings are less than perfect, the technique is evident, never less than deeply felt and masterly in execution. Alexander Bryce
Download: Scriabin, Three Pieces, Op 2: No 1 Etude in C sharp minor