OUR music critics give their verdicts on the week’s latest CD releases
Maroon 5: Overexposed
A&M Octone, £12.99
AS THE commercial triumph of Maroon 5’s frothy meisterwork Moves Like Jagger proved, it’s never too late for a dull, middle-of-the-road pop rock band to change their stripes. But there is an art to producing musical candyfloss and Maroon 5 cannot match its whistling keyboard hook and irresistible irritant of a chorus anywhere else on this album, try as they might to bring about their cheesy pop rebirth with the sort of rudimentary rhymes, vacuous tunes, tinny disco and strangulated tenor vocals which would have been strictly boy-band territory about ten years ago.
Macy Gray: Covered
YOU could never accuse Macy Gray of being a conventional character but, even by her oddball standards, Covered is a thoroughly bizarre exercise on which she abandons her trademark husky soul for a bunch of unexpected covers of mainly alternative rock songs, undercut by random, unfunny skits performed with the likes of Nicole Scherzinger and MC Lyte. Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, Radiohead’s Creep and Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain Again are all given a spacey yet funereal treatment. In contrast, Arcade Fire’s Wake Up is jauntily rendered, while Gray seems to be racing herself to the finishing line on Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Maps. Next to these aberrations, her version of My Chemical Romance’s satirical, sneering Teenagers actually works.
Regina Spektor: What We Saw From The Cheap Seats
IF YOU have never entered Regina world before then the accessible chamber pop of current single All The Rowboats, Spektor’s whimsical response to pictures at an exhibition, is as good a starting point as any to her intuitive musical flow. What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is typical but not outstanding Spektor – fluid piano ballads, sweet, slightly mannered singing with the occasional use of a more theatrical tone or vocal effect (there’s even some lo-fi beatboxing), the disarming delivery of a dark and/or devastating line and an overall winsome perspective on life and love. Charming though her schtick generally is, it might be time for this talented and idiosyncratic songwriter to try out different modes.
Fernando Lopes-Graca: Symphony for Orchestra
HERE’S something that will refresh the musical taste buds. For this is a disc of music by Fernando Lopes-Graca, a Portuguese composer who lived through all but 12 years of the 20th century, and whose music is a delightful celebration of the folk tradition of his native country, tinged with a mildly dissonant style that gives a rustic pungency to such touching orchestral works as the Rustic Suite No 1, the plaintive December Poem, the flamboyant Festival March and the catchy vitality of the 1944 Symphony for Orchestra. It’s not the world’s most original music, but Alvaro Cassuto – a former pupil of the composer – clearly believes in it, eliciting lively and affectionate performances from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Bobby Wellins: Birds of Brazil
HEP Records, £10.99
SAXOPHONIST Bobby Wellins’ Birds of Brazil suite was briefly available on disc in the 1980s, but quickly disappeared and has been hard to find since.
Alastair Robertson has remedied that loss with this reissue of the three-part composition and the three standards which made up the original album, and has added a previously unreleased solo segment by the late pianist in the quartet, Pete Jacobsen.
Both the suite and the supporting music stand up well to the passage of time. Birds of Brazil was inspired by the threat to endangered species around the world, and written for the saxophonist’s quartet of the period (1982), augmented by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, percussionist Chris Karan and a string section arranged by Tony Coe. The often poignant suite illustrates a slightly different facet of Wellins’ music to his more familiar compositions, and confirms his standing as both composer and improviser.
Alastair Savage: Secrets from the Kitty
WOODLAND RECORDS, www.alastairsavage.co.uk
THIS third album of compositions from fiddler Alastair Savage, who inhabits both folk and classical worlds, combines some spectacular fireworks with a feel for sweet melancholy. His accomplished fiddling is ably complemented by his regular sidemen, double-bassist Iain Crawford and Euan Drysdale on piano and on a bluesy acoustic guitar which breaks out in the hoedown of Winter Blue and the hard-driving One of Those Weeks set.
Occasionally I felt I was listening to fiddle pyrotechnics rather than tunes that will stick, but I particularly enjoyed A Vanishing Way of Life, with its mysterious fiddle harmonics and elegiac piano and fiddle suggesting the soundtrack of a sad film, before a high-tension percussive bridge leads into an explosion of energy in One Chance to Celebrate. Savage also plays with great soul in the resonant double-stopping of Alright With You and duets beautifully with piano in the plaintive Evening Song.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east