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Album review roundup: Johnny Marr’s The Messenger

Former The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Picture: AP

Former The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Picture: AP

SUBLIME guitar hero Johnny Marr leaves the safety of a band set-up for the first time (unless you count his work with The Healers) to front his own collection of songs.

JOHNNY MARR: THE MESSENGER * * *

WARNER BROTHERS, £12.99

The Messenger aims to please existing fans and there are traces of that old Smiths magic in his guitar work here. As a singer, Marr passes muster but, with the exception of the shiny pop chorus of The Crack Up and the pleasing wistfulness of New Town Velocity, which recalls his work in Electronic, it is the playing which impresses most, particularly when he unleashes the urgent post-punk guitar thrills of I Want The Heartbeat and Sun & Moon.

LLOYD COLE & HANS JOACHIM ROEDELIUS: SELECTED STUDIES VOL. 1 BUREAU B, ONLINE ONLY

* * *

KEEN Cole watchers will not be so surprised by this latest seemingly unlikely incarnation of the urbane Commotions frontman turned solo troubadour. Twelve years ago Cole released an instrumental electronic album, Plastic Wood, and subsequently struck up a musical correspondence with veteran Krautrock composer Hans Joachim Roedelius which has finally borne fruit on this leisurely procession of electronic soundscapes, ranging from the abstract foreboding of Wandelbar through the sparkling scales of TangoLargo and playful analogue riffing of Fehmarn F/O to the Eno-like melodic balm of Virginie L. Be warned, it’s a long way from Why I Love Country Music.

PETULA CLARK: LOST IN YOU SONY, £12.99

* * *

HAVING served for eight decades at the showbiz coalface, there is no pressing need for national treasure Petula Clark to release a new album, never mind make an effort to try something new. And yet she opens her latest album with Cut Copy Me, a thoroughly modern piece of chillout pop which the likes of Sia or Bat for Lashes would not turn their noses up at. If only the rest of the album sustained such confidence. The fragile piano ballad Lost In You and classy Gallic-style torch number Next To You are dignified additions to her catalogue but a slow, breathy reworking of Downtown, shorn of the original’s expectant optimism, and a clutch of safe covers, including a ponderous Imagine, are surplus to requirements. Respect is due, all the same.

FIONA SHEPHERD

CLASSICAL

SCARLATTI ILLUMINATED: JOSEPH MOOG ONYX, £13.99

* * * *

IN HIS new album, Scarlatti Illuminated, pianist Joseph Moog mixes original versions of the well-known keyboard sonatas with 19th/early-20th century Scarlatti transcriptions by Carl Tausig and Ignaz Friedman, and at the heart of the album includes Walter Gieseking’s original Chaconne on a theme by Scarlatti. It’s a refreshing cocktail, with Moog exhibiting as much flair and stylistic integrity – ice cool lucidity – to Scarlatti’s joyous sonatas as he does to Tausig’s faithful Romantic expansions, Friedman’s grittier elaborations, and Gieseking’s occasionally high-minded Chaconne. Such contrasts throw keen focus on the Baroque originals.

KENNETH WALTON

THE COMPLETE SONGS OF ROBERT TANNAHILL VOLUME III

BRECHIN ALL RECORDS, £13.99 * * * *

THIS third album in the ongoing series, produced by Fred Freeman and presenting the songs of Paisley’s still under-appreciated weaver poet and songwriter, may feature many a couthy pastoral and Irish pastiche, but also much melody and warmth which reach across two centuries, to transcend Tannahill’s sad end at just 36.

The two female singers in particular make a fine job of such engaging material as the cheery pastoral Braes o Glennifer, sung by Fiona Hunter. Lucy Pringle delivers the more elegiac Despairing Mary and The Simmer Gloamin, the latter preluded by lively accordion theatrics from Angus Lyon, while Hunter’s vocals and Stewart Hardy’s fiddle skip along nicely together in Davie Tulloch’s Bonnie Katie.

Among the male vocalists, the seasoned voice of Rod Paterson particularly stands out in the convivial anthem of Fill, Fill the Merry Bowl, while Scottish-based Irishman Brian ÓhEadhra gives rousing voice to The Heilander’s Invitation.

JIM GILCHRIST

JAZZ

KENNY WHEELER, NORMA WINSTONE, LONDON VOCAL PROJECT: MIRRORS

EDITION RECORDS, £12.99

* * * *

WHEN Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone get together, good things tend to happen musically, and this project is no exception.

Winstone delivers Wheeler’s elegant, lyrical settings of poems by Stevie Smith, Lewis Carroll and WB Yeats in her trademark impeccable vocal interpretations, complemented and fleshed out by the singers of the London Vocal Project, under the direction of Pete Churchill, who ensures the choral settings have a distinct jazz feel. Needless to say, that question does not even arise in respect of Winstone’s supple and beautiful jazz phrasing, or the instrumental contributions of the veteran Wheeler on flugelhorn, and the excellent band assembled for the occasion, with saxophonist Mark Lockheart, pianist Nikki Iles, Steve Watts on bass and drummer James Maddren. A classy addition to the already lustrous careers of all concerned.

KENNY MATHIESON

WORLD

BALLAKE SISSOKO: AT PEACE

NO FORMAT, £13.99

* * *

ABLAYE CISSOKO AND VOLKER GOETZE: AMANKE DIONTI

MOTEMA, £12.99

* * * *

“AT PEACE” might cover both these CDs, with their message of a contemplative ideal, though Cissoko’s lyrics actually wade into very contentious waters. One song deals with the exploitation of young women sent from their villages in Senegal to work as slaves for prosperous urban families, while another deals with the corruption which has swallowed up much of the money sent for disaster-relief in Haiti.

For Sissoko – note the similarity of the name, common to many griots, though this kora-player hails from neighbouring Mali – and for his cellist colleague Vincent Segal, the challenge with this new CD was to move on from their critically acclaimed Chamber Music, released in 2009, and here they have roped in 12-string guitarist Aboubacar Diabate, six-string guitarist Moussa Diabate, and balafon-player Fassery Diabate for an extended instrumental exploration of Malian themes.

There are far fewer notes, and much less surface busy-ness, in Amanke Dionti, but musically there’s more going on.

Ablaye Cissoko and trumpeter Volker Goetze blend their voices with respectful decorum, with Cissoko throwing out an idea and Goetze handing it back with gentle modifications. Goetze’s tone – especially when muted – recalls Miles Davis, and although he can’t match the filigree delicacy of the kora’s ornamentations, his trumpet-playing is as refined as it gets.

Recorded in the Bon Secours church in Paris, whose all-wooden quality lends a lovely acoustic, this CD is distinguished by the sheer beauty of its sound. And also by its simplicity: time slips by so agreeably that one scarcely even registers the track changes. The world these musicians have created is a very seductive place to be.

MICHAEL CHURCH

 

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