KUDOS to Alison Moyet for resisting all advances to produce an album of Etta James covers or one of the many other heritage alternatives which have been dangled in front of her by labels.
Alison Moyet: The Minutes
Cooking Vinyl, £13.99
The Minutes has been heralded as her return to electropop but, along with her new musical foil Guy Sigsworth, she has issued a far clubbier proposition than anything she made in Yazoo. Chest-beating, dubstep-infused numbers Changeling and All Signs Of Life could hold their own next to current chart acts such as Rudimental, while she really exercises those lauded tonsils on synth power ballad A Place To Stay and the tastefully overwrought Rung By The Tide. What’s lacking, however, is the emotional warmth Moyet normally brings to her music.
Savages: Silence Yourself
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N THERE are many young bands who affect intensity but few who genuinely sound as tightly coiled as London four-piece Savages do on their debut album. Their cathartic blend of tribal drumming, urgent basslines and holocaust guitars topped with Jehnny Beth’s wounded howl, often rising to a demented, feral shriek, clearly harks back to post-punk heroes Siouxsie & the Banshees and Public Image Ltd, but that’s no hindrance to the full-throttle rush of She Will and No Face. Tunes, you ask? Not so much. But, at a terse 38 minutes long, there isn’t the time or space to get bored – and just when you think you have them sussed, they bow out perversely on the noirish piano and sax prowl of Marshal Dear.
Various: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby
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N AFTER Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann is neck and neck with Danny Boyle in the musically clued-up film director stakes, but it remains to be seen if this patchy, pretentious soundtrack for The Great Gatsby has more impact when married to the visuals. There is the usual silliness from will.i.am and Fergie (on separate tracks) who appear to think they are scoring Bugsy Malone with their cheesy Charleston sampling. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra provide a more authentic Jazz Age backdrop for Ferry’s reinterpretation of Love Is The Drug and Emeli Sande’s cover of Crazy In Love. Beyonce herself shows up on the arm of Andre 3000 for a rather precious take on Back To Black, supplemented with slowed-down and twanged-up riff from Blondie’s Atomic, while Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch, braying like she has never brayed before, join her for the photo op on the red carpet.
Britten & Shostakovich: James Ehnes
Onyx, online only
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N TWO fantastic concertos and one outstanding violinist: what’s not to like about this stunning coupling of Britten’s biting, Spanish-flavoured 1938 Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s sweetly pungent Violin Concerto No 1 of a decade later, featuring the violinist James Ehnes?
The solo playing is immaculate, Ehnes combining power and intensity with a quality of tone that is molten, luscious and superbly consistent.
Conductor Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra provide a cushion of support that is atmospheric and alert. There are plenty of fun moments in both concertos, but overall this is a disc that presents serious stuff in a lustrous, compelling way.
The John Langan Band: Bones Of Contention
Own Label, online only
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N FALLEN angels, pursuing demons and wry Glaswegian street cameos are borne on a wave of Balkan intensity in this high-energy band’s debut album. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Langan, fiddler/mandolinist Alastair Caplin and double-bassist Dave Tunstall have made their reputation as a live band: this album reflects their occasionally rough-edged but compelling, take-no-prisoners style.
The manic opener, Aquaplane, starts with an a cappella chorus before shifting into the gypsy-ish top gear which informs much of the album, while Langan delivers with authority the more measured and bitter lyricism of Winter Song.
Brittle harmonics usher in the swagger then manic swing of Pumpkin Pie, while a barrage of fiddle, bass and Langan’s accordion propels Midgets on Acid. Streets of Glasgow combines dark and feverish drive with overtones of Brecht and Weill while things get scarier in the shadowy Demons – a folky echo, dare I suggest, of the late Alex Harvey.
Joshua Redman: Walking Shadows
Nonesuch Records, £13.99
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N AN ALL-BALLAD album generally constitutes one of the expected stopping points on any major jazz musician’s journey, and Joshua Redmond certainly qualifies in that category these days. He has opted for the jazz-with-strings route, embellishing the superb core band featuring pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade with orchestral arrangements conducted by Dan Coleman on a number of selections. Redman’s choice of material spans familiar ballads from the jazz legacy, including the Kern-Hammerstein staple The Folks Who Live On The Hill, Billy Strayhorn’s tricky Lush Life, Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust and Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes, and less obvious but very effective treatments of John Mayer’s Stop This Train and Blonde Redhead’s Doll Is Mine. JS Bach and Lennon & McCartney also get a look in, while both the saxophonist and Mehldau contribute their own compositions to a lush and refined set.
Debashish Bhattacharya and Friends: Beyond the Ragasphere
Riverboat/World Music Network, £11.99
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N LAST week Bob Brozman took his own life at the age of 59, and rather than dwelling on the miserable reason why – a degenerative muscle disorder which prevented him playing his beloved Hawaiian guitar – it’s more appropriate to celebrate his achievements. To describe him as he himself did – a “roving guitar anthropologist” – is putting it mildly: his collaborations ranged from Northern Ireland and the American Midwest to India and Papua New Guinea. When I interviewed him he was fired up by the results of his work on the fringes of colonialism, where Western instruments and styles found their way into non-Western hands, and where interesting things happened as a result – like accordions in Madagascar, or the way German alpine yodelling surfaced in Hawaiian music. He regarded islands as natural laboratories, and in them he carried out his own experiments. In Okinawa he made Jin Jin Firefly and Nankuru Naisa, his delightful meldings of guitar, sanshin, and voice with Takashi Hirayasu. On the tiny island of Reunion he joined up with the multi-talented Rene Lacaille to produce Digdig, whose infectious sweetness makes you think blues guitar and Creole timbres were made for each other.
His CD Mahima, meanwhile, saw him blending his slide with the subtly melismatic swoops of Debashish Bhattacharya’s Indian variant. That CD had brought Brozman back full-circle, since Bhattacharya’s tutor was himself tutored by the venerable Hawaiian maestro with whom Brozman made his first record, after rescuing him from obscurity. This new CD brings Debashish himself full-circle, in that he jams in an exhilaratingly exploratory way with his own long-time collaborator John McLaughlin, as well as with his younger brother Subhasis and his teenage daughter, the singer Anandi Bhattacharya. Thus does Brozman’s spirit live on.