POP, Jazz, Folk and Classical
RELEASE OF THE WEEK
FALL OUT BOY
Folie Deux ***
Mercury 1788407, 12.72
If Simon Cowell ever created a rock act, he would want that band to be Fall Out Boy. A massive commercial concern in their native United States, it is a masterfully vapid product, meticulously pressing all the right buttons, a listening sensation akin to having your ears syringed.
"I've got troubled thoughts and self-esteem to match," strain Patrick Stump's nasal tones by way of introduction to 'What A Catch, Donny', then three minutes in he is harmonised by no less a credible music persona than Elvis Costello.
But what's the crime in doing the occasional corporate gig to pay the bills? Or maybe the erstwhile angriest man of the post-punk new wave just thinks Pete Wentz has some decent tunes. Evidently Kanye West and Lil' Wayne do, cropping up on the leaden 'Tiffany Blews' to no great effect. More effective is Deborah Harry, who fashions something of a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is 'West Coast Smoker'. Even she can't stop it sounding like an artist's impression of punk rock.
'20 Dollar Nosebleed' boasts a chorus based on Benzedrine and is bizarrely like a funky version of a Lloyd Webber number.
The sound of the Chicago suburbs is purified pop rock, borrowing liberally from musical history, with 'I Don't Care' lifting Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit In The Sky' guitar riff wholesale, without a trace of embarrassment.
Download this: What A Catch, Donny
ROCK & POP
Shake & Shout **
Exzess TBHCD005, 12.72
Who says the Germans lack a sense of humour? This country and western take on popular contemporary hits is faintly amusing, but Hayseed Dixie went there years earlier.
Still, what is not to like about Teutonic types pretending to be from the American hinterlands, covering the Belgian Plastic Bertrand's hit 'a Plane Pour Moi'. In French. With guest vocals from Plastic himself.
When it works it is a good laugh. When it does not it's a horrendous cultural car crash.
Download this: Jesus Built My Hotrod, Shake & Shout
J Records, 12.72
Smooth and slick to the point of stupefaction, the multitalented Mr Foxx's new album suggests the Oscar-winning actor may just be spreading his talent too thin.
'Digital Girl', with the ubiquitous Kanye West, is music made for machines by machines, with a couple of human guest cameos.
'Number One' is guilty of the same robotic soul posturing, and there are so many big-name producers involved, it sounds like they are falling over one another trying to stamp any identity on these identikit tunes.
This is a right Craig David of a record.
Download this: I Don't Know, Just Like Me
Cruel Little World ***
Logan LOGCD007, 10.76
The Glasgow rockers have enjoyed the kind of year that has rewarded hard work, opening for Bon Jovi at Hampden and touring Europe with Alter Bridge. This remastered and embellished release makes all the right rock noises. Vocalist Kenny Collins does a very good Eddie Vedder on 'Hallowed Ground', and a handsome Chad Kroeger on power ballad 'Tell Me'.
The single 'Lost & Found' promises most of the mainstream success Logan clearly crave, but after slogging away for five years, the band need to find more songs where that came from or it will not get any easier.
Download this: Lost & Found, Out Of Mind
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL
Acis & Galatea *****
Linn CKD319, 13.70
Mention the Earl of Carnarvon and most people might cite the fifth Earl's sponsorship of the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, but an earlier Earl, James Brydges, deserves credit for letting Handel use his house at Cannons outside London for a year to explore new approaches to music.
Acis & Galatea was one result, but if it can be described as a new approach, that's perhaps because it's an opera in which not much happens onstage: boy loves girl, giant loves girl, giant kills boy, girl turns boy into fountain. But the whole thing is sung with such a sense of fun, you can almost hear this splendid cast enjoying themselves under John Butt's direction.
Download this: Shepherd, What Art Thou Pursuing?
Cielo e mar *****
Deutsche Grammophon 477 7224, 12.72
'Forgotten gems' is the cover comment on the contents of this CD; more accurately, Mexican tenor Rolando Villazn sings arias from operas that aren't staged as often as others, but are none the worse for that. Granted, the plot of Cilea's 'Adriana Lecouvreur' may involve death by poisoned violets, but Verdi's 'Simon Boccanegra' and 'Luisa Miller' turn up every year somewhere on the professional stage.
If Villazn has delved deep to come up with his arias, he has found music that is both familiar and not, and sings both with equal gusto. There's not a dud here.
Download this: La dolcissima effigie sorridente
Lost In The Day ***
Brechin All Records CDBAR004, 12.72
The debut album from the Borders songwriter mixes Scots and English traditional, Richard Thompson, and local bucolic beauties like the 'Broom Of The Cowdenknowes' and 'Borderland,' with his own songs, nearly all written about suffering wayward love in a hangover. If his vocal articulation is sometimes less clear, he's a very capable, confident guitarist and drives the songs along in sweet company with fiddles, cello, low whistle and accordion.
Download this: Kelvin's Purling Stream
JOHN McCUSKER AND VARIOUS ARTISTS
Under One Sky ****
Navigator Records, Navigator3, 12.72
Polishedsound quality, careful production values and with quality studio performances from the large cast of musicians and singers culled from "both sides the Tweed", this album of the touring show that unites Scotland and England musically holds but seven (long) tracks. McCusker writes most of the music, with lyrics by Roddy Woomble, John Tams and Julie Fowlis (in Gaelic). Blur's Graham Coxon contributes a bleak beauty, and moving young Devon singer Jim Causley should be heard widely. In this close-run match, England might just come out ahead.
Download this: Will I See Thee More
Verve Remixed Christmas ***
Verve 0602517848627, 10.76
Over the past few years, Verve has released a number of compilations of classic recordings remixed by today's hottest DJs. This Christmas selection is one of the best so far, with everyone from Mel Torme to Jimmy Smith given the remix treatment. Some are more extreme than others, but those who come off sounding as if they might win a new generation of fans include Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing (on the Count Basie track) and Nina Simone.
Download this: Count Basie/Real Tuesday, Weld Clerkenwell Remix of Good Morning Blues, Billie Holiday/Yesking Remix of I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
The Al Fairweather Collection 1953-1957 ****
Lake LACD 260, 12.72
This bargain double CD (two discs for the price of one) features a veritable Who's Who of the British jazz scene of the '50s; the common denominator in the diverse line-ups being Edinburgh jazz great Al Fairweather. His majestic trumpet is complemented here by everyone from his regular collaborator, maverick clarinettist Sandy Brown to American blues singer Brother John Sellers. Also featured on this must-have for Fairweather and Brown aficionados are Humphrey Lyttelton, Stan Greig, Albert Nicholas and Wally Fawkes.
Download this: Pauline's Blues, Nobody's Sweetheart Now