Stadium-filling Coldplay embrace world music, blues and folk in their fascinating new album, Everyday Life
Coldplay: Everyday Life (Parlophone) ****
Beck: Hyperspace (Capitol) ***
Ronnie Wood with his Wild Five: Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry (BMG) **
Coldplay have reached the point in their career where they can either remain comfortable and complacent in their status as the nation’s favourite blandly anthemic singalong nice guys, or they can release an experimental double concept album which flirts with world music, blues and folk traditions.
So they’ve gone with the latter, teasingly announced via a quirky combination of international billboards, typewritten letters to fans and classified ads in local newspapers, and launched yesterday via two livestreamed concerts in Amman, Jordan, one at sunrise, the other at sunset.
Everyday Life, ironically, makes a refreshing change from the usual vacuous bombast. Calling it experimental, conceptual or even double (it clocks in at a fairly trim 53 minutes) might be pushing it, however. Different or relatively imaginative might be more appropriate descriptions of the tender simplicity and direct appeal of its various musical flirtations, from chamber instrumental Sunrise to the light, uncluttered Church to the brooding dynamics of Trouble in Town and the acoustic campfire number WOTW/POTP.
There are even some genuine surprises, such as Chris Martin leading a lo-fi, spontaneous and infectious gospel powwow on Brok Enor and the Saharan desert rock, Afro jazz trumpet and French lyrics which infuse Arabesque with an uncontrived exoticism before it climaxes in a burst of trancey euphoria.
Mostly, the songs are more engaging propositions when not swathed in the usual expensive gauzey production, from the folky finger-picking of Old Friends to the bluesy swing of Cry Cry Cry, and from the hymnal When I Need A Friend to the lullaby Eko.
Martin is a little less woolly and impressionistic in his sentiments, taking aim at the arms industry on the pacey acoustic protest strum Guns and using the words of medieval Persian poet Saadi Shirazi on Bani Adam (“Children of Adam”) as a reminder that there has always been more to unite us than divide us.
The happy/sad title track also explores the common ground of humanity (“everyone hurts, everyone cries”) in more typically banal Coldplay style but by this stage the band have done enough to shift themselves away from the middle of the road and into more rewarding, less predictable territory.
Martin also shows up on the new album by Beck, a musician with an established track record for subverting expectations. On this occasion, he follows the rather anaemic Colors with this dream – and dreamy – collaboration with Pharrell Williams. Hyperspace is the sound of two funky dudes taming their party tendencies for the light funk lassitude of Uneventful Days, a meditation on the void left by Beck’s split from his actress wife Marissa Ribisi. The yearning for a turnaround in romantic fortunes suffuses Die Waiting, along with Edge-style reverberating guitar.
Proceedings perk up with the processed blues and terse martial beats of Saw Lightning, a fun and funky end of times vision. Overall Hyperspace is a mellow state of affairs, capturing that 2am fuzziness on the floaty electro funk of Dark Places and the desire to bliss out with the celestial and narcotic imagery of Stratosphere.
Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood opens the first of three tributes to his musical heroes with a feeble original song in homage to the late, great Chuck Berry. He is on safer ground when he gets stuck into Berry’s own songs in the rip-roaring company of singer Imelda May, who enlivens everything she touches with her bluesy rasp, and pianist Ben Waters, who tears it up in honky tonk style while Wood unleashes some mean slide guitar.
Mad Lad was recorded live at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne, Dorset and it’s hard to shake the impression that you probably had to be there to derive maximum enjoyment from this well-intentioned but standard celebration. Fiona Shepherd
Andrea Bocelli: Sì Forever (Decca) ***
Andrea Bocelli should stick to what he’s good at. He is not “the classical heavyweight” some reviewers claim he is. Nor could he hold his own with genuine operatic tenors – the voice lacks expressive range, purity of focus and flexible characterisation. But he has a distinctive vocal signature – a heart-warming gravelly crackle that kicks in like the overdrive on a supercharged sports car. His latest album, Sì Forever, is an amalgam of all that works, and all that doesn’t, for Bocelli. Forget the opening number, Alla Gioia, a force-fed arrangement of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy ratcheted up a key each verse. It starts miserably low for the tenor. And his Danny Boy is pub standard – Bocelli does not sound comfortable singing in English. More enjoyable are various collaborative tracks with Ellie Goulding (Return to Love), Jennifer Garner (Dormi Dormi), Ed Sheeran (Amo Soltanto Te), son Matteo Bocelli (Fall On Me), and the numerous solo numbers that fit the fêted voice. Ken Walton
Keith Jarrett: Munich 2016 (ECM Records) ****
Clearly well recovered from his bout of chronic fatigue syndrome, virtuosic piano improviser Keith Jarrett adds yet another iconic live solo recording to the tally he has chalked up since his best-selling Köln Concert of 1975. This double album finds him in inspired form, with improvisations – simply numbered Parts I-XII – ranging from austerely churning polyrhythms to rich blues and gospel-inflected excursions. The stealthy, nocturnal melancholy of Part II, for instance, might give way to the warm gospel of Part III, the gently rhapsodic V, or the bluesy roll of a subsequent track. Elsewhere, there’s the brief, angular dash of VII or the lusty boogieing of IX, with Jarrett’s characteristic vocalising droning contentedly in the background. He finishes with a triple encore including a hauntingly beautiful deliberation on It’s a Lonesome Old Town and his characteristic sign-off of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Jim Gilchrist