Album reviews: Editors | Michael Chapman | Classical | Jazz | Folk

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With the departure of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz last year, Editors have moved on, or at least away, from the sub-Joy Division angst to arena pop territory.


Editors: The Weight Of Your Love

play it again sam, £13.99

Star rating: * *

Current single A Ton Of Love, a brazen bash at aping U2’s driving, soaring style, and the slightly overcooked Arabian string-soaked noir of Sugar at least exploit Tom Smith’s stadium-sized baritone but the polished production on this fourth album pitches them onto the indiefied MOR slurry heap alongside Coldplay, The Script et al. And who’s ever heard of those guys, right?


Michael Chapman: Wrecked Again 
light in the attic, £13.99

Star rating: * * *

Seattle label Light In The Attic continue their noble quest to unearth neglected gems from the archives with this re-issue of Michael Chapman’s fourth album, originally released in 1971 on the Harvest label. Wrecked Again was the Yorkshire singer/songwriter’s attempt at making a Memphis soul album, which manifests as a soothing place between folk, jazz, rock, pop and psych. It marries trippy Pink Floydian guitar with peppy brass and strings on the title track and recalls Mike Nesmith for the country quirk, Lee Hazlewood for the hangdog soul and even Neil Diamond for the sweep of Shuffleboat River Farewell.



Robert Zuidam: McGonagall-Lieder

challenge classics, £14.99

Star rating: * * * *

Strange as it may seem, the text source for this intriguing song cycle by contemporary Dutch composer Robert Zuidam is two poems by Scotland’s acknowledged best bad poet, William McGonagall. Maybe it’s true to say that bad poetry begets inspirational music, because Zuidam’s McGonagall-Lieder – a sequence of two sung and three instrumental pieces – is strikingly colourful and illuminating. Coloratura soprano grasps the theatricality of the athletic vocal writing with bristling virtuosity – like a latter-day Jane Manning – while conductor Oliver Knussen ignites equal vigour from the small instrumental ensemble. Fun, and thoroughly eccentric.



Martin Simpson: Vagrant Stanzas

Topic Records, £13.99

Star rating: * * * *

A time served English folk singer and guitarist who spent 15 years living in New Orleans, Martin Simpson combines consummate skills in fingerstyle guitar, slide playing and banjo with an outstanding ability to articulate the matter of a song without becoming thirled to the accompaniment, whether to the lonely whine of his slide playing or with a full-blown band. Here, however, with the help of producer and Sheffield neighbour Richard Hawley, he has come up with an intimate solo set, ranging from the gentle Mississippi holler of Diamond Joe to such elemental balladry as Waly Waly and a fine variant of The Wife of Usher’s Well, Lady Gay. He ranges through contemporary material from Dylan and Cohen, as well as Chris Wood’s beautifully wry atheist’s anthem, Come Down Jehovah, while his own Delta Dreams fondly evokes a trip through the US’s Deep South in a ’55 Chevy.



Leo Blanco: Pianoforte

own label, Web only

Star rating: * * * *

The Venezuelan pianist is in Scotland this week as part of a UK tour marking the release of this fine solo set, recorded in a former seminary that is now a theatre in his home town of Merida. Evidence of the building’s former use is aurally evident in the occasional chiming of bells heard on the recording, which Blanco turns into a musical dialogue, including the short closing track, Haiku for Bells and Piano. The selections on the disc were made both with and without an audience in the building, and illustrate the pianist’s compelling gift for melodic and rhythmic invention, and his subtle use of the wide spectrum of tonal colour and dynamics available from the excellent piano. Several pieces are specifically designated as improvisations, but his improvisational flair is equally evident in his treatment of his attractive compositions.



Lili Boniche: Anthologie

WVF, £15.99

Star rating: * * * *

What first strikes the ear is the timbre, like Aznavour’s stripped of its husky warmth: and indeed Aznavour did sing covers of some of his best-known songs. Lili Boniche (1921-2008) had an extraordinary career, beginning humbly in the Casbah of Algiers but acquiring national stardom thanks to the weekly radio programme he was given at 15, then moving on to stardom in Paris. The ‘Francarab’ style he created drew on Caribbean and Latin-American forms, but the classical Arabo-Andalusian music he grew up with in his Jewish family remained his speciality. Compelling.