Father John Misty takes the weight of the world on his shoulders, while Roger Daltrey rolls back the years
Father John Misty: God’s Favorite Customer (Bella Union) ****
Roger Daltrey: As Long As I Have You (Polydor) ***
Neil Young + Promise of the Real: Paradox (Reprise) **
Various: Tiger Selections (Little Tiger Records) ***
The last time we met Josh Tillman in his charismatic musical preacher guise as Father John Misty he delivered a lengthy, wide-ranging and impressively ambitious sermon on the folly of man. He returns after a period of soul-searching and living in hotels with a more personal perspective on life’s travails than the panoramic Pure Comedy.
God’s Favorite Customer contains humorous scenes, but Tillman has dialled down the caustic sarcasm to deliver this postcard from the brink via a number of his signature melodramatic piano ballads, such as plain confessional The Palace or the score-settling The Songwriter.
Mr Tillman offers a breezy balance of narcissism and self-loathing – two prime qualities for songwriters, it should be said – but there is much more humility and self-doubt on this record. He shoulders the weight of the world on the cosmic country twang of Please Don’t Die, contemplates transgression and forgiveness on the bittersweet country gospel of the title track, with angelic embellishment from Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood, and offers some accessible existentialism on the elegantly escalating We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That).
None of this will be a surprise to his acolytes, but the pithier focus of God’s Favorite Customer might win Father John Misty some additional disciples.
Where contemporaries such as Robert Plant have gone soft and sultry in their old age, The Who’s frontman Roger Daltrey is determined to show off his vocal guns on his latest solo album, with a mix of originals and covers which attest to his love of rhythm’n’blues, and feature his old chum Pete Townsend on guitar-slinging duties.
He launches straight into Garnet Mimms’ As Long As I Have You with an almost desperate vigour, but this hoary take on a northern soul stomper is a touch laboured in its execution. He also over-eggs the rhythm’n’blues testifying on Where’s A Man To Go, which teeters on the edge of pub rock territory, and gives it the old join-together over squalling saxophone on Get On Out The Rain.
He fares better when he reins in the rock frontman and digs into the song with a looser delivery worthy of our own Frankie Miller on I’ve Got Your Love. But he’s not the man to tackle Nick Cave’s Into My Arms, being more suited to the gravelly Tom Waits-like ballad Always Heading Home.
Neil Young continues to please himself on Paradox, a shambling soundtrack to the Netflix film of the same name written and directed by Daryl Hannah and featuring Young and his current collaborators Promise of the Real as a band of mountain-dwelling outlaws. Accordingly, there is some front porch noodling and muffled chat mixed in with extempore electric guitar instrumentals, recorded in the moment with no overdubs, and the occasional sighting of an actual song, such as a fragile Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground by Willie Nelson, father of POTR’s Lukas and Micah.
Tiger Selections is a compilation of unsigned Scottish bands curated by the students on the music business course at Glasgow’s Riverside Music College and released on their own Little Tiger Records. It’s a mixed bag in terms of style and quality, with blithe but disposable indie canters from Retro Video Club and Sway, alongside rockers Shredd and falsetto funk from Fauves. Tongues’ sleek synth pop is of the moment but it’s the more timeless torch song selections from Edwin Organ and Fenella which linger longest.
Paganini: 24 Caprices (LSO) *****
Nothing quite tests a violinist’s virtuosity like an acrobatic dose of Paganini Caprices. In this electrifying double disc we get all 24, played with gutsy assuredness by Roman Simovic, leader of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Simovic colours each with its own character and hue, from the sparkling leaps and bounds of L’Arpeggio to the incanting trill and octaves of No3; the rustic rigour of La Chasse to the mesmerising exoticism of The Trill; the cynical sniggers that give the Devil’s Laughter its apt soubriquet to the final Caprice – that famous theme and variations which later inspired Rachmaninov and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
There is a brilliant combination of consistency and diversity in these performances, which are jaw-dropping at times. If an orchestra – and this is their own label – is to be gauged on the ability of its leader, then the London Symphony Orchestra must be some band.
Will Pound: Through the Seasons: A Year in Morris and Folk Dance (Lulubug Records) ****
Forget jokes about bells and hankies, this is frequently exhilarating music, performed by harmonica and melodeon ace Will Pound. With sterling associates including accordionist John Kirkpatrick, Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzouki and fiddler Ross Grant, he ranges through local Morris and other ritual dance traditions, from the Cotswolds to Orkney. Getting Upstairs / Rodney kicks off the album with irresistible gusto, Pound dons his dancing clogs and beats a drum to deliver Sousa’s Liberty Bell March with exuberant swagger, while the recorded bustle of Saddleworth’s Rushcart parade can be heard before the full ensemble crack in with Brighton Camp. Pianist Suzanne Fivey and the Newcastle Kingsmen bring much ebullience to Blackthorn Stick and there’s a zesty tribute to the landmark Morris On album of the early Seventies in Eliza Carthy’s The Nutting Girl.