OUR music critics review the latest releases, including new albums by The Corrs and John Schofield
POP: The Corrs: White Light | Rating: ** | East West
Never underestimate the broad appeal of a sanitised Celtic sound. The Corrs built a career on it, then took a ten-year hiatus and have returned with not a rupture in the ranks, looking as sleek and sounding as airbrushed as ever.
White Light is a collection of mid-to-snail-paced pleasantries from the cosy Fleetwood Mac-lite of I Do What I Like via the polished riverdance of Gerry’s Reel and solemn peach march of Harmony to the chiming family harmonies of Ellis Island, their insipid hymn to the immigrant experience, and functionally bland Nashville-style ballads Strange Romance and Kiss of Life which drift in one ear and out the other.
POP: Various: Body of Songs | Rating: *** | Bodyofsongs.co.uk
The idea behind this project is more intriguing than the musical results. Ten artists from the worlds of folk, indie, hip-hop and electronica have written a song about a different organ of the body, exploring its properties with a little background insight from medical experts and responding forensically, metaphorically and sometimes playfully to their research. Dave Okumu of The Invisible produces an opaque mood piece about the heart, while Raf of The 2 Bears treats the appendix as a misunderstood adolescent and Sam Lee embraces the underappreciated nose in his offbeat ode. Overall, though, many of the tracks sound more clinical than visceral. Fiona Shepherd
CLASSICAL: Cappella Nova: Tavener conducts Tavener | Rating: **** | Linn
Here’s a lovely disc celebrating the connections that Glasgow-based choir Cappella Nova enjoyed with the late Sir John Tavener over a quarter of a century, not least the familial link with Cappella Nova’s director Alan Tavener.
There are numerous premiere recordings here, and a symbolic framing of the programme by sections from the luminescent three-hour “magnum opus” Resurrection, written by Tavener for the choir in 1990.
There are, of course, favourites such as The Lamb, but also a delightful range of compositions showing Tavener in more varied light – the resplendent Sunrise In Your Heart, for instance.
A specially-commissioned tribute from his pupil Ivan Moody – O isplendor – bears an obvious stylistic link, almost medieval in parts, but is a refreshingly opulent contrast. Ken Walton
FOLK: Battlefield Band: Beg & Borrow | Rating: **** | Temple Records
The Battlefield Band, currently reduced to a trio of fiddler Alasdair Whyte, piper Mike Katz and guitarist-singer Sean O’Donnell, bulk up by recruiting a host of guests from Scotland, Ireland and beyond for a lively spree.
There are the expected jigs and reels aplenty, as well as engaging contributions from guests, such as the Gaelic verses Christine Primrose adds to the Blantyre Explosion, in memory of the Irish and Highland miners who died in Scotland’s worst mining disaster, in 1877. There’s also a stirring meeting of Irish and Scots Gaelic cultures in her translation of the great Irish Jacobite anthem An Gille Mear which she sings in plangent harmony with Nuala Kennedy.
Other guests include Mike Whellans adding a bluesy squall of harmonica to a march and reel set, transatlantic harmonica and fiddle sounds from Don Meade and Tony DeMarco and the crisp rattle of Jim Kilpatrick’s snare drum, but the vital core of it all remains White, Katz and O’Donnell in full flight.
JAZZ: John Scofield: Past Present | Rating: **** | Impulse!
John Scofield’s return to his quartet with saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Bill Stewart (although with Larry Grenadier on bass this time around), draws deeply and stylishly on the blues roots of jazz. The album’s credentials are stated succinctly in numbers such as the sultry progress of Slinky and the sassy strut of Get Proud, Scofield’s blues-tinged guitar and Lovano’s sax sounding in tight unison or trading breaks, combining muscle with loose-limbed grace.
Get Proud is one of three tracks whose titles poignantly reference Schofield’s son, Evan, who succumbed to cancer in 2013 (another Mr Puffy, was Scofield’s affectionate nickname for him while he went through chemotherapy). But while the album title may strike an elegiac note, as memorials go this is a determinedly positive and life-affirming one.
There is, for example, plenty of pep in Chap Dance, not least in Stewart’s stick work, Hangover proves a surprisingly light-hearted stroll, while Grenadier’s springy bass propels further slick sax-guitar duetting on the exuberant title track. Jim Gilchrist