OUR music critics run the rule over this month’s new album releases, including Jack White’s new project, The Dead Weather, and the latest releases from Lana Del Rey and Keith Richards. Plus, all this week’s essential jazz and classical LPs
The Dead Weather: Dodge and Burn
IS there any other musician as simultaneously prolific and consistent as the ever-dynamic Jack White? The Nashville-based rock star, label mogul and now co-owner of the Tidal streaming service alongside the stellar likes of Jay-Z and Beyoncé is always on the lookout for new ventures.
White will always get bored or discouraged before his listeners will. Hence his decision, announced earlier this year, to take a hiatus from live performance – and that includes a moratorium on touring with the reconvened Dead Weather, releasing their first new album in five years. Listen and weep, White gig-lovers, because Dodge and Burn is powerful stuff.
While White’s solo albums have been a playful pick’n’mix of sonic styles, The Dead Weather have always been the White outfit to turn to for an audacious power display. It’s hardly a fresh cocktail in rock’n’roll but, while the influence of Led Zeppelin never seems to dim with the passing of time, there are precious few groups who can seriously marshal that sound and convey it with such a badass attitude.
This time round the leather boys and leopard girl get off to a hoary start with I Feel Love (Every Million Miles), driven by White’s powerhouse drumming and crashing cymbals, some meaty bluesy riffola and Alison Mosshart’s commanding vocal, poised on the verge of abandon.
Buzzkill(er) packs its three-minute punch in a punkier, swampier style, while the garagey Let Me Through is a fairly standard quivering, bristling prowl until the closing stages when the pace picks up and White unleashes some ferocious guitar work.
He delivers his first lead vocal on Three Dollar Hat, adopting a squawky half-spoken Eminem delivery, only to steamroller through this hip-hop/blues/dub hybrid creation with a Led Zep-style classic rock romp. Dean Fertita’s quaking organ (oo-er) is not the defining feature it was on previous Dead Weather albums but he makes up for a reserved start on Lose the Right.
The hectic and hectoring Open Up and the mighty Mile Markers are more about a show of attitude than songcraft – an impression that prevails throughout the album. But the upshot is the same – you wouldn’t want to mess with this gang. Sometimes brute force can carry the day.
Then the atmosphere changes right at the end of the album. Impossible Winner sounds like nothing that has gone before. It is more torch song than slash and burn, but gutsy in its own way, with its potent bursts of melodramatic piano and orchestration and Mosshart transforming from punk rock chick to bruised diva with a vulnerable ache in her tone.
Jack White’s off on another tangent again. FIONA SHEPHERD
Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon
Over the past couple of years, Lana Del Rey has carved such an idiosyncratic niche for herself as a purveyor of dreamy retro noir pop that she is in mild peril of parodying herself. She spends much of Honeymoon in a rapturous swoon with not so much as an immaculately set hair out of place. However, it’s all so beautifully written and so exquisitely orchestrated with trembling strings, tasteful hints of martial drums and jazzy saxophone and delivered with femme fatale portent that Del Rey can even get away with random lines such as “you’re so art deco out on the floor… baby you’re so ghetto”. She was robbed of that Bond theme. FS
Keith Richards: Crosseyed Heart
The honourable Keith Richards takes a break from that band he keeps touring with in order to release his first solo album in 20 years. The pace is generally gentler these days but apart from that, it’s business as usual – a slow-cooked stew of roots influences. Some helpings taste like pretty standard middle-aged blues rock, other tracks are more piquant. Richards suits the likeable reggae lope of Gregory Isaac’s Love Overdue. Elsewhere, he channels a bit of Lou Reed’s horizontal cool on Just a Gift, garnished with economical blues guitar and folky strings, and recalls Dylan’s grizzly soul efforts on Lover’s Plea. FS
Joseph Haydn: Symphonies Nos 31, 70 & 101
Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra embark on the first of two Haydn symphonies discs with a trilogy of D major performances that truly capture the spirited essence of Haydn. They open with the breezy tunefulness of the “Hornsignal” Symphony (No 31), complete with belligerent horn calls and, in the lengthy Adagio, find a delicacy of expression that is as teasing as it is ravishing. No 70 is a more exuberant exploration of the key, its opening filled with explosive surprises, calmed by the Andante’s light-footed lyricism and finding a pre-Beethoven gravitas in the rigorous Finale. Nor are Beethoven pre-echoes absent from “The Clock”, Symphony No 101, especially in a performance as tastefully probing as this. Roll on the next Haydn disc. KEN WALTON
Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Gary Burton, Various Artists & The SWR Big Band: Hommage À Ebergard Weber
Unable to play since a stroke, the innovative German bassist Eberhard Weber was paid tribute in spectacular fashion by a stellar jazz line-up at Stuttgart’s Theatrehaus in January. In this live recording, not only are Weber’s compositions reprised, but the hauntingly singing tones of his custom-built bass are revived through sampling. Notable associates here include guitarist Metheny, saxophonist Garbarek, vibraphonist Burton, double bassist Scott Colley, drummer Danny Gottlieb and Paul McCandless on cor anglais and soprano sax.
Central is Metheny’s magnificent extended title composition, with soloists and the harmonic might of the SWR Big Band playing against Weber’s judiciously sampled bass, Metheny’s sinuous guitar, Burton’s ascending chimes and the younger bassist Coley joyously taking off from Weber’s “sonic fingerprint”.
Garbarek duets powerfully with recordings of his colleague in Résumé Variations, while other arrangements, not least Weber’s lovely Notes After an Evening, make this a triumph of virtuosity as well as affection. JIM GILCHRIST
Ross Ainslie: Remembering
Great White Records
Piper and cittern-player Ross Ainslie dons the mantle of singer-songwriter for this album which, as its title suggests, dwells on past lives – both his own and those of departed friends, not least his mentor, the great Gordon Duncan. It also, however, looks positively to the future; thus the indie-folk-pop questioning of the opening Change takes on a triumphant note as the pipes kick in.
In a striking gesture of continuity, the late Duncan’s son, Gordy Jr, plays drums on the recording while Gordon’s father, Jock, contributes a brief elegy to his ferm-toun youth as prelude to the anthemic Head High. Ainslie’s strengths lie with his pipes – which he tends to put aside on this album – rather than his singing, but there is something deeply affecting about these songs of taking stock. JG