Album reviews: Will.I.Am | Frank Turner | Sergei Rachmaninov

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Our roundup of the latest releases



Polydor, £14.99


The Black Eyed Pea has integrated himself into British television’s Saturday night furniture, complete with quirky geometrical hairstyle.

His solo work continues to tread that fine line between Autotune and rhythm and blues, although the Charleston-infested Bang Bang, with Will doing his best flapper impersonation, has a bit more chutzpah. You also get the attention-seeking collaboration with the charming if traumatised Britney Spears and the curious nursery rhyme vibe of Ghetto Ghetto. More interesting are Freshy and Geekin’, and the talking flamenco blues of Mona Lisa Smile, complete with an operetta flourish. 
It’s innovative but mildly irritating.

Download this: Freshy, Bang Bang

Frank Turner

Tape Deck Heart

Polydor, £14.99


Articulate to the point of being a verbose post-graduate student, Frank has much to say. He might call this a break-up record, but to his credit, that everyman touch makes it very inclusive. And the humour shown in Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons? stands him in good stead for the fiercely contested singer-songwriter market.

Recovery is a stand-out opener and the album is consistent with that feelgood reverie throughout. There is clearly more perspiration than jaw-dropping inspiration involved, but that can be all that’s required.

Download this: Good & Gone, Recovery

Cécile McLorin Salvant


Mack Avenue MAC 1072, £14.99


Salvant, as anyone who heard her at last year’s Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival will testify, is a 23-year-old girl wonder of the jazz world; a singer possessed of a stunning voice and a knack for making the most unexpected, potentially archaic, material sound fresh, relevant and emotionally current. That’s exactly what she does on this, her debut album. Lyrical guitarist James Chirillo proves a wonderful match for Salvant – indeed, it would have been good to have heard more of him.

• Alison Kerr

Download this: St Louis Gal, Baby Have Pity On Me

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds

Stray Birds Records, online only


This self-titled debut album from the Pennsylvanian trio is a winning combination of great playing on acoustic guitars, fiddles, banjos, mandolin and double bass, all under heart-grabbing three-part harmony vocals.

Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven and Charles Muench are all trained musicians, and their skills are obvious, but it’s the detailed care they lavish on Maya and Oliver’s self-penned “traditional” songs that really catches the attention.

Restrained yet emotionally powerful, this threesome galvanise a crowd using only their vocal chords and fleet fingers, united in a varied wash of true sonic Americana.

• Norman Chalmers

Download this: Dream In Blue

Sergei Rachmaninov

Cello Works

Champs Hill CHRCD044, £11.99


Rachmaninov’s compositions for cello all appear to have been written for, or dedicated to, people with whom he had some close personal affinity.

His first composition was for the youngest daughter of some cousins, Vera Satina, with whom the socially awkward 17-year-old spent the summer of 1890 (he later married the eldest sister, Natalia). His second was for cellist Anatoly Brandukov (the best man at that wedding), who also later arranged several of Rachmaninov’s piano works for cello.

What characterises these works is energy, especially in these performances by the Japanese cellist Yuki Ito accompanied by the Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak. There is nothing languid or uncertain here, just a sense of drive and passion in a fine recording.

• Alexander Bryce

Download this: Oriental Dance