Del Amitri: Fatal Mistakes (Cooking Vinyl) ****
Bugzy Malone: The Resurrection (Virgin Records) ***
Rebecca Vasmant: With Love from Glasgow (Rebecca’s Records) ****
When Del Amitri reunited in 2013, after a hiatus of more than a decade, the impetus was to give and receive concert kicks. Self-deprecating to a fault, frontman Justin Currie was not convinced that what the world needed then was another Del Amitri album.
Eight years on and it is apparent that they cannot stem the flow of their effortless tuneage, sardonic wit and richly observant lyrics, so they’re back with their first studio album in 19 years. But the mood is not celebratory – at best Fatal Mistakes is cautionary and, at its most extreme, the tone borders on caustic.
The listening, however, is easy with Currie’s instantly recognisable voice, aching and soulful, steering the breezy shrug of It’s Feelings, the slight changes and significant returns of You Can’t Go Back and elegantly expressed scorn of minor key country rocker All Hail Blind Love.
Brexit ballad Close Your Eyes and Think of England is a withering elegy worthy of John Lennon (“that boat afloat all alone on the ocean is sinking… nobody had an inkling”), while the catchy canter and pubby piano of Nation of Caners belies a laser focused long hard look at society, concluding “we’re a nation of caners / who can blame us?”
Otherwise takes a melancholy shot at not-so-splendid isolation (“the curtains drawn to keep us from seeing other people’s lives”) but there is a grim empathy with such gradual loss of agency, and a Rab C Nesbitt lyricism to Currie’s middle-aged reflections on folks “pickling their memories in Mason jars” on Missing Person, the quiet liberation and emotional furniture of Second Staircase and the pointed blues of I’m So Scared of Dying, which fades away rather than burns out on a mellow Neil Youngesque breakdown.
If Del Amitri have produced a considered kitchen sink drama of a comeback, rapper Aaron Davis, aka Bugzy Malone, stars in his own all-guns-blazing autobiographical action movie. The Resurrection is a true life story of addiction, depression, deprivation and violence, and that’s just the five-minute title track, before he moves on to suicide attempts, and a visceral depiction of hospitalisation following a quad bike accident last year.
Sonically, this is a smooth Hollywood production with swelling synths, marshal drums and big name guest stars Dermot Kennedy and Emeli Sande rather than some gritty street salvo but, as the album progresses, the music acquires an edge to match the subject matter, from the eerie atmosphere of Cold Nights in the 61 to the air of menace pervading Salvador and Ride Out. Subplots include an appreciation of classic art and a couple of tracks namedropping his real life movie experiences, acting in a couple of Guy Ritchie films.
Already a respected DJ, producer and jazz advocate, Rebecca Vasmant adds composer and label owner to her portfolio, self-releasing her accomplished, immersive debut album, With Love, From Glasgow. This balmy astral jazz suite of mournful, keening brass, free flowing vocals and soothing, swirling electronica has been recorded using the cream of the city’s young jazz operators including, among others, drummer Graham Costello, bassist Brodie Jarvie, saxophonist Harry Weir and a number of guest vocalists from Luca Manning to Nadya Albertsson, who adds a breathy, blissful soul to Freefall.
The cosmic jazz reverie lingers through a couple of collaborations with the electro-acoustic Glasgow Jazz Experiment, featuring field sounds of cawing birds and chirruping crickets alongside some shimmering percussion, while the gently propulsive house piano and intertwining brass and piano lines on Jewels of Thought and the plangent bass, eddying trumpet, spoken word and all round freer structure of Internal Dispute subtly re-route the hypnotic flow.
Prokofiev: Symphony No 6 / Myaskovsky: Symphony No 27 (LAWQ Classics) *****
Prokofiev’s own perfunctory words explaining the Sixth Symphony point to the vying forces of agitation and stark lyricism. He says little more about the opening movement, but it’s enough to inform Vasily Petrenko, whose new recording with the Oslo Philharmonic is every bit as polarised. The opening bars alone are a ferocious dialogue between acts of stabbing aggression and the austerity embedded in the searing melodies. Petrenko invokes incisive fury from the offset, reluctant to let it dissolve completely in the Largo, leaving that to the rollicking fun and games, and ultimate crashing catharsis, of the finale. Fellow Soviet and exact contemporary Nikolai Myaskovsky’s final symphony, No 27, presents a more expansive Romanticism and therefore welcome complement. Often touching and eloquently paced, the beefy string playing and singeing brass matched by exquisite wind solos, Petrenko elicits delicacy, richness and an unswerving surge in a language that often echoes Rachmaninov. Ken Walton
Brian Ó hEadhra & Fionnag NicChoinnich: Càirdeas (Annam Communications) ****
Ah, the sunny long ago… as evoked in this fine album from the Highland duo Brian Ó hEadhra & Fionnag NicChoinnich. Càirdeas means kinship or friendship and these songs, recorded during lockdown, transcend difficult times as Ó hEadhra and NicChoinnich bring gorgeously contrasting vocal harmonies in Scottish and Irish Gaelic and English, from the fond reminiscence of Pat Murphy’s Meadow to the heartbreaking Gaelic and flowing melody of Bheir Mo Shoraidh Thar Ghunnaigh. They’re supported by instrumentalists including guitarist and co-producer Innes White, bassist Euan Burton and fiddlers Anna-Wendy Stevenson and Rosie Munro, while their children, Órla and Ró, add vocal weight on tracks such as the wistful Copper Kettle. Other gems include the tender melody of My Singing Bird and the popular Irish Níl Sé Ina Lá, while piper Anna Murray shares lead vocals with NicChoinnich in a boisterous Lewis waulking song. Jim Gilchrist
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