2009 – February

MADELEINE PEYROUX – Bare Bones

Reclusive chanteuse Peyroux is releasing her fifth album to date and yet it feels like her first … not just to the listener, but to the singer herself.
Not happy with just being the biggest selling jazz vocalist of the last decade, Madeleine also wanted to take full control of crafting the songs she sings and so with this release she’s broken new ground by co-writing every single track on the record. “This really is a new experience for me – it’s almost as if I got to make my first record again,” she says. “I’d co-written a couple of times in the past, but this was a big leap for me as a writer, not only in the experience of writing but also the message I wanted to portray”. It’s a stripped down, late night bluesy kind of jazz that seems to go down well with the public who may – at last – have grown weary of the cod-crooning of the Bublés and Cullums of this world. “The album builds from wariness, to loss, to acceptance, and finally to hope. I’m really happy that I got to write. It feels like a new segment. I’m surrounded by beautiful sounds, really honest musicians, really honest playing.”
And therein lies the key … if you just want to relax and unwind with a late night record, you know the drill : crack open some wine, dim the lights and just chill out to the soothing sounds of Madeleine Peyroux. Better still, do all of the above in a hot bath with scented candles …
ANNIE LENNOX – The Collection

I love her. I always have. I alway will. She’s bonkers, of course, and there really should be a movie of her life at some point … but who cares with a voice like hers? You could buy the single disc version of this, which contains all the hits from her solo, post-Eurythmics career, including Walking On Broken Glass, No More I Love Yous, A Whiter Shade Of Pale and Little Bird. Or you could buy the 2CD version, with a disc of unreleased and rare material and a third DVD disc of all her videos. The rarities include covers of Many Rivers To Cross, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye and a cracking version of Everybody Hurts with Alicia Keys. I know what I’m gonna do … what are you waiting for ?

 
MILES DAVIS – Kind Of Blue : Legacy Edition

The best-selling jazz album of all time.
The benchmark.
The standard against which all other jazz albums must be judged.
This is the greatest album by the daddy of all jazz artists.
Quite simply, if you don’t like this record, you will never “get” jazz …
And it’s about time there was an extended version of this seminal masterpiece!
This expansive and lavishly-designed 12-inch slipcase box set gathers the entire panoramic sweep of the album’s history – past, present and future – onto two discs, a newly-produced black-and-white documentary DVD, a 60-page book of critical essays, annotations, discographic data, timeline, and photography and an envelope full of memorabilia. This is all accompanied by an enormous fold-out poster of Miles. Of special importance to Davis aficionados is the DVD: Celebrating A Masterpiece: Kind of Blue. The new DVD incorporates material from the 2004 mini-documentary, Made In Heaven, including black-and-white still photography of the recording sessions and the voice of Miles (at the sessions), as well as excerpts of radio interviews with the late Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley. There are interviews with musicians and luminaries including composer/performer David Amram, the late Ed Bradley, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Bill Cosby, Herbie Hancock (who demonstrates “So What” at the piano), Eddie Henderson, Shirley Horn, Dave Liebman, the late Jackie McLean, Me’Shell Ndege’Ocello, hip-hop’s Q-Tip, Carlos Santana, John Scofield, Horace Silver and many others.
If there’s a jazz fan in your life, get them this. They’ll be eternally grateful …

 
THE JACKSONS – The Jacksons Collection

It’s not often I’ll cover budget releases, but sometimes one just catches my eye and I feel the need to shout about it … and so it is with this brilliant compilation of The Jacksons singles. Now, this is after the Jackson 5 and before Michael went solo and became the most recognisable person on the planet. But forget all that twee pop nonsense and the plastic surgery that came later … this was a great band at the height of their powers, perhaps only rivalled by Earth Wind and Fire in the disco stakes. This is a perfect collection of 14 of their best known songs, including Blame It On The Boogie, Can You Feel It, Walk Right Now, Show You The Way To Go and Shake Your Body. At around a fiver you really can’t go wrong …

 
101 HOUSEWORK SONGS – Various Artists

When I saw the title of this monster FIVE disc collection, I was ready to slate it but having investigated the track listing, it’s actually a very cute piece of work on offer here – the five discs are roughly categorised into “soul”, “pop”, “oldies” and the like, but it’s so cleverly structured that they kind of overlap and because it’s all great music, I could quite easily imagine cleaning the whole house, the garage, doing the garden, painting the exterior of the property, perhaps building a moat and erecting a drawbridge too, all whilst listening to this awesome album.
Tracks range from Queen’s I Want To Break Free, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, Aretha’s Respect, through It’s Raining Men, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, I Will Survive, Heart Of Glass, You Sexy Thing, American Pie, and other classics like The Locomotion, Let’s Twist Again, rounding off with the deliciously tongue-in-cheek Love and Marriage, and How D’ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning?
What really makes me laugh is that it’s not aimed at the Valentine’s Day or the Mother’s Day market – I think they missed a trick, to be honest but would YOU dare to buy your wife or your mother an album with that title ??

RE-ISSUES GALORE

As the credit crunch bites, what better way for record companies to make money than by re-mastering and re-releasing all the old classics? Not content with buying them on vinyl or cassette then replacing them with CDs first time round? Why not buy them again, this time with all new old packaging, the same tracklisting and a brighter, clearer sound?
Seriously … this does annoy me as it’s really just a way of cashing in on the fans’ lust for “product” … most of the artists aren’t mainstream and yet that’s the benefit : a lot of “cult” bands have very loyal followings and both acts I’m focusing on this month are classic examples.
First up is DEPECHE MODE, who see newly mastered versions of Speak & Spell, the band’s 1981 debut featuring singles ”New Life” and ”Just Can’t Get Enough”; the moody Music for the Masses (1987), with hits ”Strangelove” and ”Never Let Me Down Again”, and Violator (1990), the band’s most commercially and artistically successful effort, boasting ”Personal Jesus” and ”Enjoy the Silence.” Each edition includes the original album, plus a DVD featuring a half-hour documentary, bonus tracks, and the entire album in 5.1 surround sound. The separation on the 5.1 mix is impressive, but the rest of the audio extras – many of which are merely instrumentals – are a bit skimpy considering the ridiculous number of remixes this band has churned out over the years. The documentaries are more engaging, with the best being Speak & Spell’s, even though the 1981 departure of original band member Vince Clarke is almost entirely glossed over.
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES mid-period is dusted off and repackaged very nicely in digibox format with sleeve-notes by professional northern grump Paul Morley, in the shape of Kiss In The Dreamhouse, Hyaena and Tinderbox. There’s various extra goodies tacked on, in the form of 12″ versions of the singles, demo versions and unreleased tracks including Baby Piano Parts 1 and 2 on Hyaena featuring none other than Robert Smith of The Cure.
The annoying thing for fans in both these cases is that a lot of the extras really are interesting and most would want to see or hear them and have them as part of their collection, but to make people buy the albums for possibly the third time is really stretching it as far as I’m concerned. But then, you pays your money and you takes your choice …

 
Originally published in 2009

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