A complete and utter definitive review-type-guide-thing of all, well most, of the albums I got this year. Having already reviewed Marina & The Diamonds and Gabriella Cilmi.
Amy MacDonald – A Curious Thing – A rather good album, more of the same from Amy, starts strong with Don’t Tell Me That It’s Over, Spark, Love Love, An Ordinary Life, and then, apart from the folksy This Pretty Face, it goes a bit blah, as I don’t think ballads are Amy’s strong point, and by track nine I was hoping each track was the final song, as from that point on, they all sound like final songs.
Fleetwood Mac- Rumours & The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac – I know, embarrassing, all Spotify’s fault. In my defence I will say I think early Fleetwood Mac are still utterly redeemable, it’s only when they go all corporate and commercial that they get good, and yes, Mick Fleetwood presenting the Brits like a bewildered scarecrow being pestered by a small, noisy, pink, angry poodle, we haven’t forgotten, but I like all the singles from Rumours, I like the Formula One theme, and to be honest, I’d say it was on a par with stuff like Wings, 10CC, ELO, Supertramp... that lot. And even though half of Rumours is on the Very Best I had to download the other half, because they left off Songbird. So, would I rather jack than Fleetwood Mac? Too early to say. "And now here's the Four Tops..."
Harry Nilsson – Personal Best – Another one I downloaded after getting into Harry on Spotify. Previously I was only aware of him from his bog-awful John Lennon collaboration Pussy Cats (in the 1970’s, what with artists expected to deliver two albums a year, you’d occasionally get albums recorded when the artist was in no fit state. This is such an album – see also Dark Horse by George Harrison). Before Pussy Cats, though, Nilsson had a remarkable career. One which he quite presciently outlined in his song Mr Richland’s Favourite Song. He started out by writing Davy Jones songs for The Monkees – Cuddly Toy and Daddy’s Song – and by covering Randy Newman – Simon Smith And His Dancing Bear (one of two songs performed by the Muppets, the other being the surreal Coconut). Then he wrote some quite sublime songs like Without Her, One and Together, recorded several Beatles covers (including an early mash-up You Can’t Do That) and of course did covers of Everybody’s Talking and Without You. Which aren’t really representative of his extremely idiosyncratic style; a haunting, beautiful voice, McCartney-ish melodies and touching lyrics. Genius.
Hurts – Happiness - Only got this recently, I know, I’m six months behind everyone else, it took me a long time to hear the appeal of their Bristol travelogue, Wonderful Life, but it wasn’t until I heard Stay and a song more Human League than the Human League, Better Than Love. The tunes are slow burners, the synths are nice and diddly, and the production ornaments them with strings and cave-echo drums to good effect. My only criticism would be that every song is trying to evoke the same epic looking-out-over-the-city-at-night atmosphere, which gets a bit samey after a while.
Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene & Equinox. I resisted for decades. But despite Jarre’s relentless unfashionability, despite his performance style, eventually I gave in because, well, because late 1970’s synth albums sound like Doctor Who. Oxygene is the better album – bits of it were used in the background of Hitch-Hiker’s – and listening to it I suddenly realised where, ahem, Vince Clarke may have drawn some inspiration for the Erasure tracks Rock Me Gently and Dodo. Although I am still profoundly ashamed to own these albums, I do love them, they make me feel 7 years old again, sitting down to watch Doctor Who And The Warriors’ Gate, the fourth (and best) season of Blake’s 7, Tomorrow’s World or The Adventure Game. But Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and early Human League are better. And it could be worse, could be Mike Oldfield.
Kate Nash – My Best Friend Is You – On the one hand, the songs aren’t quite as good as her first album, but on the other, it’s produced by Bernard Butler, so it sounds like a secretary talking down the phone describing her day in remorseless detail while filing her nails as Phil Spector backing tracks boom through the ceiling from the flat above. The singles are great – Kiss That Grrrl, Do-Wah-Doo – plus a great song called Early Christmas Present, there’s a brilliantly sweary track with attitude called Mansion Song, and Kate even sings on Take Me To A Higher Plane. But some of the other stuff is a bit blah, I’ve Got A Secret gets boring very quickly, and there’s a hidden bonus track which is a terribly 90’s thing to do, so points deducted there.
KT Tunstall – Tiger Suit – This album, from [PHIL PARKLIFE FROM TIME GENTLEMEN PLEASE] The woman I’m going to marry [/PHIL PARKLIFE FROM TIME GENTLEMEN PLEASE] is absolutely 100% brilliant. She has it all, the songs, the voice, and now she’s only gone and stuck some bloody synths on it! Some of it is bonkers, some of it seriously rocks, some of it’s heartbreaking, all of it is totally sexy and Push That Knot Away even goes a bit Fischerspooner at the end. Would easily be my album of the year were I not already betrothed to Marina & The Diamonds. Plus points are deducted for the bloody awful song Golden Frames, which sticks out like a sore thumb and sounds like the sort of thing The Beautiful South would do on Later With Jools Holland. The rest of it, though, is 100% brilliant.
Lulu – Most Of Lulu / Lulu’s Album. Again, in my defence, I should make it clear this is the Mickie Most-produced stuff only. And, well, they’re just fantastic 60’s pop songs by the likes of Nilsson, Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees, quirky, catchy, sung extremely well, and arranged by John Paul Jones out of the Led Zeppelin. Standout tracks are Show Me – which has an unbelievably cool intro, which was used as the theme tune to the 60’s Lulu TV show – Love Loves To Love Love – sampled by Fatboy Slim – and Boy. Even the oh-so-kooky Eurovision songs are passable, if you’re in the right mood.
Part 2 will continue inevitably.