Album reviews: Jake Shears, Il Divo, The Coral, Miles Kane and Elvis Presley
AS SCISSOR Sisters' frontman, Jake Shears oozed charisma, cheeky humour and sexual energy and the band's debut album was the UK's biggest-selling of 2004. But since the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2012, we haven't heard much of that famous falsetto. After a difficult break-up and relocating to New Orleans, Shears started to write for his debut solo album. The result is a continuation of the Scissor Sisters sound with more grit and a little less polish, along with songs reminiscent of 1980s soundtracks. Think of Dolly Parton meeting up with her gal pals to cure the blues and you have the opening track Good Friends. There's plenty of sass in the strutting Big Bushy Mustache and the bawdy S.O.B. will get you twirling you around a pole. The influences of Southern soul, Elton John and disco shine through on Shears's debut, and will satisfy those who have missed Scissor Sisters.
IS THERE anything better than hearing your favourite hits sung by a rousing quartet of dominating classical singers? Il Divo are back with Timeless, their first album since parting ways with their creator Simon Cowell and his record label, and they've gone all out to prove they can very well do it on their own. It's the album they've "always wanted to make", they say. Adopting the "if it ain't broke..." approach, the formula is largely the same as their previous efforts, where they take previously recorded songs and transform them into something apt for a Disney film soundtrack from the 1990s. One of the highlights is easily Hola, their Spanish-language take on Adele's Hello, which has the seal of approval from Adele herself. Their epic version of Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender will give you chills from here to Graceland. It's not particularly trailblazing, but their faultless vocals and the epic production on each classic hit bring this album to life.
Coup De Grace
"GIVE me something for the guillotine" snarls indie rock singer-songwriter Miles Kane in the cutting opening line of his first album for five years. Kane went through a break-up as he began writing for his third solo LP, yet the record sounds anything but sombre. The Birkenhead musician comes out swinging with Too Little Too Late, an urgent burst of punk rock that supplies a death blow to his suffering. On T-Rex-infused Cry On My Guitar, Kane's Bolan-esque howls pierce a slinky bassline and 12-bar blues guitar. Kane's sultry warble at times resembles his Last Shadow Puppets bandmate Alex Turner, particularly on the title track, which possesses a dark disco bassline which is as sinister as it is funky. Coupled with frenzied riffs on tracks like Something To Rely On this can lead, perhaps unfairly, to comparisons with early Arctic Monkeys. While not reinventing the break-up record, Kane has produced a collection of 10 solid, catchy rock songs.
Move Through The Dawn
WIRRAL-based psychedelic lads the Coral were a breath of fresh air in a rather stagnant guitar band scene back in 2002, and that eponymous first album was an excellent collection of freak-outs and winning melodies. Over the years the band faced the law of diminishing returns, with nothing quite matching those heady early days. After a five-year hiatus they returned in 2016, and are back again now with their seventh full-length album. Move Through the Dawn isn't as heavy as their last album, and I have to say I'm a fan of their more riff-based tunes, but there are some lovely melodies here. Highlights include the single, and album opener, Eyes Like Pearls, with the lyric "What do you dream when the world is on fire?" sadly all too relevant in these turbulent times.
Where No One Stands Alone
REBOOT, repackage, repeat. The Elvis Presley back catalogue has been so fervently mined since the death of The King in 1977 that it takes remarkable generosity to see the gospel album Where No One Stands Alone as anything but more posthumous product on the Graceland conveyor belt. Elvis remains one of music's biggest-earning stars, his estate raking in $35 million last year. This 14-track collection promises – deep breath – "new musical perspectives", which translates as the classic instrumentation being stripped away and replaced with lacquered modern arrangements, with backing vocals added from a cast including Darlene Love and Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie. It's Elvis blimmin' Presley so of course there are stirring moments, notably when Lisa Marie joins her father on the title track. But Elvis released three gospel albums during his life – His Hand In Mine, How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me – and won Grammys for his hymns to the heavens. So dig the racks for those spellbinding original LPs and leave this for the completists.