Arts

Album reviews: Morrissey, The Amazons, Sting and Frankie Lee

Morrissey's new album of covers, California Son

Morrissey
California Son

LITTLE man, what now? Having long been one of my musical heroes, I know I'm not the only one who struggles to still listen to Morrissey, now that he delights in upsetting fans by extolling the virtues of the far right. So I approached his new album of covers, California Son, with some trepidation. I can confirm that Springtime For Hitler isn't among the choices, thankfully.

Mozza always had a love for cover versions, dating back to his former band's unusual B-side choices such as Golden Lights. None of the tracks on California Son are obvious, but they do feature songs by legends such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Roy Orbison. The latter's downbeat It's Over particularly suits Morrissey, and his voice is in fine form here (the only thing about the singer that gets better with age).

But there's nothing that stands out or makes you particularly grateful for this collection.

Rating: Three stars
Rob Barker

 

The Amazons
Future Dust

THE perfect follow-up to their 2017 debut album, Future Dust is the Reading rockers' second chance to prove their worth as a legitimate group worthy of any festival stage.

Right from opening track Mother, with its almost threatening creeping crawl of an intro that booms into a monstrous song of defiance (I listened to this more than 10 times in one day and I'm here to tell you it does not wear thin) to the intriguing End Of Wonder, in which they sing about the silent rise of eating disorders – "your mind is deceiving you, you were wasting away, can you give me the reason, that you're feeling this way?" – the album is a riff-led, guttural pleasure.

A true testament to the work these BBC Sound Of 2017 nominees have put in over the past few years trying to refine and sharpen their sound, this band will be up there with the likes of Arctic Monkeys within a few years, you just wait.

Rating: Four stars
Lucy Mapstone

 

Frankie Lee
Stillwater

American singer-songwriter Frankie Lee follows in the footsteps of fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan with his second album. Wearing a Dylan-ish hat and adopting a Dylan-ish croon, Stillwater has an easygoing Nashville Skyline sound, complete with slide guitar and harmonica, but it avoids ever descending into pastiche.

Like his hero, Lee also uses a traditional veneer to disguise darker, more contemporary themes, his intriguingly existential lyrics adding a dark edge to the sunny arrangements, with (I Don't Want to Know) John channelling the same sort of blue-collar storytelling that marked out early Bruce Springsteen, and melancholy lead single In The Blue concealing an elegiac theme of ageing and loss beneath lush piano chords.

The rest of the album never quite matches those two stand-outs, but it is nevertheless a classy and likeable Country-inflected pop record.

Rating: Three stars
James Robinson

 

Sting
My Songs

An album described as a collection of re-worked or re-imagined versions of an artist's biggest hits can often only fill anyone with a set of working ears with dread. It can feel laboured and unnecessary; a vanity project.

But, against all odds, Sting has kind of pulled it off. In My Songs, the singer-songwriter takes a walk down memory lane through his career, splashing his tracks with a light contemporary coating, all the while staying faithful to their original arrangements.

His fresh approach to hits such as Shape Of My Heart, Fields Of Gold and Desert Rose, which all sound crisper and cleaner, are particularly worth listening to. However, the live songs at the back end of the record, like Roxanne and Spirits In The Material World, are notable highlights.

I'd argue that this is better than a complete overhaul. His hits are hits because they were pretty darn good the way they were; why muck it all up?

Rating: Three stars
Lucy Mapstone

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