Album reviews: A Star Is Born, Jess Glynne, Tom Odell, Rick Wakeman
Always In Between
Four years after arriving in the charts as the featured artist on a number of hit dance songs, Jess Glynne has more proved her worth as one of this generation's best pop singer-songwriters. Without the need for Clean Bandit et al. Earlier this year, the 28-year-old Londoner became the first British female solo artist to score seven number one singles thanks to I'll Be There. The new album's lead single, it is admittedly a strong song, but one that could be described as a sequel to 2015's Hold My Hand. However, her second album offers up so much more than this as Glynne mixes it up. No One is full of anticipation with an infectious beat that builds to each chorus, showing off the singer's brawny vocals, while anthemic Thursday strikes a chord by slowing things down. Ska-tainted, groovy 123 is a nice change of pace, Rollin' a splendid dance pop-meets-country effort. Won't Say No is the real highlight. More of this please, Miss Glynne.
The world's been waiting for another Tom Odell album. It has been six long years since his hit single Another Love burst into our speakers. A number one album, a number two album and a world tour followed. Even a muted critical response couldn't dull his shine. Now the Sussex-born troubadour returns with Jubilee Road, much like he left: more Leona Lewis than Leonard Cohen. When he brings out the scuzzy guitars and Crocodile Rock-esque swing on Son Of An Only Child, it seems clumsy. When he croons with his admittedly beautiful voice on You're Going To Break My Heart, it sounds contrived. The LP's bawdy big-hearted pop ballads tell stories of cobbled east London streets. It's the kind of music that captures the middle-of-the-road zeitgeist big-label A&R men long for. It's a shame. The 27-year-old has a great voice but without songwriting chops his rasping tones can come to little.
A Star Is Born
The third remake of A Star Is Born has been in the pipeline since 2011 and two years ago Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper signed up to the project. The film has received critical acclaim so expectations are high for the music. Without seeing the film, there is quite a divide in musical style, but the listener will get the gist of the tale. Cooper gives a bluesy performance on the grinding opening track Black Eyes and Alibi. Meanwhile Gaga transforms from club singer to a pop/R&B artist. Heal Me and Why Did You Do That? are highlights, but Gaga truly shines in the ballads Always Remember Us This Way and the closer (and possible spoiler) I'll Never Love Again. These songs are good enough to stand alone but will no doubt work best in context of the film.
Johnny Hates Jazz
Turn Back The Clock 30th Anniversary Edition
As a celebration of the original release, the band have released this luxury three-CD set that features a remastered version of the original album, an acoustic version of the full album, plus a mix of demos, B sides and alternative mixes. The original album highlights the group's ability to produce smooth, chart-friendly pop to a high standard which stands up well today. The acoustic CD gives an interesting counterpoint to this. These versions have a more intimate feel to them that suits the material well. It also gives the songs a more contemporary feel, with a laid-back, jazzy twist. Anyone with a liking for quality 1980s chart pop would be well advised to try out the new version, but don't miss out on the acoustic set. It's worth the price of the album in itself.
After nearly 50 years of touring, travelling and recording with stars like David Bowie and Cat Stevens, you could be forgiven for thinking Rick Wakeman deserves a chance to indulge himself. And that's exactly what the renowned keyboardist does on his new album, Piano Odyssey, which sees him eschew his trusty array of moogs, electric organs and keyboards in favour of the grand piano. Wakeman is best known as the keyboardist for Yes, and therefore as a pioneer of progressive rock. But if Wakeman is anything on Piano Odyssey, he's regressive, taking on well-worn classics and opting for pleasingly uncomplicated arrangements. Under his deft fingers, tracks like While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Strawberry Fields Forever come alive as voices soar over horns and strings. More an exercise in experimentation, Piano Odyssey won't take listeners anywhere uncomfortable, surprising or even new but it is undeniably satisfying to hear a virtuoso like Wakeman get his hands on these classic songs.