Albums: New music from Yusuf, Roachford, Napalm Death and Keith Urban
Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Tea For The Tillerman 2
THE folk veteran marks the 50th anniversary of his classic album with a full re-recording, which finds him in playful and celebratory mood. The cover art sets the tone, a night-time version of the original with the Tillerman in a spacesuit and the children alongside him glued to smartphones.
Emblematic of the project is the reworked Father And Son, with modern-day Yusuf singing the Father's vocals and those of the Son taken from a 1970s live recording – Yusuf's own son Yoriyos being a major creative influence on the album.
Longer Boats has undergone perhaps the biggest facelift, with a guest spot from rapper Brother Ali and ending in a funk breakdown, and Wild World is heavily embellished with Eastern instrumentation.
While Yusuf is inevitably harking back to his early days, accompanied by original guitarist Alun Davies and producer Paul Samwell-Smith, the album still sounds fresh today and environmental anthem Where Do The Children Play? remains distressingly relevant.
Twice in A Lifetime
ANDREW Roachford's latest solo album comes after a seven-year hiatus. That's not to say the British pop singer, best known for his 1988 top five hit Cuddly Toy, has been resting on his laurels.
Since then, Roachford has executed a surprising but rewarding move to Mike And The Mechanics, joining the supergroup as their vocalist and expanding their songwriting chops considerably.
Twice In A Lifetime, though, sounds like something else entirely. Fresh from being made an MBE for services to music, Roachford, now 55, is on tip-top form. These 13 new tracks ooze Motown glamour and show off a production style that suits his silken, powerful voice, while the addition of a brass section is an unexpected delight.
A welcome collection from one of British music's enduring figures.
Throes of Joy in The Jaws of Defeatism
WHAT music best encapsulates the confusion, fear and paranoia of 2020? Napalm Death return to provide one answer with their 16th studio album, and first since 2015, when the world looked very different.
The grindcore pioneers have spent decades purveying alienation and apocalyptic visions, and in the time of coronavirus their sound and fury signifies something timely.
Throes provides juddering slabs of sounds and howled vocals, while singles Amoral and Backlash Just Because are the most accessible of the 12 tracks, and while it is often hard to make out the lyrics, titles such as Contagion, Joie De Ne Pas Vivre and Acting In Gouged Faith give an indication.
I've heard a few albums this year try to articulate the sense of chaos and doom, but none has sounded remotely as angry as Napalm Death. Not even the Dalai Lama.
They're not heading anywhere near the mainstream, but Napalm Death are being true to their vision.
The Speed of Now Part 1
THE title of Keith Urban's 12th studio album – The Speed Of Now Part 1 – could not be more apt for this year, despite being conceived in October 2019. The singer explains: "I liked it because I felt like life was flying by so fast. But music (for me) has always been the place where it slows down and doesn't even exist. I would never have imagined that, in 2020, this album title would take on a whole new meaning."
And meaning is not something this album is short of. Urban's collaboration with Pink on One Too Many is stunning, while other collaborators on the album include Breland, Nile Rodgers and Eric Church. Tracks like Superman, Forever and Say Something are affectionately catchy.
There's no absence of heart throughout this entire repertoire and it's another impressive offering for Urban who proves once again why he is at the top of his game.