Madeleine Peyroux-‘Half The Perfect World’ (UCJ)

 

 

 

 

Picture the scene: a smoky music hall somewhere in Europe circa the 1940s; handsome GIs dancing with pretty girls in even prettier dresses. An evening gowned singer is huskily crooning into the microphone.

 

Ok, so this is all in your imagination; you’re not actually in a 1940s music hall (European or otherwise), and there no GIs, no pretty girls,  but you could easily be forgiven for thinking that you’d somehow been transported through time and space on listening to Madeleine Peyroux’s new album ‘Half the Perfect World’. Released on the 30th of October, ‘Half the Perfect World’ is the follow up to her breakthrough platinum selling album ‘Careless Love’.

 

It’s a twelve track collection of classic-with-a-twist love songs from the musical great and the good (K.D. Lang, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen to name but a few), sung by the beguiling Ms Peyroux, plus four completely original tracks that she’s co-written-proving that she ain’t just a pretty voice. But, don’t be fooled, ‘Half the Perfect World’ isn’t merely a run-of-the-mill, bog-standard, seen-it-all-before compilation of covers, make no mistake about that. Peyroux, a true mistress of musical alchemy, has taken every single track on the album and moulded, shaped and sculpted it into her own unique and agonisingly beautiful style. She’s put her unmistakable inimitable stamp on them and, in doing so, has created a record that is, quite simply, breathtaking.

 

Madeleine Peyroux is arguably this generation’s most authentic answer to Billie Holiday; her voice shares the other-worldly raw earthy-ness of the late and (very) great jazz legend. Every word, every syllable is dripping with emotion and intensity.

 

Peyroux glides effortlessly, languidly, almost, through each of the twelve songs on the album; her rich smoky vocals entice and seduce the listener with their ‘come hither’ sultry-ness. One cannot help but be bewitched: ‘Half the Perfect World’ is enigmatic and exquisite. If you weren’t one of the million people who went out and bought ‘Careless Love’, and so up until now have been oblivious to Madeleine Peyroux’s existence, then ‘Half the Perfect World’ is the perfect introduction.

 

Her soft focus, dreamy voice is the perfect antidote to the impending cold and dark winter nights. As warming as a tumbler of brandy, and as comforting as a well worn jumper, this album is sure to succeed. And if it doesn’t? Well, then, there’s no justice in this less than perfect world.

 

Sensual, sultry and sublime ‘Half the Perfect World’ is an absolute must for anyone who likes their music grown-up and with a hell of a lot of style. An enchanting delight of an album.

 

Written for Entertainment Wise

Feature on scary Hollywood Celebrities

A feature I’ve written for Entertainment Wise on scary celebrities can be found here

Badly Drawn Boy-‘Born in the UK’

 

 

Badly Drawn Boy, he of the perennial woolly bobble hat, is back, the guitar toting troubadour releases his fifth studio album ‘Born in the UK’ on the 16th of October.  Badly Drawn Boy-or, as he’s known to his mates, Damon Gough- came to the musical fore with his debut album ‘The Hour of the Bewilderbeast’, released in June 2000. It was critically acclaimed, and went on to win him that year’s prestigious and highly coveted Mercury Music Prize. There’s no categorising Badly Drawn Boy: he is, quite simply, without equal. In this day and age of homogenised, hermetically sealed, production line pop his albums are a breath of proverbial fresh air. As gloriously and unabashedly eccentric as he is; a hotch potch of styles, a miasma of melodies, each one is a riot of sheer musical genius. And ‘Born in the UK’ is no exception.

 

‘The Hour of the Bewilderbeast’s’ stunning success spurred Badly Drawn Boy onto yet more greatness: the confident, accomplished and radiant in its own right soundtrack to ‘About a Boy’, 2002’s ‘Have You Fed the Fish’, and fourth album ‘One plus One is One’.

 

And that’s when Lady Luck cashed in her chips and it all started to go a bit, well, wrong. The creative wining streak that had blessed Badly Drawn Boy for nigh on four years had deserted him. Just like that.

He tried to make headway on a fifth album. Really tried, but it just wasn’t happening. The twenty or so songs that he’d managed to cobble together were abandoned, along with the fast-fading hope of ever getting any new material out.

 

But then, something changed. Badly Drawn Boy was back in ‘the zone’. And ‘Born in the UK’ is the result.

 

It’s a beautifully honest collection of songs that resonates with the raw emotion of Badly Drawn Boy’s delicate and lilting vocals. It’s whimsical, charming and utterly outstanding. ‘Born in the UK’ is a triumph: there is not a single track on the album that is anything less than brilliant. Title track ‘Born in the UK’ is a melodic romp through various events that have shaped the UK as a country, and, as Badly Drawn Boy asserts, events that shaped his past. Essentially it’s a potted history of UK current affairs in the latter twentieth century, from the perspective of a scruffy, oddball thirty-something Macunian musician.  Only Badly Draw Boy could pull it off convincingly, and he does so with aplomb. It’s an upbeat, quirky, celebration of all things British that makes you feel compelled to stand up and belt out the national anthem loudly, and, invariably, tunelessly. The other stand out track on the album is wonderfully retro ‘Welcome to the Overground’. It’s cheery, it has a big extravagant chorus, it’s very ‘Age of Aquarius’, it’s delightful. It has a sublimely happy, hippy, 70s vibe to it that raises an instantaneous smile. Brimming full of ‘Mamas and the Papas’-esque optimism, it captures you immediately, and refuses to let go.

 

‘Born in the UK’ sees badly Drawn Boy back on form; Lady Luck is shining once again: this album is a gem. And a rare one at that. If you love your music with a lot of heart, then ‘Born in the UK’ is sure to enthral you.

Written for: Entertainment Wise

Janet Jackson-’20 Y.O’

 

 

 

Janet Jackson, high priestess of the royal family of weird, is celebrating her twenty years in ‘the biz’ with a new album: ’20 Y.O’. Shame she didn’t choose to celebrate with a platter of vol au vents, and some warm bucks fizz like us mere mortals, because ’20 Y.O’ really ain’t all that.

Folks in the know are tipping ’20 Y.O’ to be the album that will jump start Ms Jackson’s flagging career and recapture those halcyon days of the 80s when she was celebrated the world over for her ground breaking style and musical prowess, not, as have been her sole claims to greatness these past few years, her “wardrobe malfunctions”, or her talent for gaining and losing twenty pounds in the blink of an eye.

Obviously keen to erase the world’s collective memory of her brush with stripperdom, ’20 Y.O’ is being marketed for all its worth as Janet’s long-time-coming return to form, and is being heralded as the album that will emulate the success of 1986’s ‘Control’- wildly touted as the “landmark” album of not just her career, but of the R’n’B genre as a whole.

Big talk, big hype, but ’20 Y.O.’ fails to deliver. Despite the team behind ‘Control’ once more at the helm, aided and abetted by one of the most forward thinking producers in the industry today (Jermaine ‘JD’ Dupri), ’20 Y.O.’ is uninspiring in the extreme. It lacks energy, drive and passion: qualities that at one time were synonymous with anything that Ms Jackson produced.

The twenty tracks that make up ’20 Y.O’ are bland and immediately forgettable. Even drafting in the vocal talents of the ubiquitous Nelly on lead single ‘Call on Me’ fails to create much of an impression. The duet is insipid and try hard, much like everything else on the album. Interspersed between the tracks are snippets of conversation: Janet and, one assumes, one of her producers casually wax lyrical (pun intended) about all that has gone before. It’s all very self indulgent, all very pointless, and totally cringe inducing. Memo to Janet: if you’re going to subject your fans to your inane ramblings, you could at least chuck in a bit of salacious gossip or a few hot rumours.

Possibly the only memorable track of the entire set is ‘Enjoy’, and it’s for all the wrong reasons. There sure as hell ain’t anything “enjoyable” about the song. Four minutes and thirty seconds of exquisitely banal lyrics and lifeless melody topped off with a chorus of children mindlessly chanting ‘enjoy’. Over and over again. It’s the stuff nightmares and Stephen King movies are made of. Shocking stuff.

’20 Y.O.’ is not likely to pull in any new fans, nor will it set the charts alight, but if tedious, colourless, lacklustre R’n’B is your thing then it might just float your boat. A most disappointing effort all round.

 

Written for: Entertainment Wise

Harold Heath-‘Hole Funk’

 

 

 

Harold Heath might not be a name you instantly recognise, not outside of the world of tech house production at least, but the release of his debut album ‘Hole Funk’ on the sixth of November will surely change all that.

 

Harold Heath started out as DJ of the rare groove variety then in 2001 he decided to make the switch to production. This leap of faith paid off; he’s released an endless succession of hit productions for numerous top class labels.

 

‘Hole Funk’ sees him branching out further. It’s Heath’s first attempt at album production, but straight from the outset it’s clear it certainly won’t be his last.

‘Hole Funk’ is a sublime collection of tracks that showcase a diverse variety of musical influences: ambience, electronica, house and, funk to name but a few. It’s Mr Scruff meets MC Romeo meets Barry White: it’s wonderfully and impressively eclectic.

 

‘Hole Funk’ is a rich tapestry of rhymes and rhythms; funk filled grooves and ambient beats jostle for space on this gem of an album.

 

Harold Heath’s previous form as a DJ has stood him in good stead, he obviously knows a blinding tune when he hears one, and he’s been sure to pack ‘Hole Funk’ full to the brim with them. The mélange of styles and sounds builds a tangible atmosphere that pervades and embodies the entire album. Heath, in his musical mastery, has crafted a work that oozes genius. ‘Hole Funk’ blends and bends, it fuses textures and tempos to astonishing effect. There’s a very real sense of depth, of light and dark, colour and shade that permeates every single track.  Title track (the opener to the set) ‘Hole Funk’ is all about getting your groove on old skool style, a delicious slice of decadent mellow funk.  ‘Feel the Love’ is a beat laden trip melded with the breathy ephemeral and Bjork-esque vocals of Katie Mummery. The fantastically titled ‘Food for a Fat Pig’ is positively dripping with funk; it’s a pulsating juggernaut of a track that demands your attention.  ‘Message from the Future’ is very much on a MC tip, rapping and break beats rule supreme. Although each individual track is a piece of perfection in its own right, it’s as a collection that they really shine and come into their own. ‘Hole Funk’ is an essential funk album that needs to be heard to be believed. A self assured, competent and thrilling album from a producer that’s at the top of his game.

Written for: Entertainment Wise

LeAnn Rimes-‘The LeAnn Rimes DVD Collection’

‘The Complete LeAnn Rimes DVD Collection’, released on the second of October, does what it says on the tin, or the DVD case to be exact.

It’s a collection of LeAnn Rimes’ music videos to date, in handy chronological order, just in case you, you know, weren’t up on Ms Rimes’ career progression.

Of course we all know the song that started it all off for her over here. She was already a firmly established star in her native US of A, having released her first album in 1994 at the ridiculously young age of twelve years old. But it was 1997’s ‘How Do I Live’ that brought her to the attention of the rest of the world. Unless you happened to be living in a particularly remote non radio equipped cave that year, its phenomenal sixty nine week assault on the charts was pretty damn inescapable.

‘The Complete LeAnne Rimes DVD Collection’ includes her two biggest UK hits: ‘How Do I Live’ and 2000’s Can’t Fight the Moonlight’, the sassy and impossibly perky girl powered theme to chick flick ‘Coyote Ugly’.

Her earlier-and less recognisable, over here, at least-releases are on there too. The songs are saccharine and middle of the road, typical candy-floss country, but despite the schmaltszy, overly twee lyrics, and mediocre melodies, it’s evident that Rimes possesses a voice that blows most other young artists out of the water. Ok, so she’s strictly of country stock, but, as ‘Can’t Fight the Moonlight’ proved, she can do funky, sexy pop just as well, if not better, as that other Southern sweetie, Britney Spears. And that’s not all! She can duet too. Seemingly only with British ex-boyband members (Ronan Keating and Bryan McFadden respectively), but they’re duets nevertheless. And surprisingly pleasing ones at that.

It’s certainly interesting to witness how LeAnn Rimes’ voice and style has evolved over the decade that this collection spans. First track ‘Blue’ (released in 1996) now seems very dated; a syrupy faux-blues tale of unrequited love. And the clothes! Shocking! Actually, the true entertainment value of ‘The Complete LeAnn Rimes DVD Collection’ doesn’t lie in the music as at all. No, it comes from seeing all the hideously outfits that Ms Rime’s was forced to wear in her earlier videos. PVC trousers anyone? And that’s just for starters. But back to the music: ‘The Complete LeAnn Rimes DVD Collection’ is sure to be a treat for ardent fans of LeAnn, but aside from that, there’s not really a lot of scope to it. Aside from providing a good chuckle for all the wrong reasons, of course. If you are indeed already a fan, you’ll no doubt have her entire back catalogue, so the DVD, which is basically a cut and paste video montage, is pretty redundant. And if you’re not already a fan, then this middle of the road production is certainly not going to convert you.

Written for: Entertainment Wise

The Magic Numbers-‘Take A Chance’


Those perky purveyors of breezy poppy sun drenched melodies The Magic Numbers return with their new single ‘Take a Chance’. Taken from their forthcoming second album ‘Those the Brokes’, ‘Take a Chance’ is not so much ‘The Magic Numbers’, as singing by numbers. Folk-lite guitar riffs, bouncy drum beats, cheery harmonies, sunny vocals: ‘The Magic Numbers’ seem determined on sticking to the formula that saw them catapult to the big time with their eponymous summer 2005 debut album. Obviously staunch believers in that ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ adage, ‘The Magic Numbers’ have stuck to it to the letter. Melodies, even lyrics have been recycled for ‘Take a Chance’. There doesn’t appear to be an ounce of originality in it, they might as well have re-released one of their former hits because this sounds exactly the same as anything they’ve done before. Save your money, listen to their debut on repeat instead, you won’t be missing much.

Written for: Entertainment Wise