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Friday, May 16, 2008

 

A Week Of Reviewing Nearly Everything (The Final Day)

Erasure, Live at the Royal Albert Hall (site)
Sometimes it seems that Erasure releases a live concert DVD after every single album. (Amazon counts at least four in the last five years.) The latest, which includes songs from their stellar CD from last year, Light at the End of the World, is more sumptuously captured than most, with a very immediate sense of the no-frills stage action and a saturated use of color. Although lead singer Andy Bell is looking a little worse for wear these days, his voice is in stellar form, providing masterful interpretations of hits like "Drama!," "Love To Hate You," and "A Little Respect." The half-dozen new songs fare pretty well, too, including a rousing "I Could Fall In Love With You." There's a rather amusing half-hour documentary about Erasure fans as well, some of whom have a rather energetic experience.

Simone, Simone on Simone (site)
Simone is the daughter of revered music legend Nina Simone; if you know her at all beyond her famous lineage, it's probably due to her stints in the Broadway companies of Rent and Aida. Her first full-length solo album is a tribute to her mother, but anyone expecting mere mimicry is in for a rude awakening. For one thing, the younger Simone's voice is a totally different instrument, with a Broadway belter's chops, trained rhythms and startling power. (Almost as a corollary, though, there's little of her mother's naked soulfulness or vulnerability.) The album is lovely, well-produced and accessible in the way that only jazz-crossover albums can be. But Simone rarely attempts anything daring with the material, often settling into a groove and staying there. It may be unfair to compare her to the elder Simone, but it's a comparison that she nevertheless invites with this recording. The jury is still out, however, on whether she'll reach the stratospheric musical heights her mother once reached so effortlessly.

Hilary McRae, Through These Walls (site)
Earlier this week, I read Natasha Bedingfield the riot act about her uninspired new CD. Had she made an album more like Hilary McRae's debut disc, Through These Walls, I would have been much kinder. Why? Because it features the kind of authenticity lacking in so much of pop music today: complex chord changes and textured instrumentation, a real horn section (scored by Charlie Calello, who has created seminal horn parts for Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen), and a solidly assured voice smothering the whole affair in delicious, unexpected melodies. Sure, it's a little retro...anyone who uses real horns instead of keyboards today is retro. And there's nothing McRae is doing that hasn't been done better by Laura Nyro, Carly Simon, Swing Out Sister or Corinne Bailey Rae. But I defy you to find a catchier tune than "Consider Me Gone" anywhere in the Top 40, or a more hummable bounce than "Why Can't Now" as you're walking down the street with your iPod. A shimmering slice of audio joy for the summer of 2008...this is the disc I'll be enjoying in Central Park on every sunny weekend until Labor Day.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Paul said...

Sigh. Erasure's last set was one i got straight away but then kinda overlooked. However, I have been playing it a lot lately, and am discovering all sorts of joys within. I didn't know there was a dvd - thanks for the heads up!

5/16/08, 5:09 AM  

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