Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Album Review: Joe McElderry - Classic

Joe McElderry - Classic

Jumping from screaming teen idol to grandmother's favourite in less than two years, former X-Factor winner Joe McElderry is back with his second album, Classic.

Having been unashamedly dumped by Simon Cowell's record label after the disappointing performance of debut album Wide Awake (whilst McElderry has a great voice it wasn't a brilliant record (despite his cover of Ambitions - one of my favourite pop records of all time)) he was signed by Decca and this album follows his renaissance as a serious artists after winning ITV's Popstar to Operastar series.

It's the sort of album that will sell by the truckload despite having dubious production and the type of tracklist that's a staple feature of this sort of record. Covers of Dance With My Father, Over the Rainbow (in the ukelele style, of course) and My Heart Will Go On. Check. His version of I Dreamed A Dream in a Susan Boyle style. Check. A couple of songs in Italian to show variety and versatility (Nessun Dorma and Canto Della Terra). Check. She Was Beautiful (the vocal theme to the Deer Hunter) as performed by Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts on his debut album. Check.

In fairness to McElderry, he can certainly sing and he's picked a popular selection of songs, here. She Was Beautiful is a terrific record, and his version of Nessun Dorma certainly demonstrates that the 20 year old has a set of pipes on him. Sadly, the production is as lazy and as inoffensive as you'd imagine and it's effectively an album of semi-classical karaoke.

I always liked little Joe and I wish him all the luck in the world. This isn't going to thrust him back onto the bedroom walls of teenage kids, though.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Album Review: Will Young - Echoes

Will Young - Echoes

Nearly ten years after the loveable Will Young defeated popstrel Gareth Gates on his way to securing one of the biggest selling singles in UK chart history, the singer is back with his fifth studio album, Echoes.

This time, Young has decided to adopt a synth-based approach (with help from producer Richard X) which, to be fair to him, largely comes off. Single and opening track Jealousy is reminiscent in sound and structure of Joe McElderry's take on Donkeyboy's Ambitions, while the rest of the album chugs along in a likeable but ultimately samey vein. His occasional lapse into daft falsetto (such as on Safe From Harm) doesn't really help although there are some nice moments here - Silent Valentine is laid back, synth driven loveliness.

Part of the problem I have is that Will Young seems to be one of those people whose fame has resulted in him spectacularly disappearing up his own fundament, and so I find myself increasingly disliking him personally. Whilst I suppose that shouldn't affect what I think of his record; it does, which actually is a bit of a shame.

Echoes is the sort of record that would happily accompany a late Sunday morning as you eat eggs and bagels and pick through the newspaper supplements. It's good to a point, but its lack of variety ultimately means you mentally (or literally) switch off by the end.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Album Review: Charlie Simpson - Young Pilgrim

Charlie Simpson - Young Pilgrim

Well, here's one I wasn't expecting. Former Busted and Fightstar frontman, Charlie Simpson, releases his first solo album which turns out to be an enthralling, beautiful and high quality acoustic record.

Now, I could admit here that I was always partial to a bit of Busted but in the context of the sound of Young Pilgrim that would be like saying I enjoyed Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio just because I liked Hello Goodbye. Simpson's record could scarcely be further from the frothy guitar pop of That's What I Go To School For and instead, he's produced a piano and guitar led album notable for its excellent songwriting.

The employment of ex-Coldplay producer Danton Supple can't be underestimated here - closing track Riverbanks couldn't sound more like Chris Martin and co if it tried - but what it does mean is that there is a Parachutes-esque sound to the record on singles Down Down Down and, ironically, Parachutes.

Simpson's distinctive vocals are perfectly suited to the twelve songs which, admittedly, take a bit of time to sink in as on first listen they do sound similar. I liked I Need A Friend Tonight and Hold On although the whole record shows that Simpson is a more mature and better singer songwriter than many people give him credit for. A surprising and excellent record.