What does it sound like?:
It’s coming up to Christmas, so it’s only natural that the hardest working man in Yuletide Show Business has a new album, this time collaborating with Marc Almond. It is, after all, his duty to provide a stocking filler for dads and grandads across the land. However, the pairing might raise an eyebrow, crossing camp Goth with boogie-woogie for 14 tracks of mostly covers with a few originals thrown in and the obligatory Tainted Love.
It actually works better than it sounds. They are very energetic for a pair of sixty year olds and are still totally in love with music and performing. Plus, they know each other well, their on/off relationship dating back to Almond’s recovery from a coma after a motorbike accident in 2004.
Marc never had the best voice but he brings a colourful theatricality and a winking sense of cabaret. Jools uses the opportunity to move towards proper big band music. He plays less boogie-woogie and more swing, controlling his restless left hand and allowing his right to flourish. At some points, somewhat unbelievably, he plays fewer notes than he could and allows the horn section to hog the spotlight, blowing itself nicely purple. The real stars of the Orchestra are the horns, all eleven of them. If you close your eyes, click your heels three times and spin on a sixpence, you could almost imagine you are listening to The Count Basie Orchestra. Of course, it’s all an illusion but the forced marriage between Almond and the big band comes into its own on Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean. The finale of the old New Orleans favourite, When The Saints Go Marching In, isn’t just a charming arrangement, it’s a tour de force, especially when Ruby Turner is singing. Should go down well around midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The three new songs all express their mutual love of London, which might put the rest of the country off, if their highly romanticised view doesn’t. There are a few Blues numbers, notably two by Bobby Bland, It’s My Life Baby and I’ll Take Care Of You. They are rather good, delivered almost with a sense of joy, which is a little incongruous for the Blues. However, they can’t help themselves and keep delving into rock and pop, somewhat less successfully. There isn’t exactly a bad track but there are few others creeping above ordinary. That’s the usual score for a Jools album these days; nothing really objectionable, mostly average, a few good but a couple of real belters. Perhaps fewer average and more good this time.
There’s no questioning the quality of the musicianship nor the size of Jools’s heart but his schtick is well known by now. The punter pretty much knows what they’re in for. Jools still manages to feed a lot of hungry mouths and he still manages to have a good time as he does so. Fair play to him. His business model rolls on for another year. Did I tell you there’s a tour?
What does it all *mean*?
Beware nephews bearing gifts. If you are male and of a certain age you might find a copy in your stocking.
Goes well with…
It’s most fun to listen to when drunk.
Might suit people who like…