Album reviews: Kate Bush, Prince, Roy Orbison and Ennio Morricone
With Christmas a-coming, these compilation and greatest hits albums will make brilliant gifts for the music lovers in your life.
PRINCE — 4EVER
One of the most shocking moments in a year containing many was the death of Prince. This inevitable cash-in could be considered cynical, but listening to it is, of course, an absolute joy, if you can forget the fact such a genius is sadly no longer with us. Spanning the glory years, each CD starts with the big hits (1999, Kiss) before a kind-of chronological run-through featuring some amazing slabs of funk, rock, pop and soul. The new track, Moonbeam Levels, may not hit the same sweet spot as the greats, but it’s an interesting curio. For the first time ever on a Prince compilation, there’s also Batdance and a few B-sides here and there. Strangely, some of the Nineties tracks on the second disc haven’t aged as well as the early Eighties tracks, but that’s perhaps down to the influence on modern music of his peak material, when he was absolutely untouchable.
KATE BUSH — BEFORE THE DAWN (LIVE ALBUM)
When Kate Bush announced her series of 2014 concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo, it was the most unlikely comeback since Lazarus returned from the dead in biblical times. It was the first time she had performed live since her one and only tour in 1979 and, unsurprisingly, tickets sold out immediately. One of the UK’s true pop treasures, Bush has always done her own thing on her own terms, and this was to be no greatest hits farewell. Instead, aside from Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill and Cloudbusting, she predominately selected album tracks, but this makes this three-CD document of the shows even more mesmerising. Bush is in fine vocal form throughout, but it is on the brilliant And Dream Of Sheep, equally captivating Jig Of Life and gorgeous King Of The Mountain that she truly soars. This is a live album to treasure for those unlucky enough not to have secured tickets, and a sharp reminder that Bush remains one of the most intriguing and talented of British musicians. She truly is a national treasure.
ROY ORBISON — THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION
There is no shortage of Roy Orbison Best Ofs on supermarket shelves. Unlike previous compilations, however, Sony’s latest genuinely deserves the title of Ultimate Collection, providing in one place all of the Big O’s best-known songs, such as It’s Over, In Dreams and Oh, Pretty Woman, in their original, Sixties versions, and not the inferior re-recordings from the Eighties. The great man’s later work is also featured, including the Bono-penned She’s A Mystery To Me and two tracks from his collaboration with the Traveling Wilburys. If you are in the enviable position of being unfamiliar with Orbison, this is the collection to buy. With his resonant voice frequently breaking into falsetto, and melancholy songs about heartbreak and loneliness, he was a unique figure in the world of early Sixties pop. There’s never been anyone quite like him since. Feeling bad never sounded so good.
DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS — 10TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION
This successful brand dedicated to the music of the Fifties and early Sixties has now reached its 10th year. After 22 compilations and two jukebox musicals, here is a collection of the best of the best that harks back to a time when the concept of the teenager was new. This is rock ‘n’ roll and pop with raw energy and high emotions delivered by quiffed boys in cool clothes and girls in pretty dresses. This collection spans four discs and you get floor-fillers like The Twist and Shake, Rattle And Roll; the eerie sounds of Johnny Remember Me and To Know Him Is To Love Him; and the heartache of A Teenager In Love and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. This collection illustrates a rich period in music and will appeal to anyone who was there or has an appreciation for that era.
ENNIO MORRICONE — 60
When Ennio Morricone received an Oscar for his soundtrack to The Hateful Eight this year, it was overdue recognition of his 60 years in the business. Now, here’s a collection of his film music, a greatest hits, which shows the sheer range of his work. These new recordings, made with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, show Morricone is equally at home with delicate melodies as with discordant mood pieces. The latter hark back to Morricone’s beginnings as an avant garde musician, but it’s the diversity of his compositions that really impresses, many of which are iconic. None more so than his scores for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, especially the haunting The Man With The Harmonica and the brilliantly evocative The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. The tender, the epic, the joyful and the sinister are all here.
TRAINSPOTTING 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since the release of Danny Boyle’s definitive UK film Trainspotting, but it really has, and to celebrate Parlophone has reissued the seminal soundtrack. Not before or since has there been such a perfect marriage of story and song. I still can’t hear Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life without picturing Renton and Spud running manically from two security guards in that opening sequence. This was also the record that gave many people their first listen of Underworld’s euphoria-inducing anthem Born Slippy, for which I am eternally grateful, and revisited classics like Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and Heaven 17’s Temptation. It also serves to remind us of Sleeper and their lacklustre cover of Blondie’s Atomic, which we could all do without. It is a great big dose of nostalgia that you can digest in time for T2 in February. I can’t help but feel they will have a hard time topping this.