Albums of the week: From Carole King to Anastacia
Nostalgia tops the playlist this time, with Carole King’s Tapestry being crowned album of the week, but if it’s new sounds you’re after, look no further than Anastacia’s powerful new offering, Evolution.
CAROLE KING — TAPESTRY: LIVE IN HYDE PARK
When Carole King performed her iconic album Tapestry in its entirety for the first time at British Summer Time Festival last year, it was a triumphant trip down memory lane. The concert has now fittingly been released on CD and DVD/Blu-ray, and there are plenty of singalong highlights, such as the energetic I Feel The Earth Move, starting off the set with dramatic piano riffs and King’s undeniably recognisable vocals to rapturous applause. The unforgettable You’ve Got a Friend is impossible to listen to without smiling, but nothing will get you reminiscing quite like Locomotion. A touching surprise comes in the form of a duet from King with her daughter, Louise Goffin, on a reworked version of Where You Lead, which younger generations will recognise as the theme for US TV show Gilmore Girls. It may have been a long time since King sang to UK fans — this was her first concert here since 1989 — but her emotive songwriting and stage presence is clearly timeless.
ANASTACIA — EVOLUTION
Last year, American singer Anastacia showed off her moves on Strictly Come Dancing, but this year she’s gone back to her music-making roots. Evolution, her first album of original music in some three years, is packed with everything you could want and there’s definitely a good variety for fans of her music, from big ballads, to upbeat, singalong tunes and then a few laid-back songs to tone it down. The singer, who has battled breast cancer twice, does not hold back with powerful, heartfelt lyrics that are matched perfectly with big notes to give them that extra bang. Caught in the Middle is upbeat and inspiring and easy to sing along to, but if you’re after a big ballad then you’re spoilt for choice with My Everything, Not Coming Down and Before. It would be no surprise if Stamina was topping singles charts soon. Talking about the song, she said: “I wanted to call the whole album Stamina, but somehow the word sounded too clinical. My need for hospitals has been covered for now. While I was writing songs I learned that I’m much stronger than I thought. I want to awaken that strength and courage in my listeners.” Job done.
RICKY ROSS — SHORT STORIES VOL. 1
The Deacon Blue man comes out with a solo album of self-penned numbers, interspersed with a cover and songs originally recorded by his band. The opening track, I Thought I Saw You, really sets the tone for the rest of the album. It’s Ross, close-miced, a piano and some lush string backing. These are clearly personal songs, sung with commitment, if somewhat lacking in real passion. The DB songs Raintown and Wages Day will be familiar to fans, but the new arrangement puts a different perspective on them. The cover of Goin’ Back works well here too, fitting in with the feel of the whole album. No doubt Deacon Blue fans will take this to their hearts, but whether it has wider appeal is another matter. It’s classy pop, well-produced and performed, but it remains to be seen if it has that something needed to be a huge success.
SEAN McGOWAN — GRAFT AND GRIEF
This short EP from indie-punk poet Sean McGowan opens, unusually, with a statement of intent, encouraging the listener to remember that “there’s more to life than graft and grief”. If this sounds a little rich coming from someone who also admits to having only been born in 1993, he at least articulates his sentiments well over the subsequent five tracks. No Show and Clear Conscience, in particular, are bracing in their disgust at the modern rat race: the low-wage, zero-hour economy exploiting those at the bottom end and the dubious rewards waiting for the few that make it to the top. It’s no surprise Billy Bragg is a fan, although these vaguely political musings are very much anchored in the average young person’s fear of conformity in general. All of which is to be encouraged, but the hectoring tone soon becomes a bit wearying.