Album reviews: From Take That to The Greatest Showman Reimagined
Is a reimagined version of the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman as good as it sounds? And can a new compilation album from Take That, with rejuvenated hits, live up to expectations?
Various Artists: The Greatest Showman Reimagined
This year, Christmas appears to be the music-filled gift that keeps giving. Who knew that, after a year of being everywhere, what was needed was another spin on this immensely popular Hollywood musical? From singalong cinema screenings, school plays to this new take on the soundtrack, it seems we just can't get enough of The Greatest Showman.
The Reimagined album is just that: popular artists putting their own spins on the most popular tracks. Opening with Panic! At The Disco and their rip-roaring The Greatest Show, Brendon Urie's vocals soar, followed by Pink and A Million Dreams. It's also fabulous to hear from Kesha with a version of This Is Me.
It's hard to choose between both versions of the Greatest Show: Panic's or Pentatonix, where it is so easy to forget that there are no instruments involved. The a capella group have such rich tones, it's shameful they don't get more air time.
Amy Rigby: The Old Guys
Mischievousness abounds in the lightly sardonic opening track to Amy Rigby's first album in 12 years. The American singer-songwriter opens with the unusually titled From philiproth@gmail to firstname.lastname@example.org, an imaginary email from the late Philip Roth, one of America's most revered novelists, to Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize that many thought should have been Roth's.
Rigby is best described, in the most simplistic form, as a modern, female Tom Petty. Her music makes you feel. It digs deep into your soul with its fantastically inventive lyrics. Her observational writing is apparent on every single track from the punchy Playing Pittsburgh to New Sheriff, on which she refers to herself as Breaking Bad's anti-hero Walter White. A true masterpiece.
Bryan Ferry and his Orchestra: Bitter-Sweet
Bryan Ferry has sometimes been guilty of fetishising the past. But this is no bad thing. His recent excursions into the roots of jazz have seen him reinterpret his old standards as free-wheeling jazz instrumentals.
Inspired by his work on the soundtrack of the Sky Atlantic/Netflix series Babylon Berlin, Ferry now embarks on a comprehensive reinterpretation of his back catalogue through the lens of jazz. Slap bang at the centre of Germany's post-First World War Weimar Republic, Berlin Babylon tells a tale of police and pornographers set against the backdrop of Berlin's 1920s jazz scene.
His music bends itself to the free-flowing feel of the genre. Often whimsical and lilting, tracks like Sign Of The Times and Dance Away feel a natural fit for the style's loose, improvisational nature.
Rita Ora: Phoenix
Phoenix is a fitting name for an album that very easily could have never happened. A delayed follow-up to her debut record, a very public spat with ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris and a long-running feud with her former label, Jay-Z's own Roc Nation, the road to Phoenix has not been easy.
Given Ora has had six years to write and refine Phoenix, it's not entirely unfair to expect fireworks. But if you're looking for pyrotechnics, look elsewhere. The 28-year-old's highly anticipated second LP is a perfectly serviceable collection of pop songs, but it lacks any real sort of kick. First Time High marries glossy production with a feelgood dancehall swing, while Summer Love, featuring Rudimental, is a decent crack at a drum and bass anthem. Elsewhere, though, she achieves less.
Take That: Odyssey
What's the best way to mark 30 years in the business? Well, according to Take That, it's to release an album of reworked hits and a smattering of new tracks. Odyssey may sound like a cop-out to some, but it's actually not all that bad, truth be told.
There are a number of actually pretty decent reworkings, the more anthemic-sounding Relight My Fire being one example. The way some tracks blend together with new outros into intros is a nifty little way of seaming together the new and the old: a fresh orchestral ending to Shine opens up into classic belter Never Forget. It's genius. Take That do still have it. The three new songs prove they are still at the top of their game (single Out Of Our heads is a new classic) and highlight the fact that these three have plenty of years left in them yet.