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Albums of the week - from Billy Ocean to Declan McKenna


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AngelHeaded hipster: The songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex

AngelHeaded hipster: The songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex

AngelHeaded hipster: The songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex

Various, AngelHeaded hipster: The songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex

Marc Bolan was friend and rival to David Bowie, first to find fame and first to number one after he moved from Sixties mystical folk rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex to the glam rock monster T Rex.

But he’d been left far behind by the time of his death in a car crash two weeks before his 30th birthday in 1977.

AngelHeaded Hipster aims to redress the balance and also serves as a celebration of producer Hal Willner, who died of Covid-19 in April.

Willner compiled tribute albums to the likes of Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill and Charles Mingus, and placed Bolan at that level.

His contacts book secured a mixture of Bolan’s contemporaries (Sir Elton John, Todd Rundgren), later artists influenced by him (Marc Almond, Devendra Banhart) and some unexpected choices (Nick Cave, Perry Farrell) as well as both Sean and Julian Lennon on separate tracks.

Bolan released a huge number of songs in his short life, and some of the best-known are missing from the 26 here, including Hot Love, Telegram Sam and 20th Century Boy.

Kesha kicks off with Children Of The Revolution, before Cave produces a fantastic Cosmic Dancer. Lucinda Williams slows Life’s A Gas right down, Peaches records an electronica Solid Gold, Easy Action and Nena supplies a Motown take on Metal Guru.

Not all the tracks hit those heights, but AngelHeaded Hipster will make you want to listen on repeat, as well as send you back to the originals.

9/10, Matthew George

Billy Ocean, One World

Billy Ocean celebrated his 70th birthday by announcing his first album of new material in 10 years.

The Grammy Award-winner co-wrote all 12 tracks on the tellingly titled One World, which was recorded in Manchester and New York last year.

The album does not get off to a good start. Opener We Gotta Find Love features muddy, Eighties-style production and jarring thunder and rain effects.

Thankfully, Ocean soon hits a stride, riding a taut groove on Feel The Love. Yet across the album it’s a mixed bag.

Ocean soars when he is allowed to showcase his rough, deep voice but flounders under the production and busy orchestration.

Fresh from being made an MBE in the New Year Honours list, this is a welcome return to the spotlight, but not one that shows off Ocean’s best songwriting.

5/10, Alex Green

Dirty Projectors, Super Joao

Understated is hardly the word you’d use to describe a Dirty Projectors record ordinarily, but in recent years frontman and songwriter Dave Longstreth has been on something of a journey.

After a well-publicised falling out with bandmate and ex-partner Amber Coffman, 2017’s self-titled record was a brutal story of heartache, while the follow-up, Lamp Lit Prose, was a cameo-laden attempt to revert to his project’s more playful early days.

But on four-track EP Super Joao — the latest in the band’s EP cycle, 5EPs — Longstreth is found in a notably more contented mood, plucking away at a nylon-string guitar like a fireside troubadour.

Inspired by Chet Baker and the late bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto, it’s quite the departure.

As on Flight Tower, the previous EP in the series, Longstreth and his bandmates seem to have found a sense of calm, and they’re wearing it well.

7/10, Stephen Jones

Declan McKenna, Zeros

Since 2017, when Hertfordshire singer-songwriter Declan McKenna released his debut studio album What Do You Think About The Car?, he’s improved greatly.

His long-awaited second album Zeros shows just how much he’s progressed in the last few years.

Zeros sets the scene with You Better Believe, featuring an upbeat indie-pop vibe also heard in some of McKenna’s previously released singles.

Among them is Beautiful Faces, one of his more meaningful songs, as it covers the issues young people face in the modern world and the lyric “beautiful faces smiling over us” gives the feeling of the general public feeling smaller than the celebrities we see on social media.

Later parts of the album demonstrate McKenna’s ability to make each track sound unique.

If you’re judging each track on its own merit then they are all decent, but collectively as an album it’s a mismatch of styles that at times seems thrown together.

6/10, Abi Hayward

Belfast Telegraph