Albums of the week - from Rod Stewart to Martin and Shirlie Kemp
Labrinth returns with his hotly anticipated second album and there are new releases from Sir Rod Stewart and the late Leonard Cohen.
LABRINTH - IMAGINATION AND THE MISFIT KID
Where on earth has Labrinth been? After seven years of silence, Hackney-raised Timothy Lee McKenzie, now 30, is a comeback king, releasing three albums in a year, including a collaboration with Sia and Diplo.
Labrinth's second album was shelved some time around the tail-end of 2014 as he battled with his record label for creative control.
The next few years were spent in Los Angeles, working with stars including Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus's sister Noah.
It's hard not to see Imagination And The Misfit Kid, the tale of a boy who sells his imagination to a businessman in exchange for success, as a cautionary tale based on Labrinth's own journey.
The album is simultaneously more experimental and more jam-packed with potential pop hits than his debut. All For Us and Misbehaving recapture the glitchy swing of his 2011 hit Earthquake with added futuristic soul, while Like A Movie repurposes a fizzing Bond-style beat for the dance floor.
Seven years in the wilderness have served Labrinth well. Imagination and the Misfit Kid is a comeback to be proud of.
8/10: Alex Green
LEONARD COHEN - THANKS FOR THE DANCE
This is a reflective posthumous offering, the 15th studio album from master songwriter Leonard Cohen, although his son Adam can take a lot of the credit for its production.
Using material recorded before his father's death, Adam worked with various musicians and artists, including Beck, Damien Rice and Javier Mas, to compile a typically sombre yet enchanting selection of songs cementing Leonard's last dance, a timeless waltz to continue his legacy.
The majority of tracks are minimalistic, instrumentally speaking, but this only raises the platform on which Cohen stands - a stark, isolated place, his poetry spilling forth like black treacle into the surrounding quietude.
Opener Happens To The Heart is tender and moving. It's classic Cohen, lamenting lost love and what could have been.
Such sorrowful musings course through a large portion of the lyrical content.
It's Torn, although short,is a beautiful piece, the gravelly vocal accompanied by acoustic guitar and a light tinkling of piano. In the past, Cohen used female artists to soften the deepness of his tone, but here he stands alone - and so he should. This is a parting tour de force from a much-loved mainstay of the music world.
7.5/10: Rachel Piercy
MARTIN AND SHIRLIE - IN THE SWING OF IT
The success of Martin Kemp and Shirlie Holliman's marriage is something that brings joy to 1980s pop fans.
In a world where celebrity relationships are often short-lived, or possibly even just a publicity stunt, the lasting love match between the Spandau Ballet heartthrob and the former Wham! backing singer is all the more pleasing.
It's easy to imagine this wholesome couple dressed in co-ordinated outfits while they perform duets such as Ain't That A Kick In The Head and How D'Ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning.
The Way You Look Tonight and You Make Me Feel So Young are particular highlights of a frothy, likeable album which holds few surprises despite the inclusion of less familiar tracks including You Was and To Build A Dream On.
It all ends with a perfectly timed treat in It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas. See interview, right
5/10: Beverley Rouse
SIR ROD STEWART - YOU'RE IN MY HEART (WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA)
I doubt that even Sir Rod would argue against the view that he's phoned through the performances on some of his previous Christmas tie-ins.
However, there's no need to phone them through this time as Trevor Horn has lifted the original vocals (and some instrumentation) from his classic singles and laid the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra doing their thing over the top, which all seems a bit pointless as few of these songs were in any need of reworking.
At no point does the addition of the orchestra improve the tracks. Nor does it stray far enough from the originals to make this an interesting enough project.
Being Christmas, Sir Rod did remember to include one turkey, bizarrely teaming up for a duet with Robbie Williams on It Takes Two.
Yes, it is how you'd imagine it. Stick with the Greatest Hits or his first four albums.
3/10: Colm McCrory