Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This one goes to João Borges

A couple of weeks ago I decided to order two books from Amazon and, as it happens often, I ended up by ordering three CDs too… As soon as I pressed the « point of no return » key, I started thinking how stupid I am for spending so much money on impulsive buys… but now that I have received the order and listened to the CDs, I must say that I am very happy for having spent that money. And this is so because I bought three of the best CDs recently released, and I can’t get enough of any of them!

The first one is “Jukebox”, by Cat Power. Chan Marshall, the one of the snake hips and smoky elocution, makes light work of her heroes on this collection of unlikely karaoke gems. James Brown’s “Lost Someone” becomes a Memphis front-porch torch song and “Don’t Explain” makes Billie Holiday’s version seem non confessional. Joni Mitchell’s icily beautiful “Blue” gets a thaw and a late-night feel that is completely different but just as compelling as the original. And the only new track, “Song to Bobby”, dedicated to and inspired by Dylan, is simply brilliant. As if this was not enough, the edition I bought comes with an extra-track: a wonderful cover of Nick Cave’s “Breathless”! “Jukebox” oozes breathy intimacy and classy cathedral calm, and the drummer Jim White holds a big share of the responsibility.

The second one is “Mano Suave”. With a history that takes in the Spanish banishment of Sephardic Jews in the 15th century and their subsequent flight to the Ottoman Empire-controlled areas brought up to date by a father who is also a synagogue’s liturgical lead singer, Yasmin Levy’s yearning, lilting, nuanced songs on love, loss and homeland possess a pretty reasonable, well-travelled soul. Sung in the moribund Judean-Spanish Ladino, Spanish folk music, nestled along Middle East traces and influences from all around the Mediterranean, informs a record of irresistible musicality and real beauty. Her voice brings us to paradise, and the Paraguayan harp brings us back to earth with a smile in our face!

Last, but definitely not the least, “19” by Adele. The title reflects Adele’s age at the time of the album’s release and not some kind of homage to this blog; my neighbours from next door are sad but will forgive her after they listen to the record… She hails from Brixton and attended the Brit School where young ladies such as Amy Winehouse and Lilly Allen honed their skills at smoking, twirling gum around their index fingers and delivering the most poignant British pop of the past decade. Training a voice reminiscent of Winehouse and Peggy Lee over pop and piano-driven soul, Adele Atkins is every bit as good as the other old girls. Even if the UK press dubs her as the next Amy Winehouse, for me she’s more like the new Suzanne Vega. And coming from me, this is a compliment!


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