tue 12/12/2017

CD: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – The Golden Age of Song | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – The Golden Age of Song

CD: Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra – The Golden Age of Song

The prolific keyboard basher gets by with a little help from his musical friends

Singalongajools: the hits jostle with the misses on this eclectic album

Sometimes as a critic one cannot help pre-judging an album however hard one tries not to. I expected the worst of this all-star jamboree bag from TV's most haphazard interviewer, which mixes some Hootenanny turns with new recordings of old favourites by some of music's blandest and/or most irritating personalities. Yet apart from a few excruciating exceptions this is not a bad something-for-all album to stick on when the in-laws pitch up on Boxing Day.

Best of the crop by a fair lick is the Hootenanny 2006-era duet of Amy Winehouse and Paul Weller on "Don't Go to Strangers". Winehouse's vocal brilliance does not diminish one iota with the years. This is another example of her febrile brand of bruised blues and a further painful reminder, as if it were needed, of what we are missing. Weller is also something of a solo crooning revelation on "September in the Rain", suggesting he could have a sideline as a part-time Perry Como if the retro-rock muse ever dries up. Holland certainly seems to extract good performances. Even Mick Hucknall pulls it out of the bag for "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" with Jools' big band laying some subtle foundations.

The only really bad news is Jessie J's melisma-frenzy on "Get Here", which had me reaching for the skip switch and the sick bag simultaneously. But Joss Stone keeps the over-emoting to a minimum while adding an irreverent ska tinge to Barmitzvah favourite "Bei Mir Bist Du Shön", and Tom Jones (a swinging "I'll Sail My Ship Alone") and Florence Welch (a jaunty kitchen sink and everything "My Baby Just Cares For Me") are among others flexing formidable MOR lung power. Best of all? There isn't much of Holland's toothache-inducing boogie woogie piano. And he doesn't interview anyone.

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