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Reissue CDs Weekly: Eurovision 2013, Françoise Hardy, James Last, Nico Gomez | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Eurovision 2013, Françoise Hardy, James Last, Nico Gomez

Reissue CDs Weekly: Eurovision 2013, Françoise Hardy, James Last, Nico Gomez

A Eurovision-inspired round-up with this year’s competitors and reissues from France, Germany and Belgium

Armenia’s Dorians: hoping to make a mark at Eurovision 2013 with “Lonely Planet”, written by Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi


We Are One Eurovision Song Contest Malmö 2013Various Artists: We Are One - Eurovision Song Contest Malmö 2013

From the British perspective, one thing stands out at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. And it’s not our entry, the turgid power balladry of Bonnie Tyler’s sure-to-stumble “Believe in Me”. It’s the Armenian entry, “Lonely Planet” by Dorians. Although not that great a song for Armenia's return to the contest after last year's withdrawal, the composer is Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. Its building chorus, powerful delivery, authentic rock dynamics and plank-spanking guitar solo would easily slot into in the musical Rock of Ages. But how it will fare at the final on 18 May? Will it even make it past the semi-finals? Based on the partisan voting which defines the competition these days, who knows?

This handy, 39-track double CD of the 2013 entrants is barely required conformation that Eurovision is a world like no other. In entering Bonnie Tyler after last year’s disastrous selection of Englebert Humperdinck, GB has repeated the blunder. Choosing another venerable, no-longer relevant act for the reason they might still be internationally known will hardly garner points. The bonkers Greek entry “Alcohol is Free”, by Koza Mostra & Agathon Lakovidis, has more of chance. So does “Hold Me”, a sort of Robbie Williams knock-off from Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov, and the Enrique Iglesias/Ricky Martin analogue of Takasa’s “You and Me” (Switzerland). Even the smouldering “L’enfer et Moi” from France’s bona fide pop star Amandine Bourgeois is likely to do better than Bonnie Tyler.

Finland’s Krista Siegfrid sings 'I’m your slave and you’re my master…so marry me'

The expected raft of fizzy dance/electro pop includes Norway’s rather good “I Feed You my Love” by Margaret Berger, co-written by Sweden’s Karin Park. A bit cheeky of her considering Norway’s neighbour was last year’s winner and this year’s host. The Swedish entry, “You” by Robin Stjenberg (which has a Norwegian co-writer), doesn’t sound like a points scorer; it takes too long to get going. Unfortunately, the usually reliable Cascada, representing Germany, don’t sound like trophy holders either - their "Glorious" is too closely modelled on Loreen's "Euphoria", last year's winner. More appealing are the lyrics of Finland’s perky slice of sociology, Krista Siegfrids’ “Marry Me”. “I’m your slave and you’re my master… so marry me…ding-dong,” she chirps. Soixante-deux points for this retraction of women’s rights, maybe.

Last year, the wildest and best entry was Albania’s stunning Rona Nishliu. Sadly, this time out they’ve gone normal with the orchestrated Balkan pop-rock of Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko’s “Identitet”. For real-world brilliance this year, look to the Netherlands’ long-time star Anouk. Her wonderful (and atypically sombre) “Birds” is a revelation but, again, probably not a winner due to its brooding atmosphere. Watch her perform a stripped-down version of this gem at the end of this. One of Anouk’s co-writers is Torre Johansson, former producer of Sweden's Cardigans. His is one of many Scandinavian names cropping up as songwriters this year. It’s obvious The Netherlands and similarly minded countries are hoping to mimic Sweden's 2012 win. Good luck to them.

Françoise Hardy Midnight Blues Paris London 1968-72Françoise Hardy: Midnight Blues, Paris, London, 1968-72

After the nasty taste left by the recent slap-dash reissue of her first album, Midnight Blues does the job properly with good packaging, insightful liner notes by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and a coherent theme. It also comes on the back of the UK release of her new album, L'amour fou. Compiled here are the essential English-language recordings she made as the Sixties withered and the Seventies blossomed. Of the 24 tracks, originally issued across three albums (different territories had different configurations) a quarter are by her. By this time, the concept of the singer-songwriter, a role she had pioneered, was established. Clearly, she recognised kindred sprits and Midnight Blues includes sensitive, yearning versions of compositions by Leonard Cohen, Buffy Saint-Marie, Randy Newman and Neil Young. Intriguingly, she also covered two Beverley Martyn songs, “Ocean” and “Can’t Get the One I Want”, recorded for an album produced by British folk figure Tony Cox, an associate of Joe Boyd. Boyd had unsuccessfully tried to team her with Nick Drake and after that – their meeting is discussed in the liner notes – she worked with Cox in London. Good to see at least one label knows how to treat a Françoise Hardy reissue suitably.

 

James Last The America AlbumJames Last: The America Album

This curiosity is a genuinely fascinating archive find: a previously unreleased James Last album from 1969. It’s also really great. As the Sixties came to a close, Last’s label Polydor were wondering how to market Germany’s king of orchestrated easy listening in America. They hit upon the idea of a concept album centred around Last's musical interpretation of America, with covers of hip songs by Jimmy Webb, Laura Nyro, Bob Dylan and The Byrds. Although test pressings were manufactured, it fell between the cracks and odd tracks were subsequently used on random albums by Last. This is its first-ever appearance. The album opens with a grand, atmospheric version of Jimmy Webb’s “Evie” which strays into David Axelrod territory. Last’s own “America” is a groovy, horn-punctuated mover with a cowboy slant. Most surprising is The Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider”, reconfigured as a string-fuelled epic – more so than the original – that could have soundtracked a Marlboro ad as effectively as the film it was originally written for.

Nico Gomez and his Afro Percussion Inc RitualNico Gomez and his Afro Percussion Inc: Ritual

Despite evidence to the contrary, Mr Gomez is a Dutch-born, Belgium-based band leader who, geography notwithstanding, issued a string of Latin or African-styled records from the late 1950s onwards. He was about as exotic as our own bandleader Geoff Love, who shifted crates of albums as Manuel & the Music From the Mountains. Yet this 1971 album from Gomez has an enviable hipster caché, resulting in this new reissue. Its title track was sampled to become the basis for Liquid People’s house floor-filler “The Dragon”. Ritual is not, however, crammed with breakbeat-driven nuggets but is instead a souped-up easy listening extravaganza. The pumping Hammond organ and wah-wah guitar fuelling the driving opener “Cabello Negro” are supplemented by chants fusing Sergio Mendes with Santana. Formula defined, Gomez runs with it – sometimes adding piercing fuzz guitar; other times taking it down with a light shuffle (“Samba de una Nota so”, a version of “One-Note Samba). Probably not what would be expected from Belgium, but fun nonetheless.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch Anouk perform “Birds”

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