Paul McCartney - Egypt Station
Both the sleeve art and title of Sir Paul McCartney’s 17th solo album are taken from one of his own paintings from the Eighties, which might lead you to suspect that his first record in five years leans towards self-indulgence.
In fact, Egypt Station is up there with his best post-Beatles work, in part because Adele and Beck producer Greg Kurstin has made McCartney sound contemporary without losing the essence of his songwriting genius.
Perhaps scoring his first big hit in decades with Kanye West and Rihanna in 2015 has fired up McCartney. Fuh You, the new single written with One Rebublic’s Ryan Tedder, is how you imagine Coldplay might sound if they replaced Chris Martin with a former Beatle.
If McCartney wanted to show he deserves to sit on a Spotify playlist alongside artists 50 years younger than him, he’s proved his point. But Egypt Station is also a cohesive body of work on which he tips his hat to a formidable back catalogue.
In its lovely acoustic simplicity, Happy With You recalls his Beatles classic Blackbird. It’s a song on which bad habits (“I sat around all day/ I used to get stoned”) have been replaced by romantic contentment. The optimism of People Want Peace feels familiar, too, though it’s loaded with fresh urgency.
The standout tune is the seven-minute Despite Repeated Warnings, which shares the propulsive power of Wings’ Live and Let Die.
It’s a bold and exhilarating comeback that underlines McCartney’s songwriting status — a living legend, no less.
by Andre Paine
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
IT’S 21 years since the release of Jonathan Pierce’s pharmatropic song cycle, Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space. The opening song here, A Perfect Miracle, mirrors the lilting triplets of that album’s title track, as if to hint that this collection has been visited by the same muse. It might lack the cosmic redemptive vision, and be out of step with 2018, but it is hard to deny And Nothing Hurt’s sleepy golden loveliness. Its afterglow warmth is a little All Things Must Pass, a little Hot Buttered Soul, a little Deserter’s Songs, and it’s somehow more impressive that this antique sound was the product more of painstaking laptop work than expensive studio sessions. But listen to Pierce’s guitar solo at the end of I’m Your Man. You can’t fake that sort of emotional truth.
by Richard Godwin
Paul Simon - In the Blue Light
AS HE continues his farewell tour in the US, Paul Simon is putting his house in order. This album contains 10 new recordings of old songs from as far apart as 1973’s One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor and 2011’s Questions for the Angels, with arrangements refreshed and even some lyrics tweaked to suit his liking at 76. He avoids obvious cuts, skipping Graceland and Garfunkel altogether. The mood is calm, restrained and somewhat elegiac, with a prestigious guest list helping out, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis on the New Orleans jazz of Pigs, Sheep and Wolves, and chamber group yMusic, who provide staccato wind instrumentation on Can’t Run But. If this is his final recording, it’s a low-key one, but it shines a worthy light on some overlooked gems.
by David Smyth
Kandace Springs - Indigo
Before she set out to make that tricky second album, Nashville singer/songwriter Kandace Springs asked herself one thing — what would her idol Nina Simone do? According to this excellent 14-track disc, the late diva would have mixed it up, throwing jazz standards in with classical compositions, penning soul-jazz originals and enticing guests including trumpeter Roy Hargrove and Kandace’s dad, Scat Springs, on a sweet keyboard-and-voice duet called Simple Things. While Springs’ dexterity impresses, it is her voice — rich, silky, note-perfect — that dazzles.
by Jane Cornwell
Bokanté And The Metropole Orkest - What Heat
BOKANTÉ are a Caribbean-flavoured offshoot from the funky New York jazz collective Snarky Puppy that burst onto the scene last year with their album Strange Circles and some great live shows at WOMAD and elsewhere. Founder of the band is Snarky Puppy’s Michael League, but the figurehead is Guadeloupean singer Malika Tirolien, whose silky vocals in Guadeloupean creole give the album its focus. The opening track, All the Way Home, is stripped back, with multi-tracked vocals and percussion plus some underlying strings. It’s like an entry into the Bokanté world. But as the album progresses, their individualistic spark is soft-focused by the string lines of the Netherlands-based Metropole Orkest. It really dilutes the spirit of the original. The band’s debut is far better.
Lenny Kravitz - Raise Vibration
“I dreamt the whole record,” Lenny Kravitz has said of Raise Vibration, his 11th album. It’s one of his most reflective to date, as memories from the past both haunt and inspire. One song recalls the time Johnny Cash comforted him after his mother died; another, Low, features vocals by Michael Jackson the two recorded years ago. Elsewhere, more personal memories litter an album that often feels like Kravitz taking stock; after a 30-year career, 40 million album sales and four Grammys, he surely deserves such a moment. Adding to the intimate tone of the album is his impressive playing of virtually every instrument. Curtis Mayfield-esque protest song It’s Enough is another highlight, its political world-weariness turning into an eventual message of hope and survival. An apt metaphor for the enduring Kravitz.
by Elizabeth Aubrey