Title: An Appointment with Mr. Yeats
Label: Puck records
Tell me more: Mike Scott returns to the mystical, wonderful words of one of Ireland’s greatest literary sons, W.B. Yeats, having adopted The Stolen Child for 1988’s classic Fisherman Blues album, and Love and Death for 1993’s Dream Harder. Now, he’s done an entire album of Yeats’ work.
The Lowdown: It requires literary understanding as well a musical ability to put poetry to music. It doesn’t always work, as any fan of Rabbie Burns will testify – the work of the bard has never been truly matched in a recording studio.
Scott, who is, in effect The Waterboys, has taken the band on a musical whirly-jig, going from what was called The Big Music – after one of his own songs – to folk, and even encompassed rock elements into his work. Like Primal Scream who change stripes with every album, Scott is no stranger to a challenge, keenly adapting Yeats’ symbolist words, written between 1893 and the late 1930s.
Most of the songs, such as The Hosting of the Shee offer themselves to music, with Scott’s ever-beautiful voice ensuring the words are given the grace they so deserve. Sweet Dancer is a clever welding of two poems published 22 years apart. On A Full Moon in March, Scott emphasises the darkness of the theme, with the band matching his mood.
With a band that includes a variety of talents include long-time Scott collaborator Steve Wickham, Irish singer Katie Kim, keyboardist James Hallawell and multi-instrumentalist Kate St John, Scott and friends provide an engaging background to 14 poems, and while it could be argued that no band could ever provide the vigour and realism of a poem regaling his own words to a crowd, there is sufficient enthusiasm and understanding of the works to make this a worthwhile effort.
Label: Zip records
Tell me more: Porky Prime Cuts’ inbox is chocka with record label people and their publicists telling us what records we should like. Bypassing those emails with subject lines containing the names of the over-hyped newcomers, or past-it icons, Porky peers into those promoting those with a profile as high as the Cornish independence movement. Hence the arrival of Porcelain, all the way from New York.
The Lowdown: Rogers was born in Birmingham, England, but has lived most of his life in New York, which explains the slightly trans-Atlantic feel of the record, although the ‘British’ element strays more to Celtic rock. That said there’s a number of lackadaisical moments such as the lumbering Nothing Too Clever, which may have been best relegated to a b-side. Contrast this with the beautiful, uplifting Love With The World, which could be an insight into how rock stars of the 1970s would have sounded like if they’d discovered, and fallen in love with, new wave. If he eschewed the desire to be a rocker, Rogers would have had this album down to a tee: it’s songs like Link To The Chain that define the singer, his ability to change pace when necessary and individualise it, creating tracks that have vigour.
Anything else: Rogers lost his right arm and right leg below the knee in an underground train accident in 1985.
Title: Night of Hunters
Label: Deutsche Grammaphon
Tell me more: She’s sold 12 million records over the past 20 years, gone disco and slowed-down Nirvana. Tori Amos has had many hats and hairstyles and the one in 2011 is fiery red.
The Lowdown: If Amos was a road, Night of Hunters would be a sudden hair-pin bend with a radius drop of 35%. There’s virtually no guitars, no dalliances with technological explorations into dance rhythms; instead this is 14-track song cycle drawing on themes from classical composers such as Chopin, Satie and others. The only concession to anything approaching radio-friendly cock-sucking is that it is a love story with a link to Ireland’s mythic past. You cannot but admire Amos’ ambition, bringing classical music into the 21st century in a concept album that lasts well over an hour. There is drama and beauty and Amos’ voice is always enthralling. But the lyrics are sometimes too cringeworthy to bear and it’s impossible to consume this in one setting, which is apparently the objective.