The cleverer of you instantly recognize the line, and this week The Zombies repeats it in a new song, Maybe Tomorrow, singing: “You should forget about today, just like The Beatles used to say: I believe in Yesterday.” In the times we are living in, it might be what we all would prefer, trying to avoid meeting pure evil and stupefied fundamentalism face to face. But I guess truth lies in a mix of the best of today and the most valuable from yesterday, both in terms of our daily lives and in music. That´s what many of this week´s artists have in common, at least.
Since I have already revealed that The Zombies has released a new album, let’s start with Still Got That Hunger. There is no reason to be sceptical to 60s and 70s bands resurrecting, and this mostly wonderful album proves the point. The Zombies might be the most underrated of the 60s bands, but to me they are up there with The Kinks, The Beach Boys and perhaps even The Beatles at times. There’s a bit of jazz in the The Zombies as well, mostly thanks to brilliant pianist Rod Argent and Colin Bluntstone’s positive and happy voice. On “I want you Back”, the piano playing is particularly impressive, reminding me of David Bowie’s flirtation with the jazz piano on Alladin Sane, perhaps the greatest fusion of pop and jazz ever recorded, thanks to pianist Mark Garson.
Tom Jones’ new album Long Lost Suitcase, doesn’t thrill me as much, not because it isn’t good, but Mr Jones goes back to stripped down bluegrass and American traditional folk, and I can’t take big doses of this, even though I recognize that Tom Jones does this exceptionally well. I have left five songs in the list, including a duet with Irish favourite Imelda May.
I can’t take enormous doses of Judy Collins either, the music is mostly a bit too polished for my taste. But as with Tom Jones I recognize a master singer when I hear one, and Judy Collins means what she sings. On her new album, Strangers Again, she performs duets with among others Michael McDonald, Jeff Bridges and Thomas Dybdahl, and I have added tracks that will bring you joy, I am sure. And if you need more, listen to the whole album.
Judy Collins is born in Seattle, Washington, and so is next artist, Chris Cornell, better knows as the lead singer of Soundgarden. There is no doubt he has got a powerful voice, and he enjoys using it with full force. I still like him better when he tones it down a bit, and on Higher Truth you get a bit of both. It is a brilliant collection of songs, and I had a hard time choosing what to serve you, and ended up seven great and powerful songs, rocking up your Christmas listening.
Another powerful voice is that of Germany’s Jesper Munk, the blues singer from Munich. On some of the tracks on CLAIM, he pushes his voice too far and the arrangements get too avant-garde for my taste, but on others, particularly the five tracks I have added to the list, he creates brilliant, sweaty and sultry songs, making you feet tap helplessly and forcing involuntary air guitar scenes in the bathroom.
Melody Gardot is back with a new album, Currency of Man, and she knows a little about rhythm, too. Few singers can produce the voice as a rhythm instrument better than Gardot. She seems to be experimenting more both with lyrics and melody (excuse the pun) on this album than ever before, and I tag along for the ride. Of all albums I introduce on this week’s list, Currency of Man, grows and grows every time I listen to it, more than any of the others.
Pop star Sarah Bareilles has moved on to trying out as musical theatre composer, like many other pop artists like Elton John, Paul Simon and The Who before her. She has written the music to Waitress, based on the film from 2007, and I find the result successful, with songs stuck between traditional Bareilles pop and traditional musical tunes. The Broadway premiere is in 2016, and judging from the album What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, there might be enough ingredients for a success here.
In 2013, I dictatorially voted Sarah Blasko’s I Awake as Album of the Year. The brilliant Australian singer is back with a new album, Eternal Return, and although it isn’t as innovative as her previous album, I remain a big fan. There isn’t much happiness in Blasko’s music, but the intensity and sincerity in her voice makes up for it a hundredfold. Like Gardot’s new album, Eternal Return, also reveals new levels every time I listen.
Ingebjørg Bratland built quite a reputation as a traditional folk singer in Norway, with a voice that could melt snow. Still it took many years before she managed to fuse her traditional singing technique with that of modern folk and pop vocals. Now this fusion has brought her new fame, and on her new album, Månesinn (a pun on the word moonshine and “moon mind”) she performs superbly crafted self-composed songs, while keeping to the singing technique that made her famous in the first place. I have also added her equally brilliant rendition of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, in Norwegian.
Danni Nicholls is something as rare as an English country singer. Born in Bedford, England, she still performs modern country better than many Nashville stars. On Mockingbird Lane, many of the tracks are well crafted, but are quite traditional country songs. But what makes the album stand out is still the richer, more elaborate songs, also found among the American-inspired; perhaps it is her English pop and jazz upbringing that shines through. Five great English country songs are added to the list.
Dutch singer Kovacs’ album Shades of Black is also impressive. She sounds a bit like a mixture of Amy Winehouse, Shirley Bassey and Lena who won ESC for Germany (and with her quirky English pronunciation as well). With rich orchestrations and sultry rhythms I am being enticed by song after song, into a quite dark musical universe, reminiscent of old James Bond movies.
Sondre Justad’s fame started when he performed Sam Smith’s Stay with Me, with his own translated lyrics, live on Norwegian radio. His debut album has been highly anticipated, and his contemporary happy-pop on Riv i hjertet (Tear at my heart) has extended his success, following great reviews and topping the charts in his home country. Singing about being an insecure young man has never been wrong. Sondre is from Norway’s major archipelago Lofoten.
I am closing today’s blog with a man who is truly going back to yesterday, perhaps a yesterday that has gone a bit out of fashion, the Disco. The King of Disco, at least chief architect of Disco, was Italian Giorgio Moroder, now in his seventies. He has released a new album with the help of many younger friends, among others Sia and Kylie Minogue, aptly named Déjà vu. Most of the tracks on the album are in my ears truly dated, and modern production techniques don’t make up for it. Still, I can’t help being drawn into the Yesterday of some of the tracks, really enjoying being sent back to my youth.
This was the last addition to the blog list in 2015. As I have done since 2013, I will publish a special list of Top 10 albums of the year, but I need to get closer to Christmas before I can start putting it together. In the mean time, enjoy 4 ½ hours of new music! Put it on shuffle and get proof that good music is still being made.
To make room we say goodbye to Mørland & Debrah Scarlett, Chungking, Shelby Lynne, James Horner with Mari and Håkon Samuelsen, Whitehorse, Aminata, John Karayiannis, Loic Nottet, Angelique Kidjo, JD Souther, My Morning Jacket, Kyle Eastwood and Guy Sebastian.