By Joe C. Evans
October 27th 2014
Pioneer of the new wave scene, Annie Lennox could perhaps be forgiven for wanting to produce something a little less experimental. Her latest offering, Nostalgia, is just that. Lennox certainly takes on the early soul and jazz of the Great American Songbook with style, but ends up producing something that will make a great stocking filler for your Mum.
At its best the album is strong, breathing life into songs often covered but rarely covered well. ‘Memphis in June’, the album’s first track, immediately exhibits the power of Lennox’s vocal range and ability. Evidencing soul unlike anything she has released before, the vocal soars over an innovative arrangement.
The same can be said of the reinvention of ‘Georgia On My Mind’. The arrangement again evokes the songs emotive power while the voice is powerful and dramatic. ‘I Put a Spell on You’ lacks the grit of either Nina Simone or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but again is perfect for your Mum. Easy on the ears, yes, but impressive nonetheless.
‘Summertime’ is one of the more interesting songs on the album; subverting expectation of the Gershwin classic, the song is stripped right back to the bare bones, Lennox accompanied by a piano and not much more. It’s a nice twist on a widely performed piece of music, one that I didn’t see coming and that is a welcome surprise.
The main criticism of the album is that, in places, it seriously lacks authenticity. Perhaps it is an unfair critique of the Scottish singer to suggest that her interpretation lacks the soul of Billie Holiday, but listen to ‘Strange Fruit’ and I’m sure you’ll agree. Likewise the life is somewhat sucked out of ‘I Cover the Waterfront’, a song brilliantly covered elsewhere by Van Morrison.
I’ve no doubt that issues regarding authenticity will be passed off with the argument that ‘it’s just a different interpretation’. This is fine, however it is undermined by the problem it is simply a worse, less gripping retelling of great songs. The impression I was left with from Nostalgia was one of wishing I had listened to the songs in their original format, rather than on yet another Great American Songbook album.
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