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This Week: CD Reviews.

Byline: BY PAUL COLE, MICHELLE ANSON & DAVID BROOKES

SIMPLE MINDS

Black & White (Sanctuary)

COLDPLAY may have stolen their crown while they've been away but Jim Kerr & Co can still whip up a stadium storm - and new songs like Stay Visible and Underneath The Ice hark back to the band's global glory days, Charlie Burchill's clarion call guitar to the fore. Elsewhere, however, it's a very mixed bag. Home sounds disconcertingly like Billy Idol as Kerr's once soaring vocal goes gruff and Stranger bizarrely boasts a 'sha-la-la' chorus. The title track - a sombre electro-ballad about genocide - is poured from the Belfast Child and Mandela Day mould but epic finale Dolphins drowns in its own pretension. A grey area, then. PC

ELBOW

Leaders Of The Free World (V2)

STRANGE how the Mancunians' melodic Forget Myself sounds more like Simple Minds than Simple Minds' new album. It's indicative of a more direct approach than Guy Garvey & Co's earlier outings, with the angry title track even reminiscent of Peter Gabriel. Overall, the album has a nostalgic and reflective feel - peaceful and almost lethargic at times - but then the bass-driven Mexican Standoff kicks in and Elbow edge to the unimaginable brink of hard rock. Still, it's perhaps the poignant Puncture Repair, with all the hurt of Garvey's reported break-up with Radio 1's Edith Bowman, that best exemplifies the band's enduring magic. MA

(PICK OF THE WEEK)

PATRICIA VONNE

Guitars & Castanets (Measured)

TEXAN songbird Vonne was last seen as Dallas/Zorro Girl in Sin City, the comicbook crossover movie directed by her brother Robert Rodriguez, but she's first and foremost a roots-rocker ideally suited to big bro's soundtracks. The rocky Rebel Bride could easily have slotted into From Dusk 'Til Dawn, and south of the border songs such as La Gitana de Triana and Guitarras Y Castanuelas are Spanish-sung mariachi delights. Best are the country-flavoured Blood On The Tracks and Joe's Gone Ridin' - a tribute to Joe Ely - but then the frenetic Sax Maniac ups the ante, sounding like Clarence Clemons with Tito's Tarantula. PC

TOKYO DRAGONS

Give Me The Fear (Escapi)

REMEMBER the days when rock albums always slipped in a fourth-track ballad to give you breathing space? London retro-rockers don't bother - they just steamroller their way through a rough-and-ready set haunted by the ghosts of Phil Lynott and Bon Scott. Subtle as a sledgehammer, earthy songs like Get 'Em Off recall AC/DC while opener What The Hell could easily be a forgotten Thin Lizzy gem. Do You Wanna? recalls early Kiss with its inescapable hook and, although frontman Steve Lomax strains to hit the right notes, it all adds to the 70s-styled sweaty gig atmosphere. Catch 'em live on October 25 at Brum's Bar Academy. PC

GOLDFRAPP

Supernature (Mute)

CHANTEUSE turned chant-tease Alison Goldfrapp and pop partner Will Gregory turn up the bass for a thumping electro-pop set that sounds at times like Kylie fronting T.Rex, especially on saucy Spirit In The Sky-stealing single Ooh La La. But there's more to la Goldfrapp than glam, with Fly Me Away recalling the dancefloor fillers of Giorgio Moroder and the gorgeous Time Out From The Word surely a James Bond signature song in the movie-making. It's hard to imagine this is the same songbird whose wayward vocal filled Felt Mountain, the dangerous debut set that announced her arty arrival just five years ago. Ooh la la, indeed! PC

(FOLK OF THE WEEK)

RICHARD THOMPSON

Front Parlour Ballads (Cooking Vinyl)

THE cover of folk legend Thompson's new album features him performing among musicians through the ages and he proceeds to blend tradition and modern folk with some subtlety. It's an almost entirely unplugged DIY set - Thompson does everything bar the percussion - but the songs are strong and his guitar-playing dazzlingly dextrous. Opener Let It Blow is a thoroughly modern commentary on the media spotlight while Miss Patsy bridges the generation gap, drawing on the past. Diehard fans will recognise the riff from 1952 Vincent Black Lightning in the new Boys Of Mutton Street. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! PC

(JAZZ OF THE WEEK)

ELVIS COSTELLO & MARIAN McPARTLAND

Piano Jazz (Jazz Alliance)

RECORDED in 2003 as a mix of music and conversation, this lively session finds Costello swinging through standards such as My Funny Valentine, Amost Blue and The Very Thought Of You, accompanied by McPartland's fine piano. The chat is often surprising in its candour and wit but it's the likes of Gloomy Sunday, You Don't Know What Love Is and They Didn't Believe Me that will linger longer. The performances reflect both artists at the top of their game, offering an insight into the jazz side of pop icon Elvis as seen in the recent Cole Porter biopic at the movies. I'm In The Mood Again, he sings. You betcha. PC

(CLASSICAL OF THE WEEK)

PLACIDO DOMINGO

Tristan Und Isolde (EMI Classics)

SURPRISINGLY, this is superstar Domingo's first recording of the Wagner epic, which tells the tragic tale of two lovers whose forbidden romance ends in tragedy. The tenor says that the two months of recording were challenging but the results, spread over four CDs, are remarkably robust. Joining him for the first time, Swedish soprano Nina Stemme sings Isolde after performing the role to rave reviews at the Bayreuth Festival, and guests include English tenor Ian Bostridge as Der Hirt and Mexican Rolando Villazon, who takes the role of Der Junge Seemann. A recording that will stand the test of time. DB
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2005
Words:911
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