Albums of the week: She Walks in Beauty, Coral Island, Passione
New releases from Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis, The Coral, and Freddie De Tommaso
Marianne Faithfull with Warren Ellis
She Walks in Beauty
This album features an ageing pop star reciting a selection of her favourite 19th century poems – Byron, Shelley, Keats – while her muso mates conjure an “ambient odyssey” in the background. That might sound like a “bum-clenchingly awful vanity project”, said Helen Brown in The Independent – but when the pop star is the “formidable” Marianne Faithfull and her pals are Warren Ellis, Nick Cave and Brian Eno, you know you’re in for something good. Faithfull makes these “200-year-old visions of beauty, love and death feel as urgent as the latest true-crime podcast”. And the backing – a misty soundscape of waves, birdsong, electronica, street sounds, piano and cello – turns the album into an “unsentimental spine-tingler”.
Ellis’s “beautiful” settings and Faithfull’s “impeccable” readings make even the most familiar texts sound fresh, agreed Phil Mongredien in The Observer. Faithfull contracted the coronavirus during the making of the album, and spent three weeks in intensive care. We are lucky to have her, and this gorgeous, stirring record.
“Roll up, roll up, for candy-floss at the penny arcade; strange illusions glimpsed in halls of mirrors” and fantastical rides. This is the setting for Coral Island, a startlingly ambitious double concept-album from those “unrepentantly old-fashioned” Merseyside rockers, The Coral, said Neil McCormick in The Daily Telegraph. The idea is that they are the house band at a fairground in a decaying seaside town, and their music is a “carnivalesque cornucopia of strange delights” that pays homage to 1960s pop and psychedelia.
The Coral have been on this terrain since 1996, said Will Hodgkinson in The Times. But this album, with an accompanying novel by keyboardist Nick Power, is their “masterwork”. Mist On The River and My Best Friend, for example, paint evocative lyrical pictures, but skip along with “Beatles-esque” melodic lightness. “Like a modern-day version of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society or the Small Faces’ Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, this is a thoroughly English, gently hallucinogenic delight.”
Freddie De Tommaso
Freddie De Tommaso – a young British-Italian tenor brought up in Kent by an Italian father and an English mother – “displays limitless promise” on this impressive debut disc of Italian songs, said Hugh Canning in The Sunday Times. The choices include familiar favourites such as Leoncavallo’s Mattinata and Di Capua’s I’ te vurria vasà, as well as pieces by Puccini, Respighi, Tosti and Innocenzi. The album is dedicated to his favourite tenor, Franco Corelli. However, his voice is closer in weight to that of the young Pavarotti – and it gets ideal support from conductor Renato Balsadonna, who “brings italianità to the London Phil”.
This album is like one of ”those sunny, feel-good movies that came out of Italy in the 1950s”, said Richard Fairman in the FT. It is “a guilty pleasure, tuneful, romantic, an indulgence in every way”. De Tommaso brings “well-schooled tenor artistry” and stylish colour, and the “glamorous” period 1950s orchestrations are delivered with élan. Listening to it, you “can almost spot Audrey Hepburn” careering around the streets of Rome on her Vespa.