As my friends will tell you, my tastes in music are varied enough, but mostly pop-oriented. This is perfectly acceptable by my reckoning, each to his own as I always say....so here for your perusal are a few of my latest purchases and my opinions of them....
Reviews are on a one to five star rating......
KYLIE MINOGUE - LIGHT YEARS *****
Say what you want about Kylie Minogue (Madonna wannabe, squeaky voiced etc.) you cannot deny she is a bit of a national institution at this stage. And following her superb, critically acclaimed but publicly ignored eponymous indie album, she has reverted to what many consider to be her best style, that of out and out cheesy pop. And she has done it BRILLIANTLY. Nowhere else this year will you find a more lightweight, silly or COMPLETELY ENTERTAINING album.
Opening the album is the number one single SPINNING AROUND wherein Kylie tells us that she has 'traded in my sorrow for some joy that I borrowed from back in the days'. ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS is a bit throwaway pop but the fun really starts with the VERY disco style SO NOW GOODBYE and DISCO DOWN. LOVEBOAT (one of three songs co-written with Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers) is a wonderfully tongue in cheek romp that begins with a male choir and contains lyrics such as 'Rub on some lotion' and '007 heaven sur la mer' all delivered in Kylie's trademark slightly seductive manner. KOOCACHOO is every bit as good as Madonna's Beautiful Stranger, and the album reaches its absolute peak with the hilarious, magnificently camp YOUR DISCO NEEDS YOU (again penned with Robbie Williams), a superbly over the top tribute to the Village People. PLEASE STAY is the weakest track, a very conventional flamenco tinged number. BITTERSWEET GOODBYE is a haunting ballad, simply sung over a piano accompaniment. BUTTERFLY is a very dancey track, a bit out of place on such a retro album. There is a passable cover of Barry White's UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF LOVE (Kylie does Barry !!). IM SO HIGH follows in the Sixties vein of KOOCACHOO and LOVEBOAT and is completely upstaged by the barnstorming KIDS, a great duet with Robbie Williams. The dreamy LIGHT YEARS finishes of a wonderful comeback for Minogue, who some may accuse of pandering to a gay audience, but ANYONE with a sense of humour will simply love this album. Very highly recommended for manic depressives.
SPICE GIRLS : FOREVER **
I was astonished to read the reviews of Forever when it was initially released, but having bought it and listened to it I can see they were wholly justified. When Geri Halliwell left, she seems to have taken all the personality, charm, fun and, dare I say spice with her. There is no denying that these girls have talent, but it is pretty short in supply on this bland, generic R&B album. Gone are the over the top production of such pop classics as Stop and Spice Up Your Life. Gone are the sweetly, naively sexual lyrics that infused their first two albums. Gone is the fun ! Tracks like 'Tell Me Why' and 'Wasting My Time' are so dull and ordinary that you couldn't pick them out of a line up involving Destiny's Child, TLC, and various other R&B acts. Whereas on previous efforts the girls vocals were distinctive and recognisable, here they merge into one bland whole, leaving a very disinterested listener.
The opening track, and No.1 single Holler is a decent enough start but things go rapidly downhill as each dull track blends seamlessly (and lifelessly) into the next. Only the ballads Let Love Lead The Way and Goodbye (their prophetic 1998 No.1) offer any release from the numbing boredom. And Oxygen is destined for greatness if ever released. All said, it is a crying shame that the Spice Girls have abandoned what THEY essentially created, the slick, commercial, bubblegum pop that made them so successful.
It seems that Geri Halliwell may not have been so foolish after all....
S CLUB 7 - 7 ****
Following on from their cheese-laden (but nonetheless very enjoyable) first album S CLUB, comes the similarly imaginatively titled 7.
As Simon Fuller proved with The Spice Girls, he is an expert at finding commercial pop stars with the right amount of individuality and personality to shine like a beacon amongst the endless parades of boy and girl bands out there. S Club 7 are such a product, and indeed a product is what these seven bright young things are. But that doesn't really matter. 7 is a wonderfully upbeat pop album, full of likeable melodies with appealing lyrics detailing the usual teenage friendship and love worries.
As previously Jo o'Meara takes the lion's share of vocal duties, but each member gets a solo song here, the best of which is Paul Cattermole's superbly corny LOVE TRAIN and Tina Barrett's breathy, seductive I'LL BE THERE. NATURAL is an obvious choice for single, a surprisingly mature offering incorporating the classical Cor Anglais of Faure's piece 'Pavane' with lead vocals taken by Rachel Stevens.
The No.1 single REACH is an extremely catchy Motownesque track and the album is rounded off with an excellent cover of Urban Jungle's SPIRITUAL LOVE.
All in all a harmless, extremely pleasant album with no delusions to greatness, which makes it all the better and while nothing here is quite as catchy as the group's debut single BRING IT ALL BACK, this is sure to put a smile on anyone's face. Listen without prejudice.
Footnote: A later reissue of '7' contains S Club 7's passable cover of Stevie Wonder's LATELY and the beautiful ballad NEVER HAD A DREAM COME TRUE.
HEAR'SAY - POPSTARS *** 1/2
Well, after one of the most hyped campaigns in music history via the phenomenally successful television show Popstars, the manufactured fivesome of Danny, Noel, Myleene, Suzanne and Kym finally produce the goods with their debut album.
POPSTARS doesn't break ANY new ground whatsoever and at times is frustratingly ordinary, but there is enough here to suggest that with a bit more time and effort HEAR'SAY can produce something special.
These are five talented young singers, each with a distinct and powerful voice which is showcased well here.
Opening with the smash single PURE AND SIMPLE, the album progresses safely throught he world of mid-tempo pop, with strong songs like THE WAY TO YOUR LOVE and NOT THE KIND swamping mediocre disappointments like LOVE WILL NEVER END. There is at least one superb ballad in CARRIED AWAY, briliantly highlighting Kym's vocal strength and the two songs co written by the band ONE STEP CLOSER and MAKE IT HAPPEN are extremely promising. The album ends with a breathtaking cover of Paul Simon's BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER. With the minimal production we really get to hear just how well they can sing. And they can REALLY sing. Lets just hope that next time round they will have better writers.