Friday, 23 July 2010

Allison Crowe - Spiral

As I have already reported, Allison Crowe’s new album, ‘Spiral’ plonked through my letterbox all the way from Canada a while back. I’ve had a week or two to assimilate it so it’s time to post a few comments.

My first impression on opening the package was of the unusual nature of the digipak that contains the CD. It is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The design of the pak, which opens out to reveal the disc, is beautifully conceived and contains a montage of part embossed and wonderfully colourful images around the main disc holder. Unusually, and so much better is the way that the user does not need to drag the disc out of a tight cardboard sleeve, thus scratching it forever, but can merely remove it from a slotted base after all the flaps have been folded back.

So, full marks for packaging but what about the content? Allison is known for the largely piano based output of her previous albums like the acoustic ‘Little Light’ released in 1998, but this time she has gathered her small but select touring band around her and the effect is to fill out her sound in quite a delicate way.

As has become standard for Allison’s albums there is a majority of original material with one or two covers of others’ songs. In this instance, she has covered Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel No 2’ and Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ and for me these are the highlights. It takes a certain type of artist to take another’s song and have the insight to reinterpret it in a way that makes you see another side to the song. There has been a good amount of discussion about the subject of covers in this blog in recent months and commentators have contributed a whole list of cover versions from a variety of artists where they feel that this object has been achieved. Certainly it is a subject that seems to provoke a lot of debate amongst musicians and listeners alike. In the case of Allison Crowe I do not need to make a case as her record of covering songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and other big hitters in the song writing fraternity proves.

This album shows yet again what a sensitive interpreter she is. ‘Why’ in particular is a tour de force performance giving the song a spine tingling sheen. And this is where I find myself wondering what direction her career might take. Left to me, I’d say that in view of her special talent, she should reorganise the content of her albums and increase the number of covers. This sounds like her own material is sub-standard, but that is not true, it is just that she may find playing to her obvious strengths may benefit her in the longer term, but that’s just my opinion.

In any event, this is another fine album and comes with an unconditional recommendation.


Adrian said...

Delighted to know that "Spiral" has your good house-keeping seal. (And, really John was the walrus, right, despite his claims to the contrary?) May the music long bring you joy.

One day, perhaps, I shall ramble on - a la Moby Dick. Right now, Allison's first tour/concerts since the album's release are about to happen. (The Icelandic volcanic eruption has delayed, but not denied, this fun.)

cheers, Adrian

Adrian said...

p.s. re the cover art - including original paintings by Tara Thelen, an artist in Bergen, Netherlands - our desire was to create something in the CD format/scale that's pleasurable in the same way that funky cardboard album covers were in the hey-day of vinyl records (I seem to recall a thread sometime ago that touched on Isaac Hayes' "Black Moses" cover. We can work up to that!) Thanks for your kinds words :)

musicobsessive said...

Hi Adrian - glad to hear that the tour is now back on. Let's hope the ash stays away for the duration - or is that just looking through a glass onion?

Adrian said...

Well, now you've got me wondering. Is Peter Asher still producing? He may be the way to go if things don't improve in Iceland. There's a rumour Tori Amos originally wanted to call her album "Boys for Eyjafjallajökull" but, you know, the corporate label types wanted the football tie-in... thus, it became Pele. Kicks just keep getting harder to find. I did see, just last night, on YouTube, that Mark Lindsay is touring again. Not sure if Paul Revere rides again.

Adrian said...

p.s. I shouldn't free-associate at the best of times. Especially in the wee small hours... :)

musicobsessive said...

Don't worry, I'll work it out...eventually!

Oh yes, and next time I'm expecting a full 6 page fold out cover in true Black Moses stylee.:)

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

luminous muse said...

Martin, after your home run introducing me to Nerina, I'll check out Allison and let you know what I think.

Adrian: That's some serious free associating you've got gong there! Seen someone about that?

Adrian said...

Martin - I was just discussing the objective with my local record shop owner. It may take at least 16 panels of a CD cover, we figured, to scale such heights with a CD.

luminous muse - Indeed, I've got it bad, and that ain't good. I went to see Dr. Robert. He tells me I've got the rockin' pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu. His prescription? More... cowbell! And, he said, put the lime in the coconut and drink them both up!

Sounds good! On the road - Allison's Canadian Spiral tour launches within 24 hours! Best cure of all : )

Rock on!!

music obsessive said...

Adrian – Personally, I would’ve consulted Dr Brogenbroom who’d probably advise taking a holiday up the ‘pool in order to cure that locomotive breath. After all, life’s a long song.

Good luck with the tour!

music obsessive said...

Luminous - I am just a conduit (or something). Hope you like her. I started with her version of 'Hallelujah' and it's as good a place to start as any.

Steve - Hi. Thanks for dropping by. I'll check out your blog soon.

Adrian said...

hehe, thanks, Martin! Just past soundcheck, and back to the hotel for a wee break. (Doctor's orders...)

Luminous and other friends and others who enjoy Martin's musical pies - & who want to hear Allison's interpretations, the Cover Me blog has just done a nice feature that highlights a mix @ In the Spotlight: Allison Crowe

May you enjoy! Best to all!