Music reviews: Adam Lambert, Jing Wong, James Taylor
Known as much for touring with rock titans Queen as being American Idol’s most interesting contestant, Adam Lambert’s third album, The Original High, strives to make his music just as memorable.
Obviously Lambert has oodles of confidence in his powerful voice (you certainly need big cojones to step into the shoes of the late great Freddie Mercury), but his histrionic warbling has often felt like it was overcompensating for something lacking in the song. The music has never proven to be quite as fabulous as the hair and eyeliner, but are the Glamberts ready to embrace a more cohesive and contemporary sound?
Recorded with Swedish pop masters Shellback (Taylor Swift) and Max Martin (Britney), lead single Ghost Town (thankfully not a cover of The Specials classic) leaves behind the soft glam rock for a thumping ‘90s house beat and immediately Lambert sounds totally comfortable in his new role as club diva. On Another Lonely Night the singer “doesn’t give a f*** if the sun comes up”, especially now that, for the first time in his career, he’s got some half-decent songs to sink his teeth into.
Adam Lambert The Original High (Warner Bros)
"If you let me, I'd vanish completely" sings local folk singer Jing Wong on the impressive title track of his new five-song EP, How To Disappear. Perhaps not the wisest move for a musician who can often be found busking on the streets of Hong Kong, but rather apt as Wong opens a new musical chapter.
Leaving behind his "folk music style... youth... and unrealistic optimism", Wong's new "book rock" direction is born from the songwriter's anger and frustration at the way social media has distorted the development of the music industry by placing fame within the easy grasp of everyone. Despair and a search for the truth certainly doesn't hurt his "fresh angry blues style" though.
On My Life as a Song, Wong's impassioned vocal delivery is almost as fierce as the stabs from his electric guitar, but it's on the far superior If I Were A Magician, a slow-burning acoustic number that ends in a scuzzy blues freak-out, culminating with Wong growling "So let it stay, to the end of days" over and over again, that his voice really comes alive.
Jing Wong How To Disappear (Mr Nightingale)
With his last record released almost 13 years ago, it's fair to say that James Taylor has been about as musically productive this past decade as a heroin addict with a new favourite spoon.
While as prolific as any of his contemporaries in his heyday, the 67-year-old ex-junkie opens his long-awaited 16th album with Today Today Today, a gentle rolling groove over which he laments: "Somehow I haven't died/ And I feel the same inside/ As when I caught this ride/ When first I sold my pride."
He may have mellowed somewhat over all these years, but as the soul searching continues the folk troubadour still wears his heart firmly on his sleeve. Never one to shy away from the hard issues, on Far Afghanistan Taylor questions the invasion of foreign lands, while Angels of Fenway is a slightly less important ode to his beloved baseball team, the Boston Red Sox.
Accompanied by a couple of long-time friends, Sting and superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the legendary journeyman takes another accomplished step on his sentimental journey.
James Taylor Before This World (Concord/Decca)