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I've been a huge fan of Hugh Laurie since watching him in Blackadder and House and when I discovered he was also a blues musician, well I had to see if he could pull it off- and by gum does he manage it!
His album carries a fantastic blues sound, very authentic and very powerful. I couldn't help but tap my toe all the way through. Laurie has a great voice (even if his range is limited- he knows how and where to put his voice!) and is a hugely talented pianist, as well as being a guitarist on the album! he uses his talent and experience of acting and puts across a brilliant character throughout- really enhancing his performance.
The song choices were inspired- a great selection of classics, but not just the obvious choices either which I love. The album is a real rollercoaster- with slow moody tracks such as Buddy Bolden Blues and the most energetic version of Swannee River I've ever heard!
I do find him singing in such a stong American accent a little strange- but then again recieved pronunciation in blues probably wouldn't sound right so perhaps this can be forgiven!
Whilst there will be plenty of people who doubt Laurie's musical ability and feel he's selling albums on his name- it's simply not true. He truly deserves acclaim for this incredible album. A recommended purchase for anyone who enjoys the sound of raw blues.
Reason for purchase ~ 'Is There A Doctor In The House'
Because I'm a fan of Hugh Laurie! Not enough? Well, I've followed the work of this extraordinary skillful guy for decades. This man seems to be able to turn his hand to anything presented to him, no matter how demanding the role. Laurie has the effect that he can have folk laughing 'til it hurts, or gripped to the point of open mouthed awe. I have loved his musical ability from the first time I heard him tinkling on the ivories of a piano on 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie'. When I heard of a Blues album coming out with Laurie's creative stamp on it, it was as good as bought in my eyes!
Musical competence ~ 'True Blue'
Excuse me if I gush, but Hugh Laurie is a real star! For me, Laurie is an incomparable ingenious actor, imaginative author, sharp witted comedian and gifted musician. The latter underscored by Laurie's latest offering, 'Let them talk'. From the tender age of six Laurie had taken piano lessons. In fact, Hugh's expertise not only is with playing a piano but extends to the guitar, harmonica, drums, keyboards and saxophone. His vocals are astounding.....
The Album ~ 'The Blues Brothers'
The album is produced by Joseph Lee "Joe" Henry. But what are his credentials that should enthuse folk's trust? To begin with, he is a singer and songwriter himself. Additional, a refined guitarist, and renowned record producer. If this weren't enough, Henry's own musical style and expertise spans many genres that include country, folk, rock and aptly here, jazz.
We all know that Laurie can play the piano, but this is a whole new 'case of the blues'! Laurie doesn't just dip his toes into the watery 'Blues' depths of the Deep South, he jumps right on in! Swinging us from the likes of Mr. Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton, the early jazz pianist, recognized as a crucial figure in original jazz onto Mr. Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. or more widely known as our own musical GP, Dr. John, an American pianist, songwriter, singer and guitarist. John's musical flavours incorporate not just pop and rock and roll, but as this album shows, boogie woogie, blues and jazz.
As the inner booklet of the album notes, Laurie explains how these artists and genre of music has been 'the music of his heart ever since it invaded...my gawky English frame'. Stephen Fry refers to Laurie as being 'painfully self-critical', this is emphasized in his feelings toward his infringing
Pictures of Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie
Hugh and Co., ..on the Blues, Laurie declares, "I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s, I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there's no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.' You'll be glad Hugh did impinge on the revered Blues!
The Tracks ~ 'Let Them Talk'...I'm Listening Instead!
Sit down, kick your shoes off, and make yourself comfy, you're in for a feast of delights with fifteen courses of authentically sounding tracks! Up first on the menu is a song that is a story of the consequences suffered from a depraved lifestyle:
"Saint James Infirmary", at 6:25 it's just too short! The track carries a whole 2:42 of a phenomenal piano solo by Laurie. Throughout this lengthy acoustic introduction, the hauntingly slow and powerfully deep flowing accentuation on the strokes of the piano envelope and captivate me into the melody. Then, like a sudden jerk, I feel I'm being propelled into another track, only to find that the change of tempo has produced a toe tapping response from me! For a whole 30 seconds, one is enraptured by a total change of jazzy instrumentals. Then at 3:10 seconds, Laurie breaks in with a Southern drawl, but certainly not the misrepresented stereotypical Southern accent, more like the distinctive dialect of American English that New Orleans has actually developed over the years. If you think of Hugh Laurie's character 'House' singing the Blues, this is it! With bluesy and stirring tones, Laurie effortlessly and enchantingly belts out 'I went down to St James Infirmary, Saw my baby there...stretched out on a long white table, So cold, so sweet, so sweet, so fair'.
For the sake of you patient readers, I will simply provide a brief run through of the next fourteen track's delights from this sumptuous album...or attempt too!
The second track on the album is "You Don't Know My Mind" (3:39) First released with Virginia Liston way back in 1923 and also sung by the such legends as Ella Fitzgerald. Laurie furnishes us with a lively and zippy delivery of this song. With some 'tongue in cheek' lyrics such as 'Sometimes I think my baby's too good to die...Sometimes I think she should be buried alive..Baby you don't know, you don't know my mind...When you see me laughing, I'm laughing just to keep from crying'. This track is a delight, with its up tempo pace struts through varied and melodious lyrics.
"Six Cold Feet in the Ground" (4:55) ensues, a song from Leroy Carr, the pianist, songwriter and blues singer whose wonderful laid-back style influenced many legendary singers. Laurie follows suit as he croons his way through 'Just remember me darling...When I'm in six feet of cold cold ground'. The slow beat gives a superb backing to Laurie's imploring supplications.
Next in line is a Bolden number. Born well over a century ago, Buddy was regarded as the 'undisputed creator' of jazz! "Buddy Bolden's Blues" (3:13), among the most widely known Bolden numbers, was originally called "Funky Butt". Musicians much closer to Bolden's generation have commented that this melody refers to flatulence! Entertaining tinkling on the old ivories afford a fun intro to Laurie's lyrical content of 'Open up that window, and let that bad air out', who am I to argue that this song is do with bodily functions?
Gloria Estefan sang "The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You", well it certainly will when you listen to "The Battle of Jericho"! (3:48) This is a song that has its roots in religious songs, known as spirituals, developed by the enslaved African people in America. The song refers to the Biblical account of Joshua and the Israelites, under Divine supervision, won their conquest against Canaan. In a marching tempo Laurie jauntily sweeps us through this magneticing gospel, with lyrical tones of 'Up To The Walls Of Jericho...He Marched With Spear In Hand...Go Blow Them Ram Horns, Joshua Cried 'Cause The Battle Is In My Hands'. You'll be tapping your fingers and toes to the music without restraint!
After this inspirational song comes "After You've Gone" (4:09) which features Dr. John. A song composed by the pianist, singer and songwriter, John Turner Layton, Jr. with words by the American song lyricist Henry Creamer. With sensual instrumentals, Dr John's confident vocals are supported by Laurie's adept piano acoustics; the band's instrumentals accompany the melody beautifully. As the Doc laments over his lost love, 'Now listen, honey...while I say...How you could tell me that you gone away? Don't you say that we must part...While you won't break my aching heart' we're soulfully carried through this expressive melody.
"Swanee River" (2:43) from the songwriter and revered as the "father of American music" Stephen Collins Foster, this enchanting melody is given the Laurie touch, starting off with a slow impassioned 'Way down upon the Swanee River..Far, far away...That's where my heart is turning ever...That's where the old folks stay' then breaks into a jazzed up, body swaying, toe tapping jig; the fun in Hugh's voice is infectious.
"The Whale Has Swallowed Me" (3:37) is next in line, from J. B. Lenoir, the musician, singer and songwriter. The song is a tale of the prophet Jonah, from the Biblical account of his experiences in trying to avoid his God given task. With the accompaniment of the twang of guitar strings, Laurie sings the elementary narrative to this ballad decisively as he struts out such lyrics as 'They say the Whale swallowed Jonah...Out in the deep blue sea..Sometimes I get that feeling...That same old Whale has swallowed me'.
Next up is "John Henry" (3:35), featuring Irma Thomas, also known as the "Soul Queen of New Orleans"! JH, born in the mid 1800's, was born a slave, as a man, working as a laborer for the railroads. The story goes that one day; a salesman boasted that 'his steam-powered machine could out drill any man'. Of renowned strength, John Henry won the contest, but only to die of its effects! In the background, Laurie supports the strength of Irma's adept voice walloping out the lyrics like 'I'm gonna die with my hammer in my hand'.
"Police Dog Blues" (3:33) by Arthur Blake, known as 'Blind Blake' and "The King of Ragtime Guitar" who was a significant guitarist, ragtime and blues singer and guitarist. With the twanging of guitar instrumentals, Laurie warbles out this easy on the ear chilled out melodious offering. With entertaining lyrics of 'She Got a police dog that's craving for a fight...His name is Rambler and when he gets the chance..He leaves his mark on everybody's pants'; one is carried along with this smooth and flowing offering.
The pace is changed with"Tipitina" (5:07) by the New Orleans pianist and blues singer Henry Roeland Byrd, known as Professor Longhair. A brief and slow instrumental start changes to a more up-beat bouncy musical introduction, then when Laurie cuts in 'Well Loberta, Well Loberta...Girl, can't you hear me callin' you' he enthralls with his boogy like rendition of this swinging reverberating gem.
"Whinin' Boy Blues" (3:00) by Jelly Roll Morton, is a perfect song to showcase Laurie's dulcet candy for the ears tone! With Laurie's rumbling of 'I'm the wining boy, don't deny my name' one is instantly caught up echoing his mellifluous and measured pitch. The tune shuffles along with its wonderfully catchy measured tempo.
Ooohh the track "They're Red Hot" a short version at only 1:12 is a belter! Originally written and performed by the blues musician Robert Johnson. With rawness in his voice, Laurie shouts out the title twice, then with speedy tempo supporting basic lyrics and Hugh's fun jazzy tones ring out, the song ends before it seems to have started! Laure is 'red hot' performing this nugget!
Next in line is the penultimate offering of this album, "Baby, Please Make a Change" (4:58) which features Sir Tom Jones and again, Irma Thomas. If I was forced to choose one of my top favourites, this would be on the list. A song from the talented 30's group The Mississippi Sheiks, fiddle and band that was notable for mostly playing country blues. You have to kick your shoes off to this one; you'll be compelled to sway in movement to the captivating melody in pure ecstasy. Tom begins the beseeching appeal 'Baby, Please Make a Change' in his own stirring powerful way. As an authoritative background support Irma's combined tones with other artist provides a contrasting and ample back drop to Tom's masterful content. Feminist may be swayed by Tom's sensual pleas; I'm changing Tom, I'm changing! :D Finally the exquisite dessert....
"Let Them Talk" (4:10) by Alfonso Thompson, known as Sonny Thompson, born in Mississippi and became an accomplished bandleader, pianist and songwriter. This is an absolute treat to wind down too. Hugh's wonderful drawl in extending the lyrics build to a crescendo that will leave you appealing for an encore, only to realize you just need to click replay!
So here ends the extensive album of fifteen polished tracks; no indigestion here! You'll be foot stomppin', dancing' singing' and jigging' your way through this album time and again. One doesn't need to be even informed (I'm not!) or familiar with New Orleans and Louisiana blues to thoroughly enjoy this banquet of delights.
Do I Recommend? ~ 'Stay Tuned'
Need you ask after reading my unreserved gushing over the album? :D Yes, most certainly. I couldn't put it more articulately than the star of the album himself, "I love this music, as authentically as I know how, and I want you to love it too." If you decide to check out this obscure and unusual album, I think you'll see this love of the music shine through", believe me, you will!
My son bought me this album at our local Morrisons for just short of £10. It is available at the majority of equally known stores and online, such as Amazon currently for, wait for it...£5:93!
I must admit that despite loving House, and, of course, the infamous Blackadder, I didn't realise he was in the music scene. What drew my attention was a news article that he was in my town playing guitar I believe and singing as part of a jazz festival, which surprised me slightly. It did, however, make me very curious as to how good he was at guitar, his style of music and his voice, so I downloaded a copy of Let Them Talk. After several listens, I've found that this is actually quite an addictive album, even if it is somewhat of an acquired taste!
Let Them Talk was released this year (2011) on Warner Bros Records as Laurie's debut album. I hadn't seen any advertising for it, nor heard about it on the grapevine, so it's a bit of a hidden gem in some ways. If you're not sure what to expect, think of Americanised, soulful blues, personal touches and some famous voices making contributions along the way. This album features Laurie doing both vocals and playing piano whilst backed by a strong supporting group of musicians (including Solomon Burke and John Legend). It was actually recorded in New Orleans and Los Angeles, and the nature of New Orleans blues really does hit you on the first listen.
What we get from this album is a mix of personally selected and reworked songs, with 15 tracks in total : 1. Saint James Infirmary
2. You Don't Know My Mind
3. Buddy Bolden's Blues
4. The Whale Has Swallowed Me
5. John Henry-Feat. Irma Thomas
6. They're Red Hot
7. Six Cold Feet In The Ground
8. The Battle Of Jericho
9. After You've Gone-Feat. Dr. John
10. Swanee River
11. Police Dog Blues
13. Whinin' Boy Blues
14. Baby, Please Make A Change-Feat. Sir Tom Jones & Irma Thomas
15. Let Them Talk
Some of the tracks have some strong, yet somewhat unexpected, guest stars. For example, Tom Jones collaborates with 'Baby, please make a change' and 'John Henry', the former of which also features Irma Thomas. This gives the album a good quality feel and liven it up a bit, making it feel a bit more authentic. I think that's the thing that first struck me about this; why is Laurie, a regular English guy turned American star, pretending to be a bluesy soulster? How can that sound authentic, how can you listen to it and believe it without cringing?
It took me two listens, through the whole album, until I realised that I actually really liked it in a strange way. Admittedly this isn't my usual cuppa tea, and I don't own any other blues in my iTunes. But this has something special about it, something that makes it easy to listen to and get lost in and it starts to sound authentic and like a true representation of New Orleans blues. Some of the tracks are quite soulful, yearning and saddening in a way that makes you reminisce. Others, however, are upbeat, swinging and very catchy. It gives you a good mix of blues and each track is original, unique in its own way and makes the album easy to listen to and pick out some of your favourite tracks. Baby, Please Make A Change, and You Don't Know My Mind are probably my favourite picks at the moment.
The musical accompaniment is a strong support for the blues sound, especially when you get the brass kicking in. As you listen to it there are lots of feelings and emotions that arise, which to me is the sign of a good album because it's emotive and affects some hidden part of you. For me, the main downside is that it perhaps lacks something that I can't quite put my finger on. I guess it just doesn't shout 'amazing, incredible!', and for that I'm giving it 4 stars. A bit more oomph may have shaken it up and made it that bit more extra special.
There's a quote from Laurie that sums up his album quite nicely :
"In my imagination, New Orleans just straight hummed with music, romance, joy, despair; its rhythms got into my gawky English frame and, at times, made me so happy and sad, I just didn't know what to do with myself," said Laurie. "I love this music as authentically as I know how, and I want you to love it too. If you get a thousandth of the pleasure from it that I've had, we're all ahead of the game." Overall then, this is somewhat of an acquired taste. I've come to love it because it's different, it's swinging and bluesy, it's easy to listen to. I also get the hankering to sit down with a whiskey in one hand whilst chewing on a toothpick. I would definitely recommend giving it a listen, even if, like me at first, you don't think it's your thing. You may be pleasantly surprised. Laurie is definitely a man of surprising talents.
Currently selling on Amazon for £5.99
[Also reviewed by me, gothic_moon, on Ciao]
The album 'Let Them Talk' by Hugh Laurie was one that I had been meaning to buy ever since it was released. Due to his magnificent comedy and drama acting in 'House' and 'Blackadder', to name but two of many amazing programmes he has starred in, as well as his brilliant sketches with partner Stephen Fry in 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie', I have been a great fan of Mr Laurie for many years now. His career has come a long way and he has become something that you would not have expected from his dopey, wide-eyed and innocent look in his sketch show or his spectacular performance as the daft and delightfully thick Prince Regent. Successful though the earlier years of his career were, it's almost amazing to think that this is the same person who became one of the most famous actors in the world for his depiction of the title role in 'House'. Despite already being a household name in the United Kingdom, American audiences were less familiar with him and many were shocked to discover that his flawless US accent was fake and that his natural voice is as English as tea and scones. Despite coming from a background that was, at least from the outside, privileged (he went to school at Eton before studying at Cambridge), Hugh has done exceptionally well in becoming one of Hollywood's finest as well as being a well respected comic actor in his own country.
But of course, Mr Laurie's talents do not merely lie in acting. He of course has written comedy as part of Cambridge Footlights and even wrote a novel ('The Gun Seller'), but unsurprisingly, he is also a talented musician. Anyone who has seen 'A Bit of Fry and Laurie' should remember Hugh's various comedy songs that featured throughout the series, in which he demonstrated his comedy stylings as well as his able singing and piano skills. Given his success in other aspects of showbiz it was therefore unsurprisingly when it was announced that he would be releasing an album. Despite awaiting it with some eagerness, I forgot about its existence until just recently, when I finally got around to purchasing and downloading it from the iTunes store.
While I wouldn't strictly class myself as a fan of the blues, I am by no means averse to it, and so didn't let the genre of this album put me off in any way. In fact, I rather relished the thought of listening to a genre of music with which I am less familiar, although after having listened to this album several times, I am beginning to think that buying a classic blues album or compilation would have been a better introduction to the genre than this album is. Good music it certainly is, but I wouldn't say that 'Let Them Talk' is an album that I loved on first hearing or even on subsequent listenings.
This album is somewhat hard to either praise or criticise precisely as, on the surface, there is nothing wrong with it intrinsically, yet I have not been blown away by it. Hugh's voice is great and suits the blues music well (using his American accent rather than his English one, which I am more used to hearing him sing in) and the music itself is well played with good tunes and rhythms throughout. I do find myself enjoying and replaying songs such as 'You Don't Know My Mind' and 'They're Red Hot' but in general I doubt that the album would be one that would be sitting in my CD player should I have a hard copy of it.
The best example of why this album falls short of being great is with the song 'John Henry'. A character from American history and folklore, many artists have recorded songs about the man as well as him having featured in literature, with Laurie only been the most recent to have done so. I in fact had heard of him only because of another song which was performed by Bruce Springsteen and which featured on his Seeger Sessions album 'We Shall Overcome'. I therefore found Laurie's song to be recognisable in a way I only put my finger one once I looked up the name of the track and soon realised that as well as being about the same man, both songs also share some very similar lyrics. I then decided to play both songs next to each other and have to say that, compared to the majesty that is The Boss, wor Hugh didn't stand a chance. While Springsteen's rendering of the song is cheerful and upbeat and features some amazing music, Laurie's is (even for a blues song) a bit too slow and sad for my taste. When switching to listening to Bruce's album I found myself not overly enthusiastic about going back to Hugh's, which is a clear sign that it isn't an album that I wholeheartedly enjoy.
That all said, it is by no means an album that I dislike, and had I not been aware of Hugh Laurie before purchasing it (had I been living under the proverbial large rock since before I was born, perhaps) I perhaps would have felt differently about the album, but whether I would have liked it more or less I could not say. I feel like I want to like it more than I actually do, as if I'm being disloyal to the man who played Wooster and the stupid Prince Regent by not being overly keen. Whenever I decide that I don't really like the album, however, I find myself singing along to its songs such as 'Baby Please Make a Change', which is a pretty good song, or enjoying the rhythm of 'Jericho'.
A rating is therefore difficult to give. If I wasn't required to give a rating out of 5 here, I would give this album a 6.5/10 and leave it at that, as although I generally enjoy it, it's not a great album and so I can't really rate it much higher than that. At £7.99 for an iTunes download it's good value if you enjoy it, especially considering that it consists of 15 tracks and lasts just under an hour, and I wouldn't say that I regret spending that money on it. Had it cost £12 or thereabouts, however, I would have felt more disappointed with my purchase as I really don't think it's worth that considering how much I enjoyed it.
In conclusion, by no means a bad album, but not a fantastic one either. Hugh has done better.
I've been a Hugh Laurie fan for quite a long time now. His comedy show with Stephen Fry, as well as appearances in "Blackadder" and "Jeeves and Wooster" were part of my early television watching and his more current role in "House" has made that one of the very few TV shows I refuse to miss. As soon as I heard he would be releasing a blues album, I had to have a copy and my resolve was only strengthened by an excellent documentary behind the scenes of the album.
As an accomplished pianist, Laurie makes a fine start to the album with "St James Infirmary", which has a long, almost classical sounding piano intro before the double bass and vocals come in. At this point, it turns into a jazz-blues track, which flows past very nicely. Initially, I was a little worried about Laurie's vocals, but he has a gritty voice that is perfectly suited to singing the blues. This is a long opening track and nearly 6 ½ minutes, but thanks to the two distinct parts, it almost feels that you get two songs for the price of one and it's an impressive start to the album, all the more so considering that it's performed by an actor, not a musician.
The next track "You Don't Know My Mind" is a little more what I was expecting, being a slower paced traditional blues song, with a backing vocal that adds a slightly gospel feel to proceedings. It's a track that drifts past most pleasantly, although there are a couple of moments where Laurie's vocals seem to be straining a little around the edges, but not nearly as much as I thought they would.
"Six Cold Feet" opens with a very Southern feel and it sounds like the kind of thing you'd play at a blues player's funeral. It's got a slow beat guided along by the double bass and seems to plod along, much like a funeral march, even when the saxophone takes over for a spell. It's a dirge like song and the pace and feel actually seems to suit Laurie's vocals a little better. It's a decent track, but the slow pace does seem to make it feel longer than the 5 minute run time.
Next up is "Buddy Bolden's Blues", which has a slightly more upbeat feel to it, although it's still a slow Southern blues song, with the clarinet solo late on adding a slightly jazz hint to the song. There are a couple of parts where Laurie is speaking more than singing, which takes some of the edge off, as this is the kind of slow Southern blues that his voice seems to suit perfectly and it's an enjoyable track.
Given that I've seen at least two episodes of "House" where Laurie's character derides God and religion, it seems strange to hear him playing a song called "Battle of Jericho", even allowing for the gospel influence on Southern music. That said, this is one of my favourite tracks, with Irma Thomas adding a soulful, gospel feel to the track with her backing vocals. Strangely, this is the one track where Laurie's American accent on his singing voice seems a little more forced than on the other tracks or in his role as Gregory House. It's a decent track, regardless, with the blues and gospel combination working well.
"After You've Gone" opens with a slightly mournful clarinet - an instrument perfectly suited to playing the blues with. Vocally, this song is performed by Dr. John with Hugh Laurie playing the piano. This is a beautifully put together blues song, with the mournful tempo and Dr. John's voice combining perfectly. The piano is understated and sits nicely in the background and this is a song that drifts pleasantly past and is certainly one of my favourites on the album. Although Dr. John's vocals do highlight some of the slight deficiencies in Laurie's own singing, the accent and gritty tone suggest that Laurie has hit the right feel for the music in his vocals.
Laurie takes on a real classic with "Swanee River", but does a great job of it. The slow intro hides a great upbeat, up tempo song with some wonderful boogie-woogie piano and it sounds like Laurie really enjoyed cutting loose. It's just a shame it's such a short song, as it's an awful lot of fun for the listener, as well as for Laurie himself.
As with "Battle of Jericho", the Biblical basis of "The Whale Has Swallowed Me" is slightly surprising, but it's a real chance for Laurie's guitar playing to take centre stage, with some decent slide guitar coming through at points and some of the lyrical content provides a wry smile as well. Once again, the slow blues nature of the music works well with Laurie's vocals and this feels like his best vocal performance thus far.
"John Henry" is a duet with Irma Thomas and it's a lovely laid back little blues track. Irma Thomas takes the lead on vocals and her clear voice acts as a lovely counterpoint to Laurie's grittier sounding vocal. There is a lovely bass ended piano riff running through and a gorgeous flow to the whole song that makes it drift past most pleasantly and it's one of my favourites from the album. It's certainly one of the most complete songs here, in terms of the vocals and music working together perfectly.
I love the almost cheery guitar intro to Police Dog Blues", which contrasts nicely with the downbeat vocals. This is the simplest song on the album with just an acoustic guitar, a quiet double bass in the background and Laurie's vocals. This simplicity works very well, showing how good Laurie's vocals actually are and whilst he's not likely to be winning "X-Factor" any time soon with a performance like this, it proves he's more than just an actor trying to sing here.
There's a lovely smooth jazz influenced piano intro to "Tipitina", which speeds up when the rest of the instruments come in and this is a lovely jazz-blues song. Although the piano isn't quite as upbeat and let loose as on "Swanee River", it's a chance for Laurie to get his fingers working and this was the song that most appealed to me when I first saw the TV adverts for the album. Having heard the rest, there's nothing here that has lowered it in my opinion and I love the jazz feel of the song and the brass section really adds something to the song.
"Whinin' Boy Blues" takes us back to a slightly more traditional blues sound and it's another simple song in the style of "Police Dog Blues". It's again a lovely slow paced track which also has a slightly jazzy feel rather than being straight up blues. It's another song that drifts past quite pleasantly and shows once again that letting Hugh Laurie sing wasn't a bad idea at all.
Following this, there's a chance for a little fun, with "They're Red Hot" being a silly little upbeat and up-tempo song which Southern blues has always done well for a change of pace and I'm delighted that Laurie has thought to include something like this here. It's only a short little ditty, at around 75 seconds long, but it's a lot of fun and Laurie once again seems to have revelled in the chance to cut loose and enjoy himself.
It's a good thing there was something like that where it was on the track listing, as the next song is a surprising disappointment. "Baby, Please Make a Change" has Tom Jones taking the main vocal alongside Irma Thomas and it just doesn't work for me. Tom Jones has a powerful clear voice, which works wonderfully in certain aspects, but it's not a voice made for singing the blues. The musical background has a country blues feel to it thanks to the violin and musically it's a great song, but the vocals overpower it far too much. I do feel that if this had been performed by a more traditional blues singer, this could have been one of my favourite tracks on the album, but as it is, it's just a little overbearing. The one thing I never expected was to decide I prefer Hugh Laurie's singing voice over Tom Jones', but it's a perfect example of picking the right voice for the right song. Unfortunately, at nearly 5 minutes, this is a long track and just seems to go on for far too long.
Fortunately the album doesn't end there, with the wonderful simplicity of "Let Them Talk" closing the album instead. It starts off as a simple blues song, with just vocals and piano, before expanding into something wider when the rest of the instruments come to the fore. But it's a beautiful song, again quite simply done and shows off Lurie's vocals at their best in closing. It's another song that's perfect at the end of a long day and one you could listen to repeatedly.
Over the years, there has been plenty of evidence to suggest that actors shouldn't be allowed to sing, with Lindsay Lohan and David Hasselhoff springing immediately to mind. However, "Let Them Talk" shows that with the right person and the right music, actors can actually put in a decent shift at the microphone stand. Laurie's voice, whilst not perfect, sits comfortably within the blues structure of the album and whilst he's not going to win any awards for his singing, he performs more than adequately here.
If you're not already a fan of the blues, this album isn't about to convert you, as it's mostly just old blues songs and doesn't offer anything new to the genre, or to the music world generally. What it does is cast Hugh Laurie in a slightly different and unexpected light and adds yet another string to a bow which now covers acting, writing, instrumentation and singing, all of which he does well.
For those who are blues fans, this isn't going to be the best blues album you've ever heard, but there's not an awful lot wrong with it. Laurie may be an interloper in the land of the blues, but he's likely to be a welcome visitor, on this evidence. At 15 tracks and 58 minutes long, you get decent value for your money and with that money starting from as little as £2.24 on eBay or £5.99 on Amazon for either download or a physical copy, there's not a lot to lose. At the start of this album, I was a fan of the blues and a fan of Hugh Laurie and an hour later, nothing has happened here to diminish my appreciation of either.
Hugh 'House' Laurie is a talented actor, comedian, musician. He's handsome, bright and comes across, at least, as a very nice guy. Surely there's got to be something wrong with him?! 'Let Them Talk' is Laurie's debut album and there doesn't seem to be any evidence of him being anything less than perfect here either.
How do I describe 'Let Them Talk?' Well, predictably not half as well as Laurie sums up his adventure into the world of blues. He says "
I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this now. I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there's no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south"
Let Him Sing...
He may only be 'trespassing' but he sings some of these well established blues songs as if he has his whole life. I was a little sceptical at first and worried a little that it was going to sound like Dr House does karaoke and really thought I'd have a listen out of pure curiosity, which is probably the same for a lot of people who picked this up. Like me, after the first few minutes they'd have forgotten this is Laurie who pranced around in lace and a wig in Blackadder and be fully engrossed in the music.
Of course what we all want is to hear if he can sing, and Laurie keeps us waiting. In the opening song 'St James Infirmary Blues', the vocal only kicks in after a rousing intro of over two and a half minutes. Though, don't think you are listening to his band and Laurie is sitting there having a cup of tea, this highly skilled piano work is that of Laurie himself. Sickening, but brilliant. When we do hear Laurie, this is 'House' Laurie, not English Laurie. A confident American drawl sings the opening lines of 'St James Infirmary Blues' and gives the listener a clear idea of what to expect from this album. While there's lots of criticism of actors moving into the music world, I think Laurie's acting skills are crucial to the albums success. How else would he sing American Blues classics with such conviction?
I first heard 'St James Infirmary Blues' covered by The White Stripes on their debut album and the song had the same overwhelming effect then. Laurie's version is very different but just as engaging. Slower, somehow theatrical yet understated at the same time and long! At a running time of over six minutes, Laurie presents us with a bit of an epic to open with. Brave, I guess we could have all had enough after track one, but not so for me. I wanted more!
I wouldn't say I was that up on my Blues, not that it's a genre I don't like, I'm just not that educated in it. I'm surprised just how many of these tracks I recognised though. Probably a conscious decision of Laurie's not to give us anything to obscure. 'You Don't Know My Mind' is one I knew straight away. It's another great cover, though Laurie sounds like he's enjoying singing it a little to much. This is Blues Hugh!
The mood is brought down to back where it should be for 'Six Cold Feet.' "Remember me darlin', when I'm in six feet of cold cold ground" Laurie croons at us. This one really shows off that he can sing. He's not pushed himself in any songs and the majority are fairly talky in style but just occasionally there's a note or two that makes you raise an eyebrow. 'Six Cold Feet' is a gorgeous chilled and chilling track.
Opening with some more very accomplished piano, 'Buddy Bolden's Blues' starts with Laurie singing with a distinct Sinatra air, but also throws in a bit of comedic talking which reminds us briefly who we're really listening too. A highlight of the album, witty and really 'performed'. Also some amazing saxophone not by Laurie for a change.
'Swannee River' is a little bit of surprise addition, though a stand out track and in complete contrast to the rest it still works. He sounds like he had a ball recording this and it translates to the listener.
'The Whale Swallowed Me' certainly has an attention grabbing title, if not an attention grabbing tune. Back to pure blues and Laurie tells us the story with passion and confidence.
'Police Dog Blues' is an understated track, simplistic musically but a great story that Laurie tells us like he's done it a thousand times.
'Tipitina' is a jazzy song, a little different to most of the other stuff. Lots of instrumental and Laurie shows off his piano skills jamming with the rest of the band. Sounds like he's having a ball.
'Whinin' Boy Blues' and 'Red Hot' are very contrasting tracks. 'Whining Boy Blues' is low key, slow talky and laid back, 'Red Hot' is short sweet fast and witty. Two favourites but very different.
The album closes with the title track 'Let Them Talk' and shows off Laurie's singing voice once again. A very strong close to a very strong album.
There are also a number of collaborations on the album. 'Battle of Jericho' and 'John Henry' featuring Irma Thomas, 'After You've Gone' featuring Dr. John and 'Baby, Please Make a Change' with both Irma Thomas and the cringe worthy Tom Jones. I have to say these collaborations aren't my favourite tracks on the album and I think Laurie performs better alone. 'Battle of Jericho' is mainly because of the song and the backing vocals from Irma Thomas are just fine, it's just a song I don't warm to, almost sounds like a nursery rhyme to me and a little out of place. 'John Henry' is a proper duet and both singers get stuck in, it's ok but a little wishy washy compared to the strength of other tracks. The others I have a problem with simply because they should be billed as Dr. John featuring Hugh Laurie or Tom Jones featuring Hugh Laurie, not the other way round as Laurie takes more than a back seat on these tracks. I bought the album to listen to Hugh Laurie not Tom bloody Jones - get off my stereo. As you can tell I'm not a fan.
Overall a beautiful album. It would seem Hugh Laurie thoroughly enjoyed recording this and his enthusiasm for the music really shows, a little too much at times and for a few songs he sounds a little to happy to be singing the blues. That said I didn't find that took away from my enjoyment of the songs but a true Blues fan my have a problem with this! The collaborations didn't do it for me as much as the solo songs but overall there's not a track on here that really let him down.
This album has overall been received well and has gone gold in the UK and reached the top ten in many other countries. It would seem Mr Laurie can add 'successful recording artist' to his somewhat
More information (and a free song download to give you a taste)
Hugh Laurie is quite a famous old chap isn't he?
He's one of the most well respected and highly paid actors on both sides of the Atlantic. He's also quite handy on the piano, writing and singing. He wisely used these skills and formed a successful comedy double act with Stephen Fry. You'll most likely see him nowadays as antihero, Doctor Gregory House in House as well as nostalgic repeats of Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. Recent musical experiences include playing the piano for one of Meatloaf's tracks of his album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear.
Let Them Talk is his first album. It was released this year during April and early May with Warner Brother Records. It has achieved a gold certification for entering the top 10. The album was produced by Joe Henry and includes guest vocals by Dr. John, Irma Thomas and Sir Tom Jomes. It's a blue's album with a strong jazzy acoustic feel which has been inspired by his love for the Music Of New Orleans.
There's nothing in the album that would make you think it was done by a British Comedian. It's carefree but mostly serious. His vocals are nasally gritty with a rough edge that would match Gregory House a lot. If it hadn't have had Hugh Laurie's name on it, I wouldn't have noticed it was fine. It lacks range, but he makes up for strong phrasing and timing.
The brass arrangements have a lounge bar atmosphere that remind me of Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong's music. The songs are blues classics as well as some forgotten and unknown tracks.
The album quickly highlights his quick fingers on the piano with a two part suite named St. James Infirmary, it felt longer than six and a half minutes, but it was still a pleasant listen. Things speed up with You Don't Know My Mind which has a wonderfully catchy rhythm from the guitar.
"Open up the window, let that bad air out." - Buddy Bolden's Blues.
One track that impressed me was Buddy Bolden's Blues. Again, it has a nice longue bar atmosphere but the spoken parts add a lot of dynamics and sence of reality into the song. Another track I love is Swanee River which tricked me at the beginning by making me believe that the song would be a sad violin driven song with the intro, but then dwells with fast paced pianos, wonderful accordion sounds that give off a rather joyful effect.
The acoustic track, The Whale Has Swallowed Me is worth a mention. Especially since I think the title of the song is awesome and partly because I love the flow of the instruments.
"I believe the Whale got sick. That's why I have this blues. I do believe one day he will finally turn me loose." - The Whale Has Swallowed Me.
Out of the three collaborations on the album, the one that stood out the most is Baby, Let's Make A Change because I think the classic vocals from Tom Jones are distinctive, and because he's a lot more known. The other two, After You've Gone with Dr. Jon and John Henry with Irma Thomas are just as good.
The most amusing song for me is that They're Red Hot. It's silly, fast paced and sounds very random in a well crafted and classy album, but I love the cowboy style. Baby, Please Make A Change is before this track so I did think, I don't know what happened, but whatever it was, I loved it.
The album brushes off a smooth finale with the title track, Let Them Talk. His voice is a lot more deeper and controlled on this track, his British accent sneaks in a little bit here as well. It's a raw and grand love song that I think Hugh Laurie pulls off well.
"They´ll say that gossip comes from the devil´s workshop, and only true love can make it stop?"
Because of the variety of things Hugh Laurie has done during his years the album made me wonder if there was anything the man couldn't do? I had a feeling I would enjoy the album, but I didn't expect the album to be great or so serious. Defiantly recommended and would love to like to listen to it again. There's a competition out to win signed copies of the album on his site: http://www.hughlaurieblues.com
St. James Infirmary - 5/5
You Don't Know My Mind - 4/5
Six Cold Feet - 4/5
Buddy Bolden's Blues - 5/5
The Whale Has Swallowed Me - 5/5
The Battle Of Jericho - 4/5
After You've Gone (Feat. Dr. John) - 5/5
Swanee River - 5/5
John Henry (Feat. Irma Thomas) - 5/5
Police Dog Blues - 4/5
Tipitina - 4/5
Whinin' Boy Blues - 4/5
They're Red Hot - 5/5
Baby, Please Make A Change (Feat. Sir Tom Jones and Irma Thomas) - 5/5
Let Them Talk - 5/5
I heard the first track from this album on the radio at work one day. The song was You Don't Know My Mind and I didn't know what to make of it. I sort of glossed over it and had to do a double take when the DJ said that that was a new song by Hugh Laurie.
Hugh Laurie plays the piano? That was my first thought. I wasn't surprised that Hugh Laurie sings, because I'd seen and heard him sing in Jeeves and Wooster and used to think that the piano had been played for him in that.
I then watched a documentary which saw him heading to New Orleans to record this blues roots inspired album and saw him actually play the piano. And boy can he play piano!! I couldn't believe what I was seeing. On the one hand I was thinking how dare an actor try and be a musician, but on the other hand I was thinking that this is actually pretty good stuff.
The other hand won and I found that he actually isn't in it for the money and that he actually really loves the Blues music of America, knows his facts about it, and can play it with the best of them. I've heard a few people say that his faux American singing accent is a little forced, but I actually like it, and when all is said and done he is an actor and knows how to change his voice to suit his role, singing or otherwise. Its really quite clever and well sung.
The album also benefits from some fantastic special guests including Dr. John and Tom Jones. But after hearing the tracks with the special guests singing on them, you find that you miss Laurie's vocal. That shows success for Laurie's vocals in my opinion.
The tracks that really leap out to me on the album are: the first single You Don't Know My Mind which is one of the most 'commercial' sounding songs and one of the easiest to sing along to. The next is Swanee River, the only song I knew about before hearing the album. What a stunning atmosphere created by the fantastic opening phrase which starts slow, then crashes into some fantastic boogy woogy piano playing, which really sets you up for the day if you listen on your way to work. The next is a song called Red Hot which is the shortest song on the album. But its shortness in no way makes it the weakest. Its got some fast singing by Laurie that actually makes you laugh and smile with joy, its so well played and quirky.
Some of the songs contain a really spiritual element, for example; The Whale Has Swallowed Me and The Battle of Jericho which just adds another dimension to the song selection and the emotional levels on the album. What strikes me is that none of the album is performed at all tongue in cheek but done really seriously and has stayed true to the roots of the original songwriters. Laurie's passion for the blues genre positively sweeps through the speakers.
If its not careful this album could become a bit of a classic and must buy just to hear what all the fuss is about. All I can say is I really thought it worthy to grace the shelves where the original writers of those Blues song are kept and that I am definately converted to Hugh Laurie's style of blues even if I never listen to any of the original stuff.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 St James Infirmary
2 You Don'T Know My Mind
3 Six Cold Feet
4 Buddy Bolden'S Blues
5 Battle Of Jericho
6 After You'Ve Gone
7 Swanee River
8 The Whale Has Swallowed Me
9 John Henry
10 Police Dog Blues
12 Winin' Boy Blues
13 They'Re Red Hot
14 Baby Please Make A Change
15 Let Them Talk