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While Radio 1 has its daily session of Live Lounge stars coming in and performing their own tracks as well as doing covers, Radio 2 has its own weekend version, hosted in Dermot O'Leary's on air slot, where he invites selected guests in to perform live tracks. The result is this double CD compilation of a select group of them, and I actually found this just as enjoyable as some of the Live Lounge releases.
It is presented in a double CD, with a nice mix of covers and songs performed by their original artists. Disc 1 starts us off with The Feeling's brilliant rendition of the classic Walk Like An Egyptian. Strangely, this worked! Lily Allen's soulful and seductive voice worked very well with Keane's Everybody's Changing, and Kasabian were sparkling clogs on street corners with their cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men. Other highlights on this disc include the Kings Of Leon with their hit On Call and the curious Willy Mason cover of Careless Whisper. However, it's not all plain sailing with me, and I didn't particularly like The Shins with Breathe and although I love the Manic Street Preachers normally, I found Motorcycle Emptiness grated on me a little bit. Overall, a good disc, but not perfect.
The second disc starts off with MIKA's Grace Kelly. It's a love it or hate it track, and while I loved it when it was released and hearing the studio produced version, I found it almost too much to cope with when listening to it performed live. Ray Lamontagne's Trouble is very moving, as is Rufus Wainwright's Hallelujah. Much is made of this single, particularly following the Christmas No.1 and 2 featuring versions of the song. Personally, I prefer Wainwright's version above all others. The remainder of the disc is very solid, but I wouldn't really say anything stood out particularly. There are no clangers, luckily, and everything is well done, but again, nothing special. Athlete doing God Only Knows was quite entertaining, but a depressing song sung by an emotional group is always touch and go, and I am sure there are some who would not relish this.
Overall, it's a decent release. I enjoyed it very much, and only skipped a few tracks here and there. I much preferred the first disc in terms of having tracks that stood out, although the second didn't really have any clangers for me apart from MIKA's opening track. The order the tracks are put in works very well, and nothing seems particularly out of place as such. As a result, I can happily recommend this disc, and it does actually make me want to listen to Dermot's slot on a Saturday now, as live music always catches my fancy. The Saturday Sessions is currently available on CD from amazon.co.uk for around the £10 mark for a new copy or £5 for a used one.
Various Artist. He is very prolific isn't he? Wandering through the racks of CDs in any record shop you will find a ton of compilations on any theme possible. Lets take a look,Ultimate banging Thrash Handbag House 2008, the Best Summer Anthems by Dutch People 4, 5000 60s Hits your dad owns bu would make a great gift for his birthday and the ubiquitous Now that's what I cal Music infinite. I do not tend to buy these compilations, as I tend to already have the songs I like om them whilst there is always a few tracks you can not stand and the ones at the end have a very tenuous link to the compilation theme as a whole. However I do buy the occasional compilation if it has something unique to offer such as live tracks.
Dermot O' Leary (he of Big Brother 's Little Brother, X Factor and another million TV shows fame) has a live session from a wide variety of artists on his Saturday afternoon radio show on Radio 2. He has compiled the best songs from the best sessions on one double CD.I bought it because I enjoy this feature of his show. I love to hear a song stripped down to its basics without all the whistles and bells producers add to a studio track. I also enjoy the range of cover versions artists throw in as I want to see how an artist will interpret an often classic (but sometimes cheesy) song to make it their own.
I bought the CD "Saturday Sessions" as an impulse buy in a supermarket for £12.99. The track listing interested me as there were a lot of artists I quite like such as The Manic Street Preachers, The Magic Numbers and the Kooks. It also boasted some interesting sounding cover versions. The icing on the cake for me was a cover of the old Abba song Super Trouper by one of my favourite bands Camera Obscura. I had heard it live and loved it so just had to buy the album. I was impressed that Camera Obscura were on there as they are not the most main stream band around . This seems to be a theme of this compilation as it has good mix of well known artists and slightly less well known ones. The album suits me as just about all the artist featured are either indie or singer songwriters. There is very little pop cheese to spoil it for me.
I can roughly divide the tracks into four categories: the great, the good, the bad and the indifferent. There are some real gems on this album which justify the £12.99 I paid for it.
1.: Walk Like An Egyptian - The Feeling
I was wary about this one as the Feeling are not one of my favourite bands. I find their lyrics annoying and trite. The Bangles original of the song is a precious one as it reminds m of Primary School discos. Luckily the Feeling 's version is a slightly rockier, but still up beat, fun and really starts the album with a bang.
2.: Everybody's Changing - Lily Allen,
A good cover should bring something new to a song and Lilly Allen certainly has marked her own stamp on the Keane song. It starts off funky with an organ riff and a picked guitar. It's got a nice laid back jazzy feeling and Lily (who I have a soft spot for despite her crimes to lyric writing Tesco and Ala fresco anyone) almost scats sweetly in her distinctive voice. I actually prefer the pretty, understatedness of this version compared to the overblown melodrama of the original.
3.: To Know Him Is To Love Him - Amy Winehouse
Winehouse's version of this old Phil Spector number is sheer class. Its a smoky late night almost bluesy track with Winhehouse's vocal on absolute top form. You can sense the raw passion in it. I just wish she would concentrate on singing and less on her troubled personal life.
9.: Wichita Lineman - Gomez
We stray into the realm of country for Gomez's version of the old Glen Campbell song. It is performed simply with an acoustic guitar that lets Ian Ball's distinctive deep voice shine through. Its simple and beautiful and how a session track should be performed
10.: Live With Me - Massive Attack & Terry Callier
On first listening I thought this was an odd choice and a bit out of place on the album, as its more produced and polished than most of the offerings. Its one I initially skipped but it has really grown on me and is one of the many stand out tracks. It features lush strings, brass and percussion arrangements that set off Terry Callier's magnificent soulful vocals. It's down beat and beautiful enough to listen to late at night.
11.: Super Trooper - Camera Obscura
Super Trouper is an incredibly deceptive song. The original is ultra poppy and upbeat until you pay closer attention to the lyrics. Camera Obscura (go on and check them out as they are brilliant) brings the true meaning of the song home. Tracyanne' Campbell's voice is clear, delicate and ethereal as ever but has a world weary yearning quality to it. The backing guitar and keyboard are again beautiful but understated letting Tracyanne's voice shine.
12.: I Want You Back - K T Tunstall,
After some downbeat songs its great to pick up the pace with KT Tunstall's version of the old Jackson Five classic. Its another acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement which I like. Its raw, upbeat and very punchy. I like it a lot and think it was a good choice as again the song suits the artist's voice.
4.: Careless Whisper - Willy Mason,
This is so different from the George Michael original and to be honest I prefer it. Its much slower and simper with guess what a simple acoustic guitar backing deep mournful, yearning vocals that really sound like they mean what they are singing.
13.: I Go To Sleep - Zero 7
The middle of Cd2 sees a run of remarkable, mesmerizing performances. I'm not sure who the singer is with Zero 7 but she has the most gorgeous voice. This version of the old Ray Davies song is enchanting from the xylophone introduction to the gentle acoustic guitar and the singers husky, beautiful vocals. It has an almost hypnotic effect on me.
14 Hallelujah -Rufus Wainwright
I was first introduced to the Jeff Buckley version of this song by my sister and I suppose that is the bench mark I will always go by (I've only recently heard the Leonard Cohen version). It's such a beautiful and simple song it's hard to muck up unless you happen to be an X Factor contestant and need to add three notes when only one should be sung. Luckily Wainwright's version complete with piano is simple, beautiful and quite close to the Buckley version so is a pleasure to listen to.
16.: I'm On Fire - Bat For Lashes
This is up there with Camera Obscura as one of the best tracks on this compilation. I adore the Bruce Springsteen version but this is even better and that's a tall order to beat. It really sends shivers down my spine and makes me tingle all over. I'm not sure if it is the sitar style instrument and mournful violin or the tone of her languid, sensual vocal. You can feel the passion, longing and aching for a new lover or perhaps an unrequited love.
7.: Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
This is another live version that does not differ wildly from the studio version. However what a song,. Its one of my favourite Manics songs before they got overblown, overimportnat and over earnest. The guitars are biting and Jame Dean Bradfield's voice has that raw angry edge to it.
17.: Confide In Me - Nerina Pallot -
This is instantly recognisable as a cover of the Kylie song complete with sweeping strings. I like this version as Pallot's vocals seem more intense and late night and the cello in the background is rather wonderful.
15.: Love Song 43 - Guillemots
I like the Guillemots and like this song a lot. I love the pretty chiming bells and bongo percussion. Its not widely different to the studio version although the vocal is much clearer, Its just nice to have an alternate version of a good song.
20.: New England - Jamie T
I have a certain fondness for Jamie T's Sheila. Its about as street as I get and I also like this version of the seminal Billy Bragg track. I'm not sure which version the original, the Late great Kristy MCcoll or this one I prefer. Its done quite straight on yet again an acoustic guitar but its a song that really suits Jamie T's social commentary style of performance.
21.: In Between Days - Mumm-Ra
A band named after the baddie in Thundercats must be cool but I know very little about them. I quite like their cover of the Cure song. It starts off as yet another slow mellow track but picks up pace halfway through, which lifted my interest in the song.
2.: She Moves In Her Own Way - Kooks
You really can not go wrong with this track. She Moves In Her own Way will never fail to put a smile on my face as its unadulterated, feel good jangly summery indie pop and I'm a sucker for it.
5.: Love Me Like You - Magic Numbers
This is another upbeat, happy song which I really like. I love the smiley happy harmonies which sound even better live than on the studio version.
7.: God Only Knows - Athlete
The Beach Boys original of this is beautiful and Athlete continue in the same vein whilst stampng their own mark on this down beat song
8.: Waterfall - Stoney
Stoney does the Stone Ro
ses. It's slower and less jaunty due to the lack of the jangly guitars of the original. It's another laid back track with a lovely shuffling drum beat and a hint of folk.
11.: Richard III - Supergrass
This is not one of my favourrite Supergrass tracks but it does sound good on the Cd with kick ass guitars and killer Hammond organ riffs.
12.: This Charming Man - Stars
Like Waterfall this is not quite as jangly as the Smith's original but the picked guitar and piano in the background make it sound different enough from the original but not better due to Mozza's vocal being so iconic.
17.: Middle Of The Hill - Josh Pyke
I have never heard of Josh Pyke but I quite like this song. Its go a bit of a nursery rhyme feel to the rhythm of the song.
20.: Who Cares What The Question Is - Bees
This one almost makes the great list. I like it as it is happy, jaunty and upbeat. It sounds like it could be from the late 60s and maybe from a Ringo song or perhaps even the The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and maybe a bit of a ska rhythm in the very background. Its silly and fun.
21.: Moonage Daydream - Low Vs Diamond
One name comes to mind comes to mind when I listen to this song and that's David Bowie. It is in fact a cover of a Ziggy stardust song . I've not heard the original but the vocal sounds exactly like Bowieand i just felt i could be listening to something from 1973 not 2007.
Luckily there is only one track I really do not like and wish it was not on the CD.
Grace Kelly - Mika
This really has to be the nadir of the album for me. I feel its a bit out of place being cheesy pop. I find it over theatrical and over blown. I find the helium squeaking vocals almost painful to listen to at times. If I warned Freddy Mercury's replacement I would prefer Matt Bellamy from Muse.
I'm also not so keen on Two More Years - Bloc Party.
Bloc Party are one of the current crop of indie guitar bands that I have never quite got to grips with. This live version of one of their own tracks is upbeat and lively with plenty of guitars but of little interest to me.
What I find about the Saturday Sessions is that there are a lot of songs I'm indifferent to. They are not bad tracks, on the contrary they are often pleasant and make good listening, but there is nothing that special about them . The Shins version of Pink Floyd's "Breath" and Kassabian's version of the Quo's Pictures of Matchstick Men just sound too much like the original. I do like acoustic guitar and stripped down vocals such as Jolt.s version of Goldfrapp's "Number 1" or Scott Matthew's version of the Smith's "the Boy with the Thorn in his Side" but I feel I've heard it once too often on this album. Then there are songs such as King's of Leon's "Call Me" that just do not excite me. I've never understood the hype about Kings of Leon though.
I can recommend the Saturday Sessions to an extent but feel that perhaps a single album of the stand out tracks would make it one heck of a CD Instead you have double CD of some fabulous tracks and a lot of good but not great tracks. Luckily there are very few bad tracks. Now shall I put on 50 dance songs you have never heard of or not?
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Feeling - Walk Like An Egyptian
2 Amy Winehouse - To Know Him Is To Love Him
3 Lily Allen - Everybody's Changing
4 The Raconteurs - Steady As She Goes
5 Kasabian - Pictures Of Matchstick Men
6 Gomez - Wichita Lineman
7 Massive Attack featuring Terry Callier - Live With Me
8 Supergrass - Richard III
9 Camera Obscura - Super Trooper
10 Jont - Number 1
11 The New York Fund - Nobody Home
12 Kings of Leon - On Call
13 Willy Mason - Careless Whisper
14 KT Tunstall - I Want You Back
15 Guillemots - Love Song 43
16 The Shins - Breathe
17 Electric Soft Parade - Silent To The Dark
18 Orson - I Can't Go For That
19 The Manic St Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness
20 Thrills - Nothing Changes
21 Jamie T - A New England
22 Bloc Party - Two More Years
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Mika - Grace Kelly
2 Kooks - She Moves In Her Own Way
3 James Morrison - Wonderful World
4 Ray Lamontagne - Trouble
5 Turin Brakes - Breaking The Girl
6 The Magic Numbers - Love Me Like You
7 Nerina Pallot - Confide In Me
8 Rufus Wainwright - Hallelujah
9 Sergio Mendes - Fool On The Hill
10 Stoney - Waterfall
11 Paul Weller - Come On Let's Go
12 Zero 7 - I Go To Sleep
13 Ben Kweller - In Other Words
14 Mumm-Ra - In Between Days
15 The Stars - This Charming Man
16 Athlete - God Only Knows
17 Bat For Lashes - I'm On Fire
18 Scott Matthews - Boy With The Thorn In His Side
19 Josh Pyke - Middle Of The Hill
20 The Little Ones - Oh MJ
21 The Bees - Who Cares What The Question Is
22 Low vs Diamond - Moonage Daydream
23 Beck - Lost Cause