Acclaimed poet Dr John Cooper Clarke and esteemed singer / songwriter (and founding member of The Stranglers) Hugh Cornwell have teamed up to release their first album, This Time It’s Personal. It's a match made in the rock 'n' roll heaven of their respective youth and, just as their eyebrow-raising new album says, This Time It's Personal. Featuring classic tracks that they both grew up listening to, the album is the surprising duo’s first collaboration.
This disc strikes me as an ideal introduction to the music of Turkey’s greatest composer. Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s style might be described as “Szymanowski with a primal rhythmic feel.” If you love the composer’s First Violin Concerto then you will find here a very similar exoticism, nocturnal atmosphere, and love of voluptuous textures. The harmonic style is intensely chromatic, but also highly melodic. Like Bartók in his last period, Saygun’s handling of tonality mellowed toward the end of his life, which makes the Cello Concerto more consonant than the Viola Concerto, but both works are absolutely gorgeous and masterpieces of their kind. It’s positively criminal that no one plays these pieces regularly in concert. The performances here are excellent. Tim Hugh is a well-known cellist, and he pours on the tone with all of the rhapsodic abandon that Saygun requires. Mirjam Tschopp also is a superb violist, with a big, beefy tone that never gets swamped by the intricate orchestration. It’s also very rewarding to hear a Turkish orchestra in this music–and to find that it plays beautifully under Howard Griffiths.
This classic recording has a beautiful balance of African aesthetics meet American soul, jazz, funk, rock and pop. The songs have a vintage sound that could only have been made by a South African playing American music in 1971. Along these lines, the album cover is the perfect visual representation of the music. While having a 1970's sound, "Hugh Masekela & the Union of South Africa" is by no means outdated, nor will it ever. The disc has an enjoyable mix of slow ballads, township infused instrumentals and fast funk. The song writing is superb, the musical improvisation is good and the voices soar.
Presumably to commemorate his 60th birthday, Hugh Masekela released an album of primarily African works. The album starts with a tribute to Fela, a kindred spirit in African horn playing and a friend of Masekela. After that, it moves on through a number of traditional songs and trips down memory lane. The liner notes give a good deal of background information on each of the songs (always a plus). From time to time, the music seems to slip into something of a contemporary Harry Belafonte-esque sound (which perhaps might not be completely surprising, given the repeated collaborations between Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, coupled with Masekela's marriage to Makeba). Despite (or due to) any such similarities that may arise, this is international pop at its best. Also, the backing vocals of the Family Factory group are exceptional, at the very least.