Universal Records have a lot invested in Jamie Cullum. �1 million in fact, if reports about Cullum’s record deal are correct. They’re certainly taking no chances in the publicity department, with huge interviews in the broadsheets, A-list play on Radio 2, and a seemingly regular fixture on Parkinson.
Therefore there’s a lot of pressure on Twentysomething to produce the goods. Luckily the good people at Universal can breathe easily as this record has “massive hit” stamped all over it.
Cullum is a 23 year old from Wiltshire who has been called everything from “the new Frank Sinatra” to the “David Beckham of the jazz world”. Twentysomething, rather like his debut Pointless Nostalgic, contains cover versions of old standards and contemporary classics mixed in with his own material. It worked phenomenally well for Norah Jones last year, and all indications are that it work just as well for Cullum.
While this isn’t jazz (you can picture Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker spinning in their graves at the description), it does make for one of the most purely enjoyable, easy listening records you’re likely to hear all year.
He may only look about 14 but Cullum has an extraordinarily mature vocal. He sounds like none other than Billy Joel on the opening What A Difference A Day Makes and the relaxed piano makes this a perfect Sunday morning listen. He brings his own twist on many of the standards, some of which work well (such as the fantastic piano solos on I Get A Kick Out Of You which also has a cheeky nose sniff after the “I get no kick from cocaine” line) and some of which don’t (I Could Have Danced All Night is really best forgotten).
The contemporary cover versions also work well – it takes a brave man to cover a Jimi Hendrix classic, but Cullum pulls The Wind Cries Mary off perfectly. Jeff Buckley‘s Lover You Should Have Come Over is less successfully treated – there’s nothing sufficiently different here to distinguish it from the incredible original. If you’ve never heard Buckley’s version though, it’s a perfectly pleasant album track.
Yet Cullum isn’t all about cover versions. His own material (and that of his brother Ben) stands up well here – indeed both the title track and the breezily optimistic It’s About Time are the highlights of the album. The Cullum Brother’s lyrics are mostly light-hearted accounts of the travails and tribulations of twenty-something males, while All At Sea is a touching autobiographical tale of Cullum’s loneliness while playing on cruise ships.
This is an astonishingly mature record which will be nigh on ubiquitous in the run up to Christmas. As with Norah Jones, Cullum will appeal to a wide variety of people from the Radio 2 audience to the teenage girls who have probably never heard of Harry Connick Jr, never mind Sinatra. Get used to the sight of Jamie Cullum – you won’t be able to escape him soon.