Album Reviews

Various – Radio 1’s Live Lounge: Volume 3

(BMG) UK release date: 20 October 2008

The premise behind Radio 1’s Live Lounge is a simple one; Jo Whiley gets singers and bands in to perform their current single as well as a cover version in a stripped down setting.

Of course, they should know their own song inside out so the real ‘joy’ is had when it comes to the cover version – the more out of their comfort zone the better, or at least that’s the theory.

In the past, this kind of wilful experimentation has resulted in the odd (in every sense) musical massacre, for example, The Automatic ruining Kanye West‘s Gold Digger (they do the same with Usher‘s Love In This Club here) or Paulo Nutini ridding Amy Winehouse‘s Rehab of any credibility.

But for every abomination there’s a nice surprise, such as Will Young‘s hazy cover of Hey Ya! or Jamelia bringing a hidden subtlety to Linkin Park‘s Numb. As with Jo Whiley herself, there is a lot to admire and an equal amount to be very depressed about.

It’s probably best to start with the negatives and work our way upwards towards the light. I apologise in advance for the semi-religious grandeur of that statement, but listening to this album from start to finish can feel like a test of Biblical proportions. It was with a heavy heart that I allowed myself to listen to The Pigeon Detectives covering – neigh decimating – Hot Chip‘s Ready For The Floor, a musical marriage so miscast that it may as well have been the Scissor Sisters doing Slipknot.

Or how about The Script attempting Eminem‘s Lose Yourself, a proposition that really has to be heard to be believed. Elsewhere, the main problem is one of simple execution.

The Feeling‘s Dan Gillespie isn’t able to wrap his plumy accent around the speedy delivery of Kelly Rowland‘s Work, and Ida Maria swaps Gabriella Cilmi‘s smoky tones for incomprehensible slurring.Plus, it helps if you can sing and unfortunately not all of Girls Aloud can so their take on Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat is painful in more ways then one.

But if you’re willing to be patient there are a few diamonds hidden amongst the coals, sometimes from the least likely sources. McFly turn in a brilliantly restrained version of Katy Perry‘s recent number 1 I Kissed A Girl, all subdued drum patters, acoustic guitars and homosexual tendencies intact (“Hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”).

Perhaps mindful of its omnipresence The Ting Tings completely reconstruct The Gossip‘s Standing In The Way Of Control, throwing in a looped sample of The Power by Snap! In a similar vein, Goldfrapp recast Grace>‘s Not Over Yet as a mournful folk ballad, the lyrics becoming strangely unsettling and beautiful.

Elsewhere, Santogold covers Adele’s Hometown Glory and somehow makes it sound menacing and confrontational, Sam Sparro turns American Boy into a �70s funk classic, whilst Kate Nash manages not to ruin Fluorescent Adolescent by Arctic Monkeys. Of the original songs, Adele herself turns in a soaring performance on Chasing Pavements and Lupe Fiasco displays why he’s one of the best rappers around on a very stripped back Superstar.

The musical definition of a mixed bag, the Live Lounge series epitomises Radio 1’s musical framework. It tries to feature new and exciting artists as and when it can but in the main it strays too readily into the middle of the road, with an over reliance on bands such as The Hoosiers, Scouting For Girls and The Feeling (all featured here).

With over forty tracks spread over two discs you’ll need to be willing to root around and be ruthless, but there are gems to be found. You’re a better person then me, however, if you can endure it from start to finish.

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