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International music review from the second half of September

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Bon Jovi/ 2020, rock, Captain Kidd Corp-Universal

In 2013, popular band Bon Jovi suffered a setback when long-time guitarist Richie Sambora quit for personal reasons. They continued releasing albums with Phil X as a replacement, and the latest one 2020 comes after four years.

Vocalist Jon Bon Jovi and others are clearly in good form here. After being erratic for years, the former arena rock powerhouses produce their most consistent album after 1995’s These Days. Jon’s vocals have matured, and he luckily keeps his range within permissible limits.

There are some beauties here. ‘American Reckoning’ is a protest song written in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, and the acoustic guitar-backed ‘Lower The Flag’ is about mass shootings. ‘Do What You Can’ is on handling the Covid situation. ‘Story Of Love’ is a melodic power ballad with a stunning guitar outro.

The singles ‘Reckoning’ and ‘Unbroken’ remind you of early Bon Jovi, and ‘Let It Rain’ has smart keyboards and the lines “Who’ll stop the rain from falling?” However, the bonus track ‘Do What You Can’ with Jennifer Nettles is a misfit, which would have probably worked as a standalone single. Overall, though, the band shows a maturity that’s welcome. Better late than never.

Rating: 8/ 10

Diana Krall/ This Dream Of You, vocal jazz, Verve Records

With her rich contralto, lush arrangements and ability to build up a dinnertime mood, Canadian singer-pianist Diana Krall has been one of the biggest selling artistes in vocal jazz. Her 2002 DVD and album Live In Paris was a smashing success.

On her 15th album This Dream Of You, she sticks to her formula of selecting classic tunes and touching them up with fresh delivery and arrangements. Examples are ‘Autumn In New York’, which talks of pain and emptiness, and the popular ‘Almost Like Being In Love’, with its tight rhythm backdrop.

While most pieces are mellow, ‘Just You, Just Me’ is given an uptempo country feel with the sprightly violin. The title track is a remarkable reworking of a lesser-known but incisive Bob Dylan song from his album Together Through Life, as she sings, “All I have and all I know is this dream of you which keeps me living on”.

Two standards – Irving Berlin’s ‘How Deep Is The Ocean’ and the hit ‘Singing In The Rain’ – close the album. And though Krall sticks to a winning formula, missing out on the freshness of her early work, she comes up with tunes that can be enjoyed well into the night, thanks to her expressive vocals and good instrumentation.

Rating: 7/ 10

Alicia Keys/ Alicia, rhythm n’ blues, RCA

Interestingly, the stand-out song from the new Alicia Keys album Alicia is No 14 on the tracklist. A hard-hitting protest song about the killing of innocent blacks, ‘Perfect Way To Die’ stirs you with the sheer depth of its lyrics, expression of Keys’ voice and remarkable use of reverb. “They say just another one gone, the city moves on,” she sings in desperation.

The rest of the album has its ups and downs, as Keys keep varying styles, from rhythm n’ blues and neo-soul to dub and reggae-pop. While some individual numbers impress you, what’s missing is the consistency of her earlier albums Songs in A Minor and The Diary Of Alicia Keys.

Fans could tune into the reggae-friendly ‘Wasted Energy’, featuring Tanzanian singer Diamond Platinumz, the cynical ‘Gramercy Park’ and the charming duet ‘Jill Scott’ with the American singer also named Jill Scott.

The 15-track set ends with the piano-driven ‘Good Job’, which is a quintessential Alicia number filled with encouragement and positive lines talking of seeing “light in the dark”. It’s these numbers that are worth a listen, while skipping a lot of predictable portions.

Rating: 7/ 10

Doves/ The Universal Want, alternative rock, Virgin Records

After a 10-year hiatus with a few solo projects thrown in, British alternative rockers Doves are back with The Universal Want. Just to refresh one’s memory, they had an outstanding album in The Last Broadcast in 2002 after their commendable debut Lost Souls.

A trio, Doves are led by the brilliant vocalist and guitarist Jez Williams, who seems to have carried on from where he left. Check him out on the opening song ‘Carousels’ and on ‘Broken Eyes’, where he sings, “I’ve been dreaming of you again and I wish you were here”.

The prize tracks here are ‘Cathedrals Of The Mind’, a dedication to David Bowie with some stunning effects, and ‘Prisoners’, which talks of life after lockdown with lines like, “We’re just prisoners of this life though it won’t be long”. The title tune starts at a slow tempo but builds up beautifully, with some amazing riffs at the end.

The Doves sound involves dramatic intros, sudden guitar bursts and unpredictable changes in theme lines. Drummer Andy Williams and bassist Jimi Goodwin pitch in with tight work, making this album very listenable. A comeback worth the wait.

Rating: 8/ 10

Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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