Jimmy Somerville: Homage

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Posted March 4, 2015 by in Disco
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Rating

Overall
 
 
 
 
 

3/ 5

Details

Genre: ,
 
Producer:
 
Label: ,
 
 
 
 
Genre: Disco
 
Producer: John Winfield
 
Label: Membran Media, Cherry Red
 
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
 
Time: 48:49
 
Release Date: 10 March 2015
 
Spin This: "Strong Enough," "Back to Me," "Some Wonder"
 

Pros:

Unapologetic throwback-sounding disco reigns on Somerville's new disc. All originals. Some are pleasantly good ("Back to Me," "Strong Enough")
 

Cons:

Much of the disc plays like one long-winded loop, leaving very little material to create important shifts. There's not enough instrumental breaks on these single edits to give the music enough room to glow like classic disco records
 

Dancefloor falsetto king best known for his disco covers sows his oats on disco tribute album full of originals

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Dancefloor falsetto king best known for his disco covers sows his oats on disco tribute album full of originals

Paying tribute to disco isn’t a big surprise for Jimmy Somerville to pull off. He’s taken big disco hits like Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real, Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and Gloria Gaynor’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” and turned them into ‘80s and ‘90s reinventions. His disco inferno was lit all the way back to his tenure with the ‘80’s UK boy band Bronski Beat. Although the synthpop group only recorded three albums in their short career, Somerville (as frontman) put LGBT activism and queer awareness into the heartbeat of his music. With them, he even re-recorded Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” so disco is a lively part of his catalog. So there’s no shock and awe when digging into Homage, Somerville’s sixth studio solo album. Let it be duly noted that this is clearly a tribute to disco. Although Somerville has played with almost every accessible avenue of dance, including synthpop, house and some dated New Wave, this here is a glorious trek into classic disco.

The John Winfield-produced Homage – an all-original collection coming from Somerville’s pen – sounds like it could have been birthed during the gold rush of Chic and the Bee Gees. “Strong Enough” fires up a funky Jamiroquai-like groove, while “Taken Away” sounds like manna coming from boogie wonderland. As if the rhythms of Incognito were inspirational to Somerville’s soul, cuts like “Back to Me” and a feelgood opener “Some Wonder,” which has Somerville slyly singing melodies from the Tokens’s “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” also pack a punch. The songs are a bit heavy on repetition, leaving the catchy choruses to fall quickly into sing-a-long putty. A careful resolve for this type of crisis would have been to expand the songs with familiar disco breaks or a few horn solos. One song in particular, “Strong Enough,” actually does it; the horns and strings break out with their respectable bridges. And so does “Back to Me,” as the song fades out with a Jerry Hey-inspired horn arrangement. Unfortunately, the other tunes tend to sound like endless loops.

The album also plays like one seamless uptempo playlist, except for two tracks. There is a midtempo gem tucked inside: “The Core” exists outside the 180 beats per minute paradigm, strutting like a “Love to Love You Baby” clone. The forgettable ballad, “Learned to Talk” closes out the disc. Although the final seconds of it sounds like a well-intended gospel benediction, the brunt of it falls flat.

More in the tradition of Ten City’s Byron Stingily than Sylvester, Jimmy Somerville’s breezy falsetto seems to borderline gender neutrality. When he sings “I need a freak of a man to understand/I need a freak of a man to be mine” on “Freak,” it never becomes the gay spectacle that the late Sylvester fearlessly embellished. Nor is it the force that it should strive for. Does he hold back intentionally so that he won’t be compared with falsetto divas and kings who live on sacred ground? No one actually knows, but a few extra ad-libs and a few expanded breaks would have made this disc more exceptional. Although it isn’t perfect and feels as if it celebrates nostalgia way too much, Homage is clearly one of Somerville’s most entertaining sets ever. The dazzle of an endless disco record sounds really good on him.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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