I was talking to the genial Albert one time at Ronnie Scott’s and he casually said that probably I hadn’t heard half the records he had made. When I politely challenged this he explained that 50 per cent of his output was sung in Spanish, solely for the South American/Latin market…such is the industry and artistry of this man. He also granted me permission to play one of his new songs, live with one of my bands of the day. I am a fan and this release is very welcome.
The record includes mainly new orchestrated versions of some of his best known numbers plus a couple of less familiar tunes. Five days spent at Abbey Road led to what you can experience here, with input from producer Rob Mathes.
It Never Rains In Southern California is one of the great American recordings, a guy spurred on by hope, sometimes in the face of its absence. The orchestral treatment underlines the beauty of the melody and Albert sings it straight, with feeling. The chorale isn’t overpowering, thanks be.
I’m A Train is the jaunty song we know but I really don’t care for the dainty orchestration here, it makes the song’s delivery – or framing, more – sound like something from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers! Albert sings with gusto, nonetheless.
Much better imho is the new version of When I Need You, a hit for our friend Leo Sayer, if I recall. Taken softly and with the melody smooth as silk over the intro, this shouts class. Beautifully sung, not rushed. The icing on the cake is a bravura trumpet break @ 2:35. As good an example of orchestrating a pop song well as you are likely to find. The drummer is on top of this one, at all times, listen to the emphases!
Give A Little Love has light syncopation and busy snare giving a quasi-military vibe. It’s yet another superior song from the maestro and Hammond sings it with what one can only call forceful intimacy. A quality occasionally shared by the late Leonard Cohen.
Alejate turns out to be the Spanish version of Just Walk Away, a hit for Celine Dion. It sounds like it’s searching for a film to enhance..probably a Julia Roberts job! The phrasing is masterful, natural, unforced. One of the set’s most touching moments, I venture.
To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before – a big hit for that Hooligan guy but moreover for Willie Nelson, this song is ultra-familiar, its easy-on-the-air melody floats like half a pear on honey. Females sway throughout the house! Albert is not to be outdone in delivery and curiously sounds like a mellower Neil Diamond.
Estralita is a Mexican tune from 1912 and sounds like it. But doesn’t It’s All In The Game come from that era? When You Tell Me That You Love Me / One Moment In Time keeps the strings soft to start with. Sounds like it’s straight from a Broadway musical, like The Impossible Dream from Man Of La Mancha. Co-writer John Bettis.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now was a big radio hit for StarShip but I much prefer this version By Albert, given my undying love for all things Jefferson..most of us fans didn’t care for the StarShip commercial era, at all.
Don’t Turn Around is like the previous song a co-write with Diane Warren. It’s slow number, here. I’m surprised it didn’t end up in the larynx of Barbra Streisand. Or even Scott Walker. We are all familiar with the jumpy take by Aswad. This one’s a pleasant listen if not electrifying.
The Free Electric Band was written way back with Mike Hazlewood and a hit for Albert. A celebration of getting out and playing, the song has endured. Brass to the fore, this is maybe the best listen here, bass just right, horns crisp and real heart in the song presentation. Good effort. Same writers to credit for the last number, being The Air That I Breathe.The heavenly take by The Hollies is familiar from radio play, of course. (If you haven’t heard their song Wings, track it down.) It is an unbeatable melody, the intro here a bit Hovis commercial but easing off into the lyric. Hammond goes for an almost conspiratorial reading and it works.
A project steeped in heart, melody and orchestral colour.
Albert Hammond’s new album ‘In Symphony’ is out now on Hypertension/BMG.
For artist information including tour dates, head to http://www.alberthammond.com/