Album reviews: Snoop Dogg | François and The Atlas Mountains | Alfie Boe | Rosie Nimmo | Carla Bley
WHEN you've already done your trailblazing in the 1990s, you can be forgiven for coasting along a bit nowadays. According to one of the tracks here, pimpin' still ain't getting any easier, but West Coast kingpin Snoop Dogg sounds as louche and leisurely as ever, whether he is coolly dispensing his trademark gangster funk sound on Different Languages, or rhyming over the urgent backing of That's Tha Homie.
There are guest spots galore and cameo roles for his family on an album which satisfies rather than stimulates.
FRANOIS & THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS: PLAINE INONDABLE
FENCE RECORDS – download only from www.fencerecords.com
FRANOIS Marry, a sometime touring member of Glasgow's Camera Obscura, returned to his native France to make Plaine Inondable (meaning "flood plain"), a bilingual album of dreamy folk rock which taps into the hypnotic nouveau hippy aesthetic of bands such as Espers.
In its more stripped-back moments, it equals the intimacy of Graham Coxon's recent acoustic outings by capturing the squeak of the guitar strings as closely as Marry's breathy voice. Marry's tendency to tweeness is tempered by the tropicalia-influenced exoticism of Do You Do, the polyphonic warm-up of Nights & Days and the stormy Years Of Rain.
ALFIE BOE SINGS LEHR
IT'S good to see the orchestra of Scottish Opera take a rare dip into the world of recordings. In this instance, it's with the popular operatic tenor Alfie Boe and the light – though not lightweight – operetta repertoire of Franz Lehr.
The arias are as much from well-known works, including The Merry Widow and The Land of Smiles, as from rarer ones such as Paganini and Frederica.
Lovers of Lehr's gooey music will not be disappointed – especially in perennial favourites Vilia and Love unspoken – by Boe's silvery performances and by the orchestra's sympathetic support under conductor Michael Rosewell. IT would make an ideal stocking filler for lovers of light opera.
ROSIE NIMMO – LAZY AND MELLOW
KICK MY HEELS (download only, from www.rosie nimmo.com)
SASHAYING along somewhere between folk, jazz and acoustic pop, velvet-voiced Edinburgh singer-songwriter Rosie Nimmo, after paying her dues as a jazz and blues singer on the pub, club and festival scene over the years, has released a debut disc which indeed justifies its name, the title track itself floating in a limpid drift.
There are one or two weaker numbers and the rhythm guitar work can sound rather functional at times, but the opening track, Spider and Fly, engages right away, as does Dangerous, while Pavlov's Dog swings along nicely. Darker-toned are More, a bluesy shuffle laced with Marc Pilley's waspish electric guitar, and Nothing to Fear, which stalks along to an edgy tango rhythm over Mairi Campbell's fiddle.
CARLA BLEY: CARLA'S CHRISTMAS CAROLS
WATT RECORDS, 12.72
A CHRISTMAS record that is going to have continuing value in the canon of the artist in question needs to rise above the demands of the immediate context – a bit of seasonal cheer – and reflect the kind of musical thinking that permeates all of their work. Carla Bley's foray into the fesive repertoire is both an enjoyable, sophisticated Christmas collection and a compendium of Bley-isms that will continue to resonate.
The pianist is joined by her regular partner, bass maestro Steve Swallow, and the Partyka Brass Quintet, a chamber ensemble incorporating able jazz soloists, notably trumpeter Axel Schlosser. Bley's smart arrangements breathe fresh life into even the hoariest of staples, giving them an absorbing jazz twist, while remaining connected to the originals.